Historic Greendale

National Historic Landmark

In October 2012 Greendale was named a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.  The award reads "Greendale, Wisconsin, one of three government-sponsored "greenbelt" communities built during the Great Depression, represents the federal response to the desperate unemployment of the era and the urgent need for housing reform for the urban working class."  Greendale continues to serve as a successful model of a planned community with its pathways, green space, unique homes and historic civic buildings.  Greendale is one of fewer than 2,500 historic landmarks in the country. 

Greendale along with, Greenbelt, Maryland and Greenhills, Ohio, is one of three government sponsored "greenbelt" communities built as part of the Resettlement Administration under Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration.  Greendale was chosen due to its proximity to a major city (Milwaukee) and had to have enough space to develop a village center for shops, a community center and offices.  Homes would be built around the center for ease of walking. 

In starting this program during the Depression years, the Resettlement Administration had three main objectives in mind: 

  1. To demonstrate a new kind of suburban community planning which would combine many of 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 on work which would result in a lasting economic and social benefit to the community in which the work was undertaken.

To achieve all of these purposes, the government bought 3400 acres of farm land three miles southwest of the city limits of Milwaukee. Here the community was laid out with a "Greenbelt" of parkland, garden areas and farms encircling the entire so-called urban development.

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.

More Info:

For more information on the history of Greendale, visit the Greendale Historical Society website. 


This is the official seal of the Village of Greendale, selected and approved by the Village Board on February 7, 1939. It was designed by Mr. Marshall Bartos as a contest entry. The contest was open to all village residents interested in submitting ideas.
The gear symbolizes industrial workers; the grain sheaf, agricultural workers. In the middle is an eagle, which means under government guidance, and at the foot of the eagle - an open book representing cultural life. On the pages of the book are the words, "On Common Ground We Stand United".