Home » History of Elmwood Park

Beebe School May 29, 1903

Elmwood Park is a small village nestled between the City of Racine and the Town of Mount Pleasant. lt is a municipality with its own government. There are 2.45 miles of roads in an area comprising 105.59 acres. Taylor Avenue and Lathrop Avenue are the two main roads that run through the village. Some of the first homes were built in 1929, & 1930. These homes are located on our earliest roads:

  • 3335 Taylor Avenue: 1929
  • 3345 Taylor Avenue: 1929
  • 3357 Taylor Avenue: 1930
  • 3551 Taylor Avenue: (moved to this site) 1930
  • 3302 Lathrop Avenue: 1930

Originally, Taylor Avenue was called the Racine and Wilmot Plank Road – later called Wilmot Road. lt was renamed Asylum Avenue and then changed to Taylor Avenue on September 18, 1923. lt was named Taylor Avenue after Isaac Taylor and the Taylor Children’s Orphan Asylum. After his death in 1865, Isaac’s wife carried out his “dream” to build, the orphan home. Isaac Taylor had been an orphan himself growing up in England. The Taylor Children’s Orphan Asylum was completed in 1868 with funds from the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Taylor.

The orphans of Taylor Children’s Orphan Asylum (Taylor Home) were the first modern residents of this area, 92 years before we became a village and at least 77 years before people began to show an interest in living here in any numbers. At the time, this area was considered the country with lots of open farmland. The Asylum had a farm where they grew their own vegetables, raised cows, chickens and pigs.

Taylor Children’s Orphan Asylum. Neither the building nor the asylum exist today.

Until recently, Taylor Home ran an alternative school on the grounds: The Taylor Education Center and Family Support for Gang Diversion Program. While 3131 Taylor Avenue and is now in the City of Racine, bordering our village, the campus is owned and operated by the Village of Elmwood Park.  lt hasn’t been an orphanage since 1955 when the state abolished orphanages. The old historical buildings were razed in 1973. The current cottage type buildings that are used today were constructed in the 1960′s. In 2002 the 24 hour residential program was discontinued due to declining enrollment. There are five buildings on the expansive, park-like campus.  All beautiful, and some are available for rent, long term or short term!

Lathrop Avenue was named for A.H. Lathrop, who owned a 1/4 section of what is now Lathrop and Washington Avenue. Over the years, it changed from being called a road to a street to an avenue. In the early 1900′s, W.H. Miller, a real estate broker, attempted to have the Street named Ben Bones Street, after a vegetable farmer of that name who lived in the area of Beebe School. The name change was denied.

As Elmwood Park continued to develop, each home planted several elm trees. Our elm tree population grew, but suffered a heavy loss due to Dutch elm disease. In 1960 there were 379 elm trees in Elmwood Park. By 1964 there were only 256, a loss of 123 elms and the loss continued. Today, we only have a few remaining beautiful elms that represent our namesake.

A population growth had started as early as the 1930′s and the 1940′s. But the 1950′s saw the influx of people that eventually led to the creation of the village. Some of the early residents to the area, such as the Dremel Family, were instrumental in creating a real community atmosphere. The community started to have annual Christmas parties at Meadowbrook Country Club. The first Christmas party was held in 1957 and the tradition continued for many years to follow. That same sense of community led to the desire for incorporation. In the late 1950′s a group of residents got together and formed a study committee to discuss becoming a village. The committee was headed by Dr. W.C. Harris and members were:

Beathon Adams Bernard Odders
Douglas Adams John Piller
George Boehm John Rasmussen
Carl Davis Howard Shaffer
Robert Heinrich Harry Sorenson
Paul Jacobsen Robert Whisler
Gerald Leigh

The purpose of becoming a village was to provide a local government to solve local problems. lt would allow us to have control over the protection and development of the area and to maintain a separate identity and control over our civic operations.

The committee remained active until the early-1960 and dissolved when the area incorporated into a village.

Elmwood incorporated as a Village on June 27, 1960 following a court battle. Until this time, we had been a part of the Town of Mount Pleasant. Becoming a village was not an easy task; it was met with some opposition. A new state law adopted after our incorporation proceedings were already started, requires villages near cities the size of Racine to be 25 times larger than Elmwood. We were the last small suburban village in the state to incorporate. In 1960 there were 120 homes in the Village.

We had to change our name to Village of Elmwood Park because there was already a Village of Elmwood in North West Wisconsin.

Dr. W.C. (Bill) Harris was our first Village President during the initial organization of our village. He was one of the many leaders at our successful effort at “Villagehood. George Boehm assumed the village presidency when Dr. Harris moved out of the village.

Our first Clerk for the Village was Marian Boehm. She originally took the position on the understanding it was temporary. Marian served as clerk from 1960 – 1974- Marian was also instrumental in the village organization and the many duties that went along with that important position

In 1960 our very first officials included:

President: Dr. W.C. Harris
Clerk: Marian Boehm
Treasurer: Carl Davis
Board of Trustees: Beathon Adams
Douglas Adams
George Boehm
Paul Jacobsen
Mrs. Beryl Streiff
Robert Whisler
Attorney: R.C. Albert
Assessor: Bernard Odders
Constable: W.E.  Dremmel
Justice of Peace: Henry Anderson
Supervisor: Harry Sorenson
Board of Health: Dr. W.C. Harris, Health Officer
Mrs. Beryl Streiff, Chairman
Marian Boehm, Clerk
Beathon Adams, Member
Douglas Adams, Member
Board of Review: Carl Davis
W.E. Dremmel
Paul Jacobsen

Election Officials

Inspectors: Eleanor Anderson Margaret Boehm Mary Warner
Clerks of Inspection: Evelyn Heinrich Evelyn Leigh
Ballot Clerks: Shirley Pavilonis Jane Wahamaki

Past village boards and officials

Beebe School circa 1920

Beebe School’s history traces back almost to the beginning of Racine. Elias Smith and Marshall M. Strong were school commissioners when the district was first organized in 1840. The district meetings were held at homes to elect officers and to vote on issues. The original Beebe School was built in 1841 at a cost of $175. Voters pledged $10 and $20 each to build the school house. lt was a frame structure, 20′x 25, with pine shingles on the sides and roof. lt was located south of Racine’s City limits on our current site, at Taylor and Lathrop Avenue. The Beebe family owned a large amount of land in the area and donated the land for the school. In the early days, the school was used for various social, religious as well as educational uses.The present Beebe School was built in 1926, at a cost of $21,000. Many of the village children attended Beebe School. In 1961 it became a part of Racine Unified School District. The school remained open until 1973. At the time of closing, 300 Beebe School pupils were reassigned to Johnson and Hansche Schools. Originally village meetings had been conducted in people’s homes and garages. We purchased Beebe School and grounds in 1977 for approximately $30,000. Mary Orr, Clerk and Thomas (Tom) Cecchini, President were instrumental in obtaining the property along with William Dougard, Treasurer and the Board of Trustees. Part of the building became our new Village Hall and the remaining portion was turned into rental property, generating monies for the building’s maintenance. The grounds became a park for everyone’s enjoyment.

Holy Cross Church and School, 3350 Lathrop Avenue, was built in 1961. At one time village voting was held in the Friendship Hall (auditorium) of the school. In later years, the school was renamed Concordia Lutheran School. Since the Christmas of 1973, the beautiful sounds of the Carillon can be heard throughout the village. The Carillon is in memory of John ‘Skip’ Riley Jr., who died of cancer at the age of 22. Skip’s parents, John & Anita Riley, are members of the church.

Homes in the village originally had septic systems and at times caused some troublesome problems for many. In 1976 a sanitary sewer system was installed. This was quite an accomplishment for the village. lt solved the problems some had experienced and led to the further development of our village.

In the late 1970′s, our last section of the village to be developed was known as Elmwood 7. Originally this area had been mostly swamp land. Once the sewer System was available, this 17 acre tract was able to start developing. Elmwood 7 borders to the east the old Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad Line’s right-a-way. They ceased Operation on December 1963 and today this is known as the “bicycle trail”. The Elmwood 7 expansion extended N. Elmwood Drive and S. Elmwood Drive. lt also created two new streets: E. Elmwood Drive and Oak Tree Lane. This development added 51 homes to our village. Today, we have 205 homes and one vacant lot in the village.

Most of the children growing up in Elmwood Park are familiar with the “circle tree”. lt has always been a favorite meeting place, a bicycle rest area and most have climbed the tree at one time or another. This is where Maryland Avenue intersects with North Elmwood Drive going north and south, and McArthur Place and then encircles the tree and comes to an end. Driving in this area resembles the roundabouts in England. At one time, neighbors used to plant flowers around the tree. Recently, you would frequently see neighborhood children gathering around the tree and in the warmer months you might have occasionally seen a lemonade/Kool-Aid stand setup by the children. The tree was removed due to poor heatlh in the summer of 2014.

Kids perched in the circle tree April 26, 2013

 

The history of Elmwood Park was compiled by Audrey Viau, with contributions from many of our Village of Elmwood Park residents and the Racine Heritage Museum – Richard Ammann, Archivist. OId photographs of Beebe School provided by Heritage Museum.