The Early Settlements
The presence of an early Indian Village in Greendale is suggested by the discovery in the 1880's of a tribal burial ground north of the Village Hall. Predating that, possibly centuries earlier, was a man built stone dam discovered 16 feet underground during the construction of Greendale's sewers in 1937.
In 1836 Wisconsin became a territory and the Federal Government began the sale of land. That same year, settlement of the area began, particularly along Grange Avenue, where many of the Irish came to farm. The boyhood home of the famed Irish-American linguist, Jeremiah Curtin, has been restored and may be viewed at 88th and Grange.
This same area was the center of a large lime producing industry starting in the 1840's. This site is now Trimborn Farm Park which contains some of the early kilns and a magnificent stone barn constructed circa 1858.
Greendale had its beginnings in 1936 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture began construction of three new communities known as the Greenbelt towns. Besides Greendale, the other two towns were Greenbelt, Maryland, and Greenhills, Ohio.
In starting this program during the Depression years, the Resettlement Administration had three main objectives in mind:
- To demonstrate a new kind of suburban community planning which would combine many of the advantages of both city and country life.
- To provide good housing at reasonable rents for moderate income families.
- To give jobs to thousands of unemployed workers on work which would result in a lasting economic and social benefit to the community in which the work was undertaken.
In the center is the business district; nearby, at the end of the wide center thoroughfare, is the village administrative offices, just as when the village was opened for business in 1938.
Greendale was originally developed by the government with the intent to provide homes for families of an income level that would preclude their living in a suburban setting. The requirements for renting included an income within the range $1200 to $2700 annually, a housing need, reliability in financial matters, cleanliness in living habits, and suitable size of family for available living units. When the size of a family changed, they had to move to the appropriate living unit.
There were 572 living units housed in 366 buildings when the village was opened for occupancy on May 1, 1938. Nearly all were of two stories, except for the so-called "Honeymooners". All homes had concrete foundations, cincrete (a type of cinder) block walls, and either lightweight tile or slate shingle roofs. A utility room, containing the coal fired furnace and laundry facilities, took the place of a basement. The first floor was finished with asphalt tile on a 2 1/2" concrete slab, supported by precast concrete joists. The second floor was of 7/8" oak or maple. The living room had a beamed ceiling of 8 inch ponderosa pine, with the wood sub floor of the floor above serving as its ceiling finish.