Greendale Now ~
Watch Norman Rockwell Dedication on the Patch!
Greendale is one of only three “Greenbelt Towns” in the U.S. that was built by the Roosevelt Administration during the Great Depression. Roosevelt recognized at the time there was a great need for new homes and a great need to provide jobs.
Over 100 major cities were first considered…and finally a site on the south end of Milwaukee was one of the three chosen. The selection was partly due to the large, attractive tract of rolling farmland on the city’s southern border—it seemed a perfect fit for the design that the planning committee had in mind.
Just imagine the challenge the people on this small committee faced back then in 1934, as they walked over this land—3,410 acres, which had previously been dairy farms. This group had to decide where to put the business center…the schools…the parks…over 500 homes…where to place the streets, etc. But accomplish it they did, creating one of the prettiest villages in all of the Midwest.
They named the town “Greendale”. When it was finished, 572 families—each selected basically because they were poor—moved in. They would all be renters, albeit at a reasonable rate, and since the government continued to own the entire town, the government became their landlord.
Some say it looks like New England. There definitely are aspects of New England that appear in Greendale’s design, especially in the downtown buildings. That’s likely because the town planner, Elbert Peets, was from New England.
Peets created a village that is still truly unique in many ways. Due to his vision, Greendale is the only town in America with “backward houses”. Here’s why: Peets reasoned most of these poor people never had a lawn or garden of their own, so he wanted to maximize their backyard and each tenant’s view of it.
To accomplish this, he placed each house very close to the curb and turned it backward, with the rear entrance near the street and the large living room window facing a big backyard. And that’s why even today Greendale is widely known as “the village with the backward houses”.
today Greendale is widely known as “the village with the backward houses”.