Milwaukee`s historic Garden Homes neighborhood began life as a cooperative a century ago
John Gurda

The houses still stand out. When you’re driving north on Atkinson Ave. past Capitol Drive, the bungalows and Cape Cods suddenly give way to a much different type of dwelling. Crossing Roosevelt Drive, you enter a zone of two-story cottages clustered around a central park. Simple but distinctive, they were obviously built as part of a planned development.

That development is Garden Homes, and its distinctiveness is more than architectural. The project made history as the first municipally sponsored public housing project in America. Launched in 1921, it is at the start of a rolling centennial that will continue into 1923.

Like so much else in Milwaukee, including our park system and our municipal recreation programs, Garden Homes has a Socialist pedigree. Safe, decent, and affordable housing for working-class families had long been a major goal of the party, and the election of Socialist mayors provided a golden opportunity. Emil Seidel, who led the city from 1910 to 1912, and Daniel Hoan, who served from 1916 to 1940, made public housing a priority, and a severe shortage following World War I enabled them to put their ideas into practice.

- - Volume: 9 - WEEK: 40 Date: 9/30/2021 5:41:29 PM -