Greendale Historic District named National Historic Landmark

Published on: 10/22/2012

The Wisconsin Historical Society has announced the designation of the Greendale Historic District as a National Historic Landmark.

The village's oldest neighborhood was among the 26 new designations announced Oct. 17 by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

"Each of these landmarks represents a thread in the great tapestry that tells the story of our beautiful land, our diverse culture and our nation's rich heritage," Salazar said.

The Greendale district joins 41 other Wisconsin properties and sites that hold this distinctive status. National Historic Landmarks possess exceptional value and quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.

Daina Penkiunas, who presented the nomination to the Landmark Review Committee in Washington, D.C., reiterated Greendale's role in American history

"At Greendale we see the development of the modern American suburb," Penkiunas said. "It holds a unique and important place in the history of American urban planning." 

The historic core of the present village of Greendale is one of three government-sponsored "greenbelt" communities built during the Great Depression. Together with Greenbelt, Md., and Greenhills, Ohio, Greendale represents the federal response to the "desperate unemployment of the era and the urgent need for housing reform for the urban working class," the Wisconsin Historical Society stated in a press release.

Greendale was built under the Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration between 1936 and 1938 with the assistance of labor funded by the Works Progress Administration. The original plan for the community employed several innovative planning concepts. Residential areas were laid out within irregular large blocks with housing clustered along narrow residential lanes.

Parks and common green space flowed through and along the edges of each superblock. Paved walkways separated pedestrian from vehicular traffic. And, houses were "turned around" so that the kitchen and utility room were on the street side and the living room was on the rear, or garden, side of the house.

The Greendale Historic District was listed in the Wisconsin State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. In 2011 WHS staff conducted additional research and co-authored the 123-page report that led to the current landmark nomination

To learn more about the state and national register programs and National Historic Landmarks in Wisconsin,