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A North Woods Haven in… Greendale?

Week#52: Travel along with Jean to her favorite place in Greendale...Scout Lake. Learn about the short history of this lake property.

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

Places, People, History, and Folklore!

Hello, everyone… You may notice that I am not Dave Miller. He’s taking a well-deserved vacation from this column but will be back next week with more stories about Greendale’s colorful characters and history as we count down to the Greendale's 75th Diamond Celebration.

In a departure from Dave’s usual column, this week’s article is mostly a travelogue for my favorite site in Greendale, with a little bit of history mixed in. It’s a quiet respite from the hectic pace of daily life, and seems to be one of Greendale’s better kept secrets.

is a 64 acre tract of land that is part of the Milwaukee County Park system. The official address is 5902 W. Loomis Rd. (GPS fans, that’s 42.94 degrees Latitude, -87.99  degrees Longitude). You’ll find the entrance to the park across Loomis Road and a bit south from St. Alphonsus Church, almost directly underneath the pedestrian overpass. The lake is the jewel of this wonderful small park. On any given day, you’ll see people fishing off the pier (or ice fishing in winter). The spring fed lake is stocked by the Wisconsin Department of  Natural Resources (DNR) with perch and pan fish. If the number of people fishing is an indicator, the fishing must be fine.

As you enter the park from the parking lot, the paved pathway takes you below street level. That’s part of the charm of this well wooded area: if not for the sporadic and muffled traffic noise from Loomis Road, you could easily forget you’re so close to civilization. The higher wooded bluff on the east side of the lagoon adds to the quiet isolation.

The park is a treat for exploring. The pathway around the lagoon is almost exactly a half mile long which takes you through amazingly beautiful scenery; including the cattails around the lagoon, the woods and wildflowers. This paved flat course is a favorite for walkers and joggers. Braver souls will also be delighted with the deep woods aura of the steeper trails that take you higher up the terrain. The higher trail circles back to the lagoon and other path offshoots connect the park with residential areas on Lakeview Drive, Leroy Lane, Lory Drive and Lakeside Drive.

As a jogger that uses the park year round several times per week, I can attest that every season brings something new and interesting at Scout Lake. In winter, if the lake freezes sufficiently, the lagoon is groomed for ice skating and the pavilion is used as a warming shed. (In the time we’ve llived in Greendale, the pond also was used for ice hockey.) Ice fishing is also popular.

Spring brings renewed life to the flora and fauna. Every year there are many visitors to the park who feed the new duck families that appear in May. The park is filled with the fresh spring green and early wild flowers. This also is a favorite time for field trips by school groups to visit the park.

In summer, it’s not unusual to see groups of birdwatchers on the pathways. Scout Lake attracts wildlife and wild flower photographers as well as families enjoying fishing. Urban wildlife is everywhere: turtles, frogs, chipmunks, deer and possum as well as the now-teenaged ducks and geese.

Fall is my favorite time at the park, with the spectacular color change as the season transitions back to winter.

The lagoon was formerly known as Boldt Lake, and was part of the land originally deeded to Johann Boldt Sr. around 1860. Beverly Giese Biba is a direct descendent of the Boldt family and shared many great stories about the property. Johan and his wife Elizabeth (Bitner) Boldt built a log cabin at the lake. The cabin remained even after the family built a huge 18 room house across Loomis Road circa 1885-1890. The lake and surrounding area was used by the family for recreation, holding large picnics for their extended family from Milwaukee. The log cabin was put back into use as a cottage for a short time when Johann’s daughter Henrietta married John Tretow. (Henrietta and John’s daughter Hilda was Beverly’s mother.)

One of the enduring stories in the Boldt family was the loss of a team of horses in the lake. Once frozen, ice could be cut and sold as pioneer ‘refrigeration’. While a group of workers were cutting ice, the team was tethered to an ice sled when the ice broke. The horses drowned and the sled was lost, despite desperate efforts to save the animals.

The land remained in the Boldt family for many generations, until it was sold to the federal government for the creation of Greendale on March 19th, 1936. The Boldts were one of the last families to sell because they did not want to move. The Boldt house remained standing until sometime in the 1950’s. Beverly graduated from high school in 1954 and she remembers it still being there at that time. 

I wasn’t able to locate any written documents or articles about Scout Lake, particularly how it came to be named. But I did find some anecdotal information. According to a long-term Greendale resident, the lake and park continued to be a favorite recreation and swimming spot for many Greendale residents. There’s some mention of the ‘Greendale Naked Club’ (and then a lot of laughter) but that’s all I could get from my source. Anyone care to share any more information on that?

I did find an early picture from perhaps the early 1940’s referring to some of the property being leased to Camp Greendale, a non-profit organization formed by Greendale residents who wanted to develop the lake area. According to an unsourced reference at the Milwaukee County Historical Society, Scout Lake was acquired by the Milwaukee County Park system in 1964. Subsequently the pathways, pavilion and fishing pier were constructed, making Scout Lake the treasure that it has become.

So perhaps I’ve interested you in visiting the North Woods, (oops!)  I mean Scout Lake Park, my favorite place in Greendale!

Scout Lake Fishing Review:

https://www.lake-link.com/lakes/lake.cfm?LakeID=2783&View=Reviews

Milwaukee County Park Map of Scout Lake Park:

http://county.milwaukee.gov/ImageLibrary/Groups/cntyParks/maps/Scout_Lake1.pdf

Bathymetric Map of Scout Lake:

http://prodoasjava.dnr.wi.gov/swims/downloadDocument.do?id=29814010

Greendale Trivia Question and Answer:

– Scout Lake is the best place to get fresh fish in Greendale. Make sure you read the DNR posted signs and have the proper fishing license if required. It’s a great, easily accessible lake to get your kids excited about fishing.

Week#52 Question – How and when did the annual Greendale Village Days celebration in the month of August get started?

** Week #52 contributors Sally Chadwick, Jean M. Miller, Beverly Giese Biba, Milwaukee County Parks Department, Milwaukee County Historical Society, Milwaukee County Register of Deeds.

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