East Newberry Boulevard: Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Recognized for its exceptional concentration of architecturally distinguished homes built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, East Newberry Boulevard is an iconic example of the boulevard planning concepts espoused by Frederick Law Olmsted and tied closely to the construction of two Olmsted-designed parks at the east and west ends of the boulevard. The boulevard's majesty is enhanced by the works of several notable architects and builders from the area at the time. These well-crafted, unique houses were designed not just as showplaces but to withstand the test of time.

Designated Area

The 12-block-long East Newberry Boulevard is between Lake Park on Lake Michigan to the east and Riverside Park on the Milwaukee River to the west.

This wide, planted median along East Newberry Boulevard hosts informal soccer and football games in the spring and ice sculptures in the winter. Photo courtesy of Dave Lahaye.

Planning Excellence

With its broad tree canopy and wide, planted median, the boulevard does more than connect Lake and Riverside parks — it extends them. Here, in the shade of century-old elms and maples, residents stroll or sit, taking in the scenery or reading.

Stately and serene, East Newberry Boulevard embraced those on foot and horseback as well as in cars. Today, spring through fall brings informal games of soccer or football; in winter, snow forts and castles dot the median.

Flanked by Olmsted-designed Lake and Riverside Parks, there are nearly 100 historic homes along East Newberry Street, some of which are quite large. Photo courtesy of Dave Lahaye.

Defining Characteristics, Features

Character of Olmsted-Designed Parks Extended to Boulevard

  • Early history of area characterized by lack of planning; four subdivisions, each with a different vision, were platted between 1888 and 1894
  • Influenced by the City Beautiful movement, foresighted city parks commission condemned land to expand “Newbury Street” from 66 feet to 150 feet in width; Newberry  renamed a boulevard in November 1897, second street in city to be so designated (first such designation was Highland Boulevard in 1895)
  • Although not designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., who was commissioned by the city to plan Lake and Riverside Parks, Newberry Boulevard follows his English garden suburb philosophy and design principles that residential areas have ample lots so homes can serve as a restful retreat separated from more densely developed sections of cities
  • Plan for East Newberry Boulevard included 54-foot wide grassy median separating two 28-foot-wide lanes for east- and west-bound traffic; bridle path extended down the median's center; 20-foot-wide sidewalks, eventually reduced to six feet width, were built along each right-of-way
  • Landscaping was designed to complement the two Olmsted parks and transform the boulevard into linear park; uniform planting every 25 feet of large deciduous shade trees (some which are now 60 feet tall) is critical element to boulevard's park-like character
  • Following release of plan, developer of initial subdivision re-platted lots to front on East Newberry Boulevard instead of north-south streets; sole exception to this design is on boulevard's south side between North Oakland and North Cramer streets
  • A formal entrance to Lake Park at East Newberry Boulevard was planted in 1896

Natural Beauty Accentuated

  • Residents' understanding and appreciation of boulevard's unique role result in beautifully landscaped and carefully maintained properties more than 100 years later
  • Large maples and elms form canopy that covers the entire 12 blocks; shade on both median and sidewalks as trees were planted curbside and along outer edge of median
  • Olmsted-designed Lake and Riverside parks at respective east and west ends of boulevard serve as counterpoints to urban life; parks designed for contemplation, enjoyment and interaction of people from all socio-economic classes
  • Boulevard reforestation program replaces diseased or damaged American elm trees to maintain tree canopy; plan adheres to spirit and intent of original landscape design

Architectural Diversity

  • East Newberry Boulevard home to 101 residential structures, most of which are larger and more embellished than those on adjacent streets. Residences form veritable catalog of styles popular among Milwaukee's middle and upper classes including Prairie School, Arts and Crafts, Bungalow, Mediterranean, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival
  • Developers and architects followed tenets of Frederick Law Olmsted, building large homes on ample lots with garden setbacks
  • Work of many of city's leading architects -- including Alexander C. Eschweiler and the team of George Bowman Ferry and Alfred Charles Clas – grace boulevard; designs relied on high-quality exterior cladding materials, such as brick, stucco and limestone, which help shape boulevard's character
  • Size and design of residential structures vary based on location; homes in Prospect Hill subdivision were set on expansive lots — three per block — and required to meet deed restrictions pertaining to such things as alcohol sales and livestock boarding; construction costs had to exceed $5,000 or 10 times the average annual wage $500 in 1893 (compared to $50,000 average income for today, minimum would be about $500,000)
  • A state historic district, East Newberry Boulevard added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 because of its architecturally significant houses

Century-old elms and maples, wide sidewalks, and a generous median make East Newberry eminently walkable. Photo courtesy of Dave Lahaye.

Houses Used State-of-the-Art Building Methods

  • Hollow terra cotta blocks, employed in commercial and industrial structures to protect from fire, were used in several homes despite higher cost
  • Use of poured concrete for housing construction, a progressive technique in early 1900s, was tested along East Newberry Boulevard
  • Albert F. Gallun house, an Elizabethan manor house built in 1914, represents fusion of most advanced construction techniques for the time. Fourteen-inch-thick stone exterior walls are backed by 4-inch hollow terra cotta tiles on the interior. Floors are poured concrete and roof made of slate; emerged from disastrous 1970s fire with structural integrity unscathed