The History of Greendale, Wisconsin

Greendale, Wisconsin had its beginnings in 1936, when the United States Department of Agriculture began construction of three new communities known as the Greenbelt towns. In addition to Greendale, Wisconsin, the other two towns are Greenbelt, Maryland and Greenhills, Ohio.

This Depression era project was created to accomplish three things:

1) To demonstrate a new kind of suburban community planning, which would combine the advantages of both city and country life.

2) To provide good housing at reasonable rents for moderate income families.

3) To give jobs to thousands of unemployed workers, which would result in a lasting economic benefit to the community where the work was undertaken.

The government bought 3,400 acres of farmland three miles southwest of the city limits of Milwaukee and the community was laid out with a "greenbelt" of parkland, garden, areas and farms encircling the entire urban development.

The houses now known as the "Greendale Originals" were officially opened on May 1, 1938. Nearly all were two stories except for the tiny "Honeymooners" homes. There were a total of 572 living units in 366 buildings:

274 houses were single-family units of two and (mostly) three bedroom homes.

45 two-family units known as "Twins," which featured one, two and four bedroom homes and 36 row houses containing a mix of one to three bedroom homes.

The homes were rented according to income and size of the home. In 1938, rentals ranged from $19 to $46 and income limits ranged from $1,200 to $2,700 per year. Electricity averaged $3.40 per month and water cost averaged $1.00 per month.

In 1949 the occupants of the Greendale homes were given the opportunity to purchase their homes and most families did. The federal government's ownership of Greendale lands ended by 1952.

By the 1960s, Greendale's suburban homes were expanded to the Village limits and the original Greenbelt homes became affectionately known as the Originals or Greendale Originals.

On April 15, 2005, Greendale was granted Historical Status by the State of Wisconsin. The Historical District application will now be forwarded onto the U.S. Secretary of the Interior for consideration as a federal historical district designation.

Come take a walking tour of Greendale - the Village has many sidewalks and trails throughout the Greendale Originals area. Of course all roads (and sidewalks) lead to Broad Street, where you can enjoy a wide variety of shopping and dining experiences.

For more information on the history of Greendale, visit: Greendale Originals.com


Click on either link below to see a vintage home movie of the nearly finished Greendale homes, filmed in March or April of 1938 - just before the first residents moved in.

The film shows people waiting in line to tour one of the empty homes, a terrific panning shot of Village Hall to Angle Lane - notice that the Village tavern and shops were not yet built and a great shot of Arrowwood St. (notice the slats over the doorways). This film was recently discovered and is an exclusive to Greendale Life.

Greendale Home Movie (2.2 MB AVI)

Greendale Home Movie (3.3 MB MOV)