John Manke is an active former Bay View resident who is involved in numerous neighborhood organizations, including the Bay View Historical Society, the Humboldt Park Fourth of July Association and the Shore Shore Farmers Market. He believes Bay View has a fine tradition in its past that we do not want to lose in the future.
At one time my family owned a lot of land in North Milwaukee. It was from Florist Avenue on the south to close to Mill Road on the north. The land went as far west as N. 35th St. On this land, August Manke established many greenhouses to grow crops that were unavailable in the winter time. Among the crops were lots of carnations, hot house tomatoes, lettuce, other kinds of flowers and vegetables. When Florist Avenue was named, they wanted to name it Manke Ave. August Manke refused the honor, so the street was named Florist Avenue instead because of all of the greenhouses there. When August Manke died, his two sons, William and Fred divided up the land and greenhouses and sold some of the land. To operate the greenhouses, they had to build powerhouses to produce the steam heat needed to keep the places warm enough to grow the crops. They had to maintain the buildings to grow their crops. Inside of the buildings, there were outhouses at the end of the rooms. When special flowers were being developed, pollination was done by hand and protection was developed to keep other sources of pollination from happening to these plants. Inside of the outhouse section, there were spiders, flies, hornets and other insects. To keep the mice away, they had feral cats that they fed and gave water to. If you would happen to pick up one of these cats, you received a very wet lap. They were not used to people handling them. William Manke and his wife Clara went their separate ways, and Clara Koepke Manke and her sister Lydia Koepke Laabs started working at the Post Office to earn enough money to pay off any debts that they had on their share of the land. Alvin and Ralph also joined the Post Office after World War II. My cousin Richard, Alvin's son, and I joined the Post Office in later years. Said to say, all of these people have passed on except for myself. When I was younger, my dad and his brothers and other relatives decided to tear down the old powerhouse from the greenhouses since it was getting old and the chimney could collapse at any time. Guide wires were attached to the chimney and a guide wire was attached to my dad's car. I, without a drivers license was to put the car into drive and pull on the guide rope when asked to. There was a loud noise when it came down and no damage was done to anything else on the property. In the garage, there were pigeons, whose manure provide very rich fertilizer for the land. Sometimes my dad would grow some crops on the land for us or help his brother Bill with other crops on the land for all of the family to share. The greenhouses on this portion of the land were gone, but Fred and his sons kept the greenhouses on their part of the land. In the 1950's, they were honored for having the best carnations in the Milwaukee area. When Teutonia Avenue was widened, the land became too expensive to live on because of high taxes. August Manke moved to Sussex with his mother Erna and father Fred. The rest of the family moved to other areas of the area. When the greenhouse were active, they had heavy competition with Florida to produce the best and cheapest products for the market. When the railroad became more dependable and airplanes came, the cost of maintaining the greenhouse became very expensive. Only the best selling crops were then developed in the greenhouses. The smell and the sight of the flowers in the greenhouse was a sight to behold and smell. You almost thought that you were at a funeral because of the rich sweet smell of the flowers. All of the Manke men except for Rudy Manke have passed on. My dad and his three brothers, and August, Clem and Fritz have all left us. They were all wonderful people. There are many pleasant thoughts of the old days remaining to us who were there. These days will never happen again. Imagine being able to drive your dad's car on family land, without having a license, and being able to travel for awhile without having to turn around. This is how I got my first driving lesions from my dad. The old family homestead was once a hotel. Fred built his house right next door to the old hotel. Imagine the history of this land. Fred's wife, Erna's maiden name was Denzin. My grandmother Alma Denzin Schumacher was her sister. August Denzin came from Stettin, Germany as did the Mankes and Koepkes, and settled in the Town of Herman in Dodge County. He later moved to Bay View and built many basements there. He had ten children. So as a result my father and mother shared many first cousins in common without marriage. They met while visiting at Fred Manke's house.