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.
On Monday, November 10, 2008, at 7:00 PM, the Bay View Historical Society will present the South Shore Park Pavilion with a landmark plaque, during the County Historical Society's Annual Meeting at the South Shore Park Pavilion. It was felt that our Society should also honor the South Shore Park Pavilion as Milwaukee County will do this night.
In 1835, Elijah Estes, who walked over 1,000 miles from North Carolina to get to Bay View, established his land claim on the land that was to become South Shore Park in the future. His wife, Zebadiah Wentworth Estes, who was the daughter of the Mayor of Chicago, Illinois, was said to be the person who named this area "Bay View".
In 1838, the Town of Lake was incorporated in Milwaukee County. Its northern boundary was Greenfield Ave. (then Railroad Street). Its southern boundary was Racine County. Its western boundary was what is now S. 27th Street. Its eastern boundary was Lake Michigan. In 1840, the south six miles of Town of Lake became Oak Creek. In 1879, the Village of Bay View was incorporated out of Town of Lake. In 1887, Bay View became a part of the City of Milwaukee.
In 1889, a survey revealed that Milwaukee, with a population of 205,000, had only sixty acres of parks. With the exception of Juneau Park, these area consisted of small squares and tringles donated by private individuals. Efforts were then made to secure a proper park system and the enactment of Chapter 488 was secured in the State Legislature during early 1889. A Bay View Attorney, Mr, Theobald Otjen, was very active in the creation of the original legislation, and shepherding the bill through the Milwaukee Common Council and the State Legislature. It is reported that he personally convinced Governor William D. Hoard to sign the bill into law. ( Mr Otjen served as the first alderman from Bay View to serve in the Milwaukee Coomon Council. He served as a alderman for several years and later was elected U.S. Congressman of the 4th District. In that capacity, he appointed Douglas MacArthur to West Point Military Academy, and was the father of Great Lakes Naval Base. He later returned to Bay View to work with his son Henry, in a law office here. He was also influencial in the building of the World War I Memorial that is in Humboldt Park near E. Oklahoma Avenue and S. Pine Avenue. His son Henry, was a founder of the Trowbridge Street School Parent Teacher Association.)
The new law provided for the appointment, by the Mayor, of five commissioners who, in turn, would establish a system of public parks within the city, and provide for the purchase, payment, and government thereof. The law also called for the sale of $100,000 in park bonds to finance the purchases. The original plan was to acquire two parks, one on the north side and one south of the Menomonee River. On June 18, 1889, the first meeting of the Board of Park Commissioners was conducted. membership consisted of Mr. Christian Wahl, President, and Messers. Calvin E. Lewis, John Bently, Charles Manegold, Jr. and Louis Auer, Secretary. All were private citizens, eminently qualified, and served without remuneration. They all had been appointed by the Mayor, the Honorable Thomas A. Brown, on or before June 1, 1889. At this first meeting, the Commissioners voted to take action to aquire lands for five parks to be known as Lincoln, West, Lake, North and South ( now Humboldt Park ).
The Milwaukee Sentinel, on July 21, 1889, carried a lengthly article which announced to its readers which sites the Commissioners were considering for purchase. Sites to the south side were:
1. The Coleman Woods tract -- Forty acres in the area bounded by 1st and 8th Avenue on the east and west, and Becher Street and Lincoln Avenue on the north and south. ( Part of thei area is now Kosciuszko Park ).
2. The Kane Farm -- Seventy-five acres located between Kinnickinnic Avenue and the shore of Lake Michigan, north of Oklahoma Avenue. This tract has 3/4 miles of lake frontage and was the favorite choice of several of the Commissioners. ( Part of this land is now South Shore Park ).
3. The Wilcox Farm -- Described in the Milwaukee Sentinel as follows: "The next site offered is known as the Wilcox Farm property. It lies east of the Howell Road and north of Oklahoma Avenue, between Garfield Street ( now Logan Avenue ) and Russell Avenue in the Seventeenth Ward. It comprises eighty-two acres, half of which are offered at $3,500 per acre. The grounds are nicely wooded and more broken than the Coleman grounds, but the adjoining property is located in the Village of Brookhaven in which ex-Alderman Jordan is heavily interested. Mr. Jordan and a number of other Brookhaven property owners are already at work advocating the selection of the Wilcox Farm. The Wilcox Farm, as described above, was a portion of an undeveloped and unplatted area which was shown on a 1876 plat map as owned by a Joel Wilcox. Adjoining to the east, was a equally rural tract owned by the Mann Brothers. These two tracts, which in 1879 constituted the southestern-most border of the Village of Bay View, was heavily wooded. The northeastern-most end of the Wilcox tract contained a brick yard. During the existence of Bay View, 1879-1887, there was no formal park located at this site."
Paul Gauer was successful in securing the purchases of lands to the north of Estes Street between South Shore Drive and the lake. This incliuded the site of the original Estes home. The homes were removed, and it now marks the bluff above South Shore Yacht Club premises. The rubble mound didn't extend far enough to the south , and annually there was erosion of the banks. Residents on S. Superior Street south of Oklahoma Avenue, like Judge Blenski, Frank Meyer, and the Dixons were in danger of having their homes slip into the lake. so he introduced a resolution to purchase all lands between Superior Street and the lake south to the city limits, which carried. The homes were moved to the west and saved. He secured for the South Shoe Yacht Club the right to build in the park.
For years, Bay View residents said that our old bathhouse was inadequate, and Paul Gauer not only led the fight for referendum approval of the South Shore Bathing Pavilion bonds, but insisted uponits construction as well in 1932, during the term of Mayor Dan Hoan. Here are some events that happened during the term of Alderman Paul Gauer:
1920 - To locate South Shore Bathing Pavilion.
1921 - To issue South Shore Bath House bonds. ---To condem additional lands for South Shore Park
1922 - To condemn additional lands for South Shore Park at Oklahoma Avenue
1924 - To stop sewerage flow into bathing beach
1925 - To condem additional lands for South Shore Park
1926 - To turn over land on lake shore at Oklahoma Avenue to Park Board
1927 - To approve legislation for State aid for lake shore purchases -- To appropriate money for South Shore Bathing Pavilion
1928 - To repair Bath House at South Shore Park -- To extend Rusk Avenue sewer at bathhouse
1929 - To appropriate $115,000 for South Shore Breakwater -- To request County Board to convey park lands on lake shore.
1931 - To revise plans for South Shore bathing Pavilion
The information in this article comes from "A City Park for the South Side" by Melvin A. Graffenius and from the book by Alderman Paul Gauer. I hope that you have some understanding on the importance of South Shore Park Pavilion and why we wish to issue a historical plaque to it from the Bay View Historical Society. The South Shore Park Watch and Kathy Mulvey were also very much involved in the decision to issue a plaque.