Merrill Park

Click the image to learn more. Sherburn S. Merrill's mansion,  front lawn, and driveway, set on 15 acres in Merrill Park.

The Merrill Park neighborhood is in the City of Milwaukee between Wisconsin Avenue, Interstate 94, from 27th Street, and 39th Street.[1] It is south of the Concordia neighborhood and east of Piggsville. Together, the three neighborhoods make up the “West End,” so named because in the late nineteenth century it was at the west end of Wisconsin Avenue.[2] The neighborhood is named after Sherburn S. Merrill, the general manager of the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. In 1868 Merrill purchased a large home on fifteen acres of land between 30th and 35th Streets.[3]

The railroad expanded operations after 1880, for which it required additional labor. Merrill platted his land in 1883 and began selling small lots to large numbers of Irish immigrants. The Irish migrated from the Third Ward and constructed duplexes to house their families.[4] By 1888, there were enough residents to erect St. Rose Catholic Church at 31st and Michigan Streets. Small groups of German Lutherans and English Methodists lived nearby and built their own churches, [5] but the neighborhood was overwhelming Irish Catholic until the mid-twentieth century. St. Patrick’s Day was the biggest holiday of the year, and hundreds of children attended St. Rose’s school.[6]

Marquette Academy, also Catholic, received a gift from Ellen Story Johnston, of the Story Hill family, in 1922, to purchase land at 35th Street and Wisconsin Avenue from Sherburn Merrill’s estate. The new school opened in 1925, and Marquette Academy became Marquette University High School.[7] St. Rose served as one of Marquette’s feeder schools.[8]

St. Rose offered activities for the whole neighborhood virtually every day of the week. Residents could also visit the circus grounds between 35th Street, 38th Street, Michigan Street, and St. Paul Avenue. Ringling Brothers and other circuses passed through the grounds until 1923, when the Grand Avenue Park Company sold the land to the city. The eastern half became a public park, and Marquette University built a football stadium on the western half. The stadium became property of Marquette University High School after the university ceased football operations in 1960.[9]

Footnotes [+]

  1. ^ City of Milwaukee, “Milwaukee Neighborhoods,” May 2000, map4.pdf, last accessed March 21, 2015, now available at http://milwaukee.g
  2. ^ John Gurda, The West End: Merrill Park, Pigsville, Concordia (Milwaukee: University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, 1980), 4-5.
  3. ^ Gurda, The West End, 10-11.
  4. ^ Gurda, The West End, 21.
  5. ^ Gurda, The West End, 24-25.
  6. ^ Gurda, The West End, 32-36.
  7. ^ “Mass to Launch Marquette High Centennial Events,” Milwaukee Sentinel, September 13, 1956, 1:6; John Parsons, “Companions on the Journey: Ellen Story Johnston,” MUHS Magazine 59 (Winter/Spring 2015): 26.
  8. ^ Gurda, The West End, 39.
  9. ^ Gurda, The West End, 38-39.
  10. ^ Gurda, The West End, 39.
  11. ^ Gurda, The West End, 43-44.
  12. ^History,” Messmer Catholic Schools website, last accessed March 21, 2015.

For Further Reading

Gurda, John. The West End: Merrill Park, Pigsville, Concordia. Milwaukee: University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, 1980.

Parsons, John. “Companions on the Journey: Ellen Story Johnston.” MUHS Magazine 59 (Winter/Spring 2015): 22-27.

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