Preserving Our Past
A regular feature about the historically significant buildings in Whitefish Bay
Big Bay Park
5000 N. Lake Drive, WI 53217
The 8.7 acres comprising Big Bay Park, located in the Village of Whitefish Bay, is part of the extensive Milwaukee County Park System. It is immediately north of, and contiguous to, the Village’s own Buckley Park.
(The picture above was taken from “Images of America: Milwaukee County Parks” by Laurie Muench Albano, Arcadia Publishing, 2007, Page 105. The caption states that the stairs were constructed in 1940 using WPA labor. The Works Projects Administration (WPA) was established by Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 as part of his New Deal efforts.)
The Milwaukee County park system has long been a source of pride for the communities of southeastern Wisconsin. The system encompasses over 140 parks and parkways totaling nearly 15,000 acres that provide a source of recreational enjoyment.
Between 1931 and 1941, substantial Federal funds for ‘relief’ labor became available to the Milwaukee County Park System as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program. One of the programs established as part of the New Deal program was administrated by the Works Projects Administration (WPA).
In 1940, WPA labor was used to make improvements to practically every park in the Milwaukee County Park System, including public access and shoreline protection at Big Bay Park in Whitefish Bay.
The various programs provided jobs for thousands of local people that would otherwise have been unemployed. It also provided many of these people with construction and other skills that allowed them to eventually obtain employment outside of the programs.
The WPA project at Big Bay Park consisted of the construction of a lannon-stone walkway, which followed a natural ravine from street-level down the bluff to the short of Lake Michigan. Near the foot of this walkway, a groin was constructed and extended out into the Lake for shoreline protection. The groin also eventually led to the buildup of a sandy beach area, for public swimming.
Extensive shoreline protection was constructed north of this area, to protect the bluff area.
Note: Please respect the rights of private property owners when viewing this or any of properties listed in this column.
About "Preserving Our Past"
The Village of Whitefish Bay is a community of residential neighborhoods, punctuated with an attractive walking district of fine stores, excellent schools and vibrant houses of worship. It is filled with homes and other buildings that are architecturally rich, well-designed and maintained, and diverse in character.
Its residents have contributed much to the broad cultural, political, economic and social history of the area. And its residents are interested in maintaining their connections with an historic past.
To help maintain these connections, the Historic Preservation Commission is in the process of identifying buildings and historic sites that it believes may be architecturally significant or historic. On a weekly basis we will feature a building or site from our inventory.
- Archive: Read about the village's other historic buildings
- From the commission: About our inventory and a request for help
- More more information: Historic designation application and procedures online
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