Village of Brown Deer

Click the image to learn more. The Little White Schoolhouse in Brown Deer is the only remaining intact one-room schoolhouse in Milwaukee County. Built in 1884, it is now managed by the Brown Deer Historical Society and hosts a local history museum.

Located in northern Milwaukee County, the suburban village of Brown Deer is bordered on the west and south by the City of Milwaukee. With an area of 4.5 square miles and a 2010 population of 11,999, Brown Deer is sometimes seen as a bridge between the city and the other North Shore suburbs of Shorewood, Bayside, River Hills, Whitefish Bay, Glendale, and Fox Point.[1]

Brown Deer evolved out of the former Town of Granville upon its incorporation in 1955. Yankee-Yorkers had permanently settled in Granville by 1835.[2] German, Irish, English, Scandinavian, and Luxembourger immigrants soon followed.[3] Originally, most residents were farmers. By 1876, a hamlet named Brown Deer arose near the present intersection of Brown Deer Road and Deerwood Drive.[4] Agricultural communities in their early days, Granville and, eventually, Brown Deer became home to increasing numbers of suburban commuters in the post-World War II era.[5] By the year 2000, over 40% of Brown Deer’s residents commuted to Milwaukee for work.[6]

This growth in population, as well as the looming threat of annexation by Milwaukee, drove residents of Brown Deer to seek incorporation.[7] Like other suburban communities in the period after World War II, residents preferred political independence to Milwaukee Mayor Frank Zeidler’s growth agenda. In 1951 and again in 1952, the City of Milwaukee posted parts of Granville, including Brown Deer, for annexation.[8] Responding to these actions, residents of Brown Deer began organizing for incorporation in 1953. Milwaukee, hoping to keep open its option for annexation, challenged Brown Deer’s action in court.[9] Although the circuit court sided with Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed Brown Deer’s right to incorporate. The residents of Brown Deer approved their incorporation effort in a court-ordered referendum, leading to creation of the Village of Brown Deer on January 20, 1955.[10]

After incorporation, Brown Deer continued to struggle with Milwaukee over remnants of Granville. The Village made five small annexations in 1955.[11] In 1956, Brown Deer and Milwaukee began a court battle over what was left of Granville. This battle resulted in years of unstable borders and a return to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In 1962, the Court awarded Milwaukee the majority of Granville, while Brown Deer acquired only the portion with the Tripoli Country Club.[12] This string of annexations settled Brown Deer’s borders. The Village’s population has remained in the 11,000 to 13,000 range since 1960.[13]

Despite a stable number of residents, Brown Deer’s demographics have evolved in recent decades. As new residents moved to Brown Deer, principally from Milwaukee, the Village became increasingly racially diverse. Although African Americans made up only 5.7 percent of Brown Deer’s population in 1980, that percentage increased to 28.6 percent by 2010.[14] The Village’s white residents tend to be older than their neighbors of color, and the school district in Brown Deer became “majority minority” in 2008.[15] Brown Deer’s median household income in 2014 was $55,396, which is higher than Milwaukee County, but substantially lower than neighboring River Hills.[16] This modest wealth is reflected in the Village’s housing stock. Three-bedroom houses built in the 1950s form the core of Brown Deer’s homes, though the Village also includes a large number of multi-family buildings.[17]

Footnotes [+]

  1. ^Community Profile: Village of Brown Deer,” Village of Brown Deer website, last accessed November 6, 2018; Village of Brown Deer: Comprehensive Plan 2030, Village of Brown Deer website ([Brown Deer, WI]: Village of Brown Deer, 2009), 6, last accessed November 6, 2018.
  2. ^ Dorothy E. Kittleson, ed., Brown Deer’s Heritage Almanac 1972 (Brown Deer, WI: Brown Deer Historical Society, 1972), [25], “A Glance at Brown Deer’s Past.”
  3. ^ Kittleson, “A Glance at Brown Deer’s Past”; John Wesley Christensen, “An Analysis of Parental Opinion Concerning Elementary Schools in Brown Deer, Wisconsin” (Master’s thesis, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1961), 28.
  4. ^ Kittleson, Brown Deer’s Heritage Almanac 1972, [8-11], “A Stroll through Old Brown Deer”; Illustrated Historical Atlas of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin (Chicago: H. Belden & Co., 1876), Archives Unbound, 17.
  5. ^ Kittleson, Brown Deer’s Heritage Almanac 1972, [25], “A Glance at Brown Deer’s Past.”
  6. ^ Village of Brown Deer: Comprehensive Plan 2030, 56.
  7. ^ Kittleson, Brown Deer’s Heritage Almanac 1972, “A Glance at Brown Deer’s Past.”
  8. ^Plea to Incorporate Brown Deer Village Is Denied by Court,” Milwaukee Journal, December 17, 1953; “Brown Deer Incorporation Petition Denied,” Milwaukee Sentinel, December 18, 1953.
  9. ^ Kittleson, Brown Deer’s Heritage Almanac 1972, [25], “A Glance at Brown Deer’s Past.”
  10. ^OK Brown Deer Incorporation,” Milwaukee Sentinel, November 30, 1954; Kittleson, Brown Deer’s Heritage Almanac 1972, [25], “A Glance at Brown Deer’s Past.”
  11. ^ Kittleson, Brown Deer’s Heritage Almanac 1972, [25], “A Glance at Brown Deer’s Past.”
  12. ^Supreme Court Awards Most of Granville Area to Milwaukee,” Milwaukee Journal, April 3, 1962.
  13. ^ Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, The Population of Southeastern Wisconsin, Technical Report No. 11, 5th ed. (Waukesha, WI: Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, 2013), 82.
  14. ^ Bill Kurtz, “Blacks Like Life in Affordable Brown Deer,” Milwaukee Journal, August 26, 1986; 2010 Census, “General Population and Housing Characteristics, Brown Deer village, Wisconsin” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010), accessed February 2, 2016.
  15. ^ Village of Brown Deer: Comprehensive Plan 2030, 6,11-12.
  16. ^ American Community Survey, “Selected Economic Characteristics, Brown Deer village, Wisconsin “(U.S. Census Bureau, 2014), accessed January 21, 2016; American Community Survey, “Selected Economic Characteristics, Milwaukee county, Wisconsin” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014), accessed January 21, 2016; American Community Survey, “Selected Economic Characteristics, River Hills village, Wisconsin” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014), accessed January 21, 2016.
  17. ^ Village of Brown Deer: Comprehensive Plan 2030, 97; American Community Survey, “American Fact Finder Selected Housing Characteristics, Brown Deer village, Wisconsin” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014), accessed January 15, 2016.

For Further Reading

Kittleson, Dorothy E., ed. Brown Deer’s Heritage Almanac 1972. Brown Deer, WI: Brown Deer Historical Society, 1972.

Kittleson, Dorothy E. Brown Deer Then and Now: Commemorating Wisconsin’s Sesquicentennial, 1848-1998. Brown Deer, WI: Brown Deer Historical Society, 1998.


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  1. rick dees says:

    I lived in Granville in the early 50s, on Brown Deer Road, between 108th Street and 124th Street, when I was a child, attended, as I recall, Granville Grade School from first thru third grade. Our property as I recall, had, at the rear of the property, near the railroad tracks, a processing plant, several large machines, that usually processed peas, separating them from the pea vines. During the summer months, the pea processing was done by, I recall, Hispanic migrant workers. The school was located just south of the town, the main intersection, having five streets intersecting. The school itself, an imposing old building, now torn down, was of stone or brick construction, a full, I believe, basement, had only two schoolrooms, one for grades 1 thru 3 and the other for grades 4 thru 8. The teachers’ names were Mrs. Barndt and Mrs. Vick, who also was the principal, and taught the fifth thru eighth grade students. The town at that time, was quite small, notable for its pungent odor due to the location there of a railroad facility for preserving railroad ties with Creosote. In addition to the railroad tie preservation facility, at the main intersection, was a small business area, with, a small general store, I believe, and small apartments. There also was a post office, and a bar known as Val’s Tap. Near the center of town, there also was a small railroad station. Over the years, I have tried without success to locate a photo of that old Grade School. sigh, I also cannot seem to find any pictures of the house we lived in, either. This specific website, too, has no comments at all. I do know that children from the Granville area did attend Brown Deer High School. Anyone out there have any info at all re Granville, etc?

    • seligman says:

      Thank you for sharing these memories with the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee. Perhaps you will find more information you are looking for in the EMKE’s entry on Granville. The “For Further Reading” section includes some suggestions you might find interesting. Additionally, you might wish to contact the UWM Libraries Archives Department, which has multiple collections relating to the history of Granville.


    • larry s says:

      I also went to Granville grade. Lived on 120th and brown deer rd.used to ring the bell after recess. I have my class picture from 3rd grade mrs. vick was my teacher. that would be 1959

      • rick dees says:

        yep, that exact area, I recall a family there or quite near there, last name Lyon, also at grade school. Jerry Liebherr, also a schoolmate lived just north of there on Boundary Road, I thought it was 124th Street, his house was just across, from, the, now, Waste Mgmt Facility. Our house was just a bit east of you, on the north side of Brown Deer Road, a larger house, two stories, set a bit back on the property, access to house was via a dirt road, that also serviced the so-called canning company, a group of large machines that mostly processed peas, devined them, there was also a large barn, and several small home-like buildings all the same, that housed the migrant workers/families during the summers’ growing seasons. It was a nice, rural, simplistic area and lifestyle. I recall several names from those days, family, Armstrong, lived across from us. Family, Schach, a bit east on Brown Deer Rd, girl May went to the school with me. Family, Myhill, Eddie, also, at the school, lived north of Boundary Rd and Brown Deer Rd. Walter Leister, Bobby Moder, Gary Mirr, Phyllis Pfeil, a guy named Romy, used to plow up our large front yard area each year for us to put in a large home garden. I recall walking to school and back home, sometimes, took the shortcut along the RR tracks, other times, thru the town (it was sooooo small). Our old house was torn down long ago, it was a delapidated place, by then. I’m trying to locate a picture, old photos hard to find. The old school also torn down, I felt kinda bad about that but, it was undoubtedly full of asbestos, highly used in early construction, rendering any renovation prohibitively expensive. I did locate a picture of the school, from a 1955 school cookbook, recipes from the kids parents. Will try to add it on this site.