Greendale Designed for Summer Fun!

Week#59: Elbert Peets created the design for Greendale with families in mind. The many Greendale parks offer a variety of summer fun for everyone!

History records and explains past events, while folklore preserves what people widely remember.

History and Folklore!

Do you like Greendale’s winding streets, the green spaces, the walking paths, and the parks? If so primarily you have Elbert Peets to thank. If not, you probably should consider moving to someplace that has a lot of asphalt and concrete. Elbert Peets was the landscape architect who created the initial design of Greendale in 1936. He believed in preserving as much of the natural features of the land as possible. The streets were planned to flow with the contours of the land. The houses were situated to take advantage of the open spaces, and the walkways placed to provide easy and safe access to Village businesses and recreation.

On April 30, 1935 as part of the “New Deal” policy President Roosevelt signed an executive order authorizing the creation of “Greenbelt Towns”. These towns were to be modeled after the English Garden communities. The Resettlement Administration was created to supervise this project. After a selection process that considered 100 cities, Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. were selected for development. Each Greenbelt town had a planning team comprised of town planners, architects and engineers chosen by the Resettlement Administration. Greendale’s team was made up of executive in charge Fred Neumer; town planners Jacob Crane and Elbert Peets; architects Harry Bentley and Walter Thomas; and engineering designer Charlton Putnam.

Elbert Peets was born in Hudson, Ohio on May 5, 1886. He graduated from Western Reserve University in 1912 and earned a Master of Architecture degree from Harvard in 1915. After graduating he worked making plans for subdivisions, two of which were Kohler, Wisconsin and the Washington Highlands in Milwaukee. In 1935 Peets was working with the Cleveland City Planning Commission when he was hired by the Resettlement Administration in Washington. Because of his familiarity with Wisconsin he was appointed to be in charge of the initial design for Greendale.

As Greendale started expanding in the late 40’s and 50’s (see Week#72) Elbert Peets was once again called upon to consult with the design. The homes were more modern, but the bends in the streets, the green spaces, the walking paths, and the areas for parks remained a priority. His name is not one of the most recognizable in the history of Greendale, but his legacy will remain for as long as Greendale exists. The Greendale Historic District was placed on the National Park Service’s National Registry of Historic Places in 2005. Peets was a bachelor and passed away in 1968. But certainly he can be considered one of Greendale’s founding fathers. So unofficially, to commemorate his service in the design of Greendale, I’m declaring Father’s Day June 16th, 2012 as Elbert Peets day in Greendale.

But did you know?

The houses in Greendale were built ‘backwards’ by design. The designers reasoned that having a lawn, a backyard, and a garden was something most new residents probably never had. Families primarily were moving to Greendale from crowded conditions in cities. So the rear entrances were
placed close to the street and the larger living area viewed the backyard. These backyards were often expansive parks. Two examples of this today can be seen by walking thru Pioneer Park and Daffodil Park.

Greendale Parks in the Summer!

One of the big reasons families move to Greendale is the numerous recreation opportunities provided by the many parks and playgrounds. Especially in the summer when schools out and the weathers perfect, the parks offer an excellent opportunity for fun for families and residents of all ages. Children living in most sections of the Village can walk to a park without having to cross a busy street. Children in some sections need adult help to cross a busy street, but the distance is still walkable. For instance, children in the Overlook Farms subdivision need assistance to cross 76th Street to get to the Community Center, but once there the recreation options are numerous, and the play areas safe.

Some of the original parks and recreation areas are gone, like the horseshoe pits and tennis courts on the Village Mall, and the wading pond and playground by the Middle School. But they’ve been replaced by other parks and recreation areas. With the help of my fabulous research staff (i.e. Sally Chadwick) we’ve compiled a list of the parks and some of their recreation options:

  • St Alphonsus School (Churchway and Schoolway) – *children’s playground
  • Daffodil Park (East of the Village Shopping Center on Schoolway) – *children’s playground, LifeTrail exercise stations
  • Lions Park (Edgehill and Eaton) – *children’s playground, baseball diamond (small)
  • Greendale Community Center (76th Street north of Root River Parkway) – tennis courts, basketball hoops, *children’s playground, volleyball court, baseball diamonds (2-small & 1 large), rest rooms
  • Edgerton Park (Greenway and Middleton) – children’s playground
  • Ambruster (Montgomery & 68th Street) – *children’s playground
  • Canterbury School (Enfield Street) – *children’s playground, basketball hoops, baseball diamonds (2-small)
  • Jaycee Park (Southway and Broad Street) – *children’s playground, baseball diamond (small)
  • Brinkman Field (Southway and Broad Street) – baseball diamond’s (1-large, 1-small)
  • Greendale High School (behind school) – tennis courts
  • Scout Lake Park (East of Loomis Road and North of Ramsey) – *children’s playground south of lake, fishing on Scout lake
  • Highland View School (51st and Ramsey) – *children’s playground, baseball diamond (small), basketball hoops
  • College Park School (57th and College)  – *children’s playground, basketball hoops, baseball diamond (small)
  • College Avenue (north side of College Avenue near 57th Street) – *children’s playground, baseball diamonds (2-small), tennis courts
  • Root River Parkway (west edge of Greendale along Root River Parkway from 76th Street to 92nd Street) – children’s playground, picnic areas, picnic pavilions, Whitnall Park Golf Course

A few other special parks should be mentioned. Check out Grootematt Park Nature Preserve (43rd and Ramsey) for a nature walk, Gazebo Park (Schoolway and Broad Street) for Village concerts and gatherings, and Pioneer Park (Northway and Euston) for a quiet rest on one of the park benches. Also, winding thru many of these parks and thru wooded areas throughout the Village (like west of Parking Street), are numerous walking paths. So for family fun this summer, whether you’re young or old. Greendale is the place to be!  

New this Summer from the Greendale Health Department and Ferch’s Malt Shop!

No matter how many years you’ve lived in Greendale, even if you grew up in Greendale, chances are you have not visited all of the eleven children’s playgrounds (denoted above by asterisk *). If you have children age 10 and younger, why not do it this summer just for the fun of it? Stop in at the Greendale Health Department or Ferch’s and find out about a contest to visit the playgrounds and be eligible for prizes. All participants between now and when school starts in September will receive a certificate to commemorate this fun adventure.

Greendale Trivia Question and Answer:

Alley#2 from Week# 60 Found - The second of the only 2 alleys in Greendale that I could not find is no longer missing. Steve Peters let me know that it was there all along, but in the ‘D’ section. It's in-between Dendron Ln and Dale Ln near the south end just north of Catalpa and the ball field.

Week#60 Answer – There are 18 recreation areas listed above. Some are not officially parks. So if you named at least 12 of them, give yourself an atta boy.

Week#59 Question – What year was the Village of Greendale Gazebo completed and dedicated?  

** Week #59 contributors Sally Chadwick, Steve Peters, Greendale Historical Society, Library of Congress, Greendale Health Department, Ferch’s Malt Shop and Grill.


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