HWTN History

Remembering Our Own Past:
Recognizing Founders of Historic Water Tower Neighborhood

Presentation from November 3, 2010 Meeting.
HWTN Remembering our Past.pdf

The Founding of Historic Water Tower Neighborhood (formerly known as Water Tower Landmark Trust)

In this excerpt from the 1985 “Northpoint North” city-produced neighborhood poster, historian John Gurda wrote about the founding of Water Tower Landmark Trust (as HWTN was initially called)

Although it survived long after similar districts had disappeared, North Point was, until recently, an endangered neighborhood. In the 1950s and ’60s, many of the old-line families moved out to newer homes in the North Shore suburbs, just as their ancestors had moved to North Point from Yankee Hill and other affluent districts. Some mansions were donated to religious or charitable groups. A few were bought and razed by Milwaukee County to create more parkland. Developers assembled blocks of houses and made plans for high-rise apartment buildings. As the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (established in 1956) drew more students every year, there was a growing demand for high density housing. Local institutions, particularly St. Mary’s Hospital, also began to acquire land for expansion. There was a widespread belief that North Point would become another Prospect Avenue. Housing values were depressed, and lenders required abnormally large down payments from the buyers of single-family homes.

A countercurrent was visible by 1970. The preservation movement was beginning, and there was a steadily growing interest in historic old homes. New residents arrived, including a sizable number from other states who were amazed at the quality and affordability of the area’s houses. The new owners joined a stable core of long-time residents and cemented a character that had been cracking. The neighborhood mounted a long campaign to ward off any and all threats to its low-density residential texture.

The effort was informal until 1973, when the Water Tower Landmark Trust was established. The Trust became one of the most unusual and most effective neighborhood organizations in the city. Its leaders worked for a new zoning ordinance and more rigorous building code enforcement. They negotiated with local institutions and developers. They spearheaded efforts to secure landmark status for the neighborhood. (Both sections of North Point were National Register historic districts by 1985.) They organized celebrations and open houses. Neighbors got to know each other through the Trust’s activities, and North Point became increasingly a community of interest.

Since the Water Tower Landmark Trust was formed in 1973, the trend has been steadily upward. All of the major threats have been deflected, if not eliminated. Housing values have soared. Numerous residents have moved back in from the suburbs, and there is a growing concentration of young families – an important sign for the neighborhood’s future. The population’s median age has declined steadily since the 1960s and, after an absence of decades, there are once again swingsets and jungle gyms in many backyards.

Articles about Water Tower Landmark Trust

A Way to Preserve Part of the Past – Milwaukee Sentinel (1964) [about proposal to create a “Watertower Landmark Trust” in the area south of the Water Tower — 9 years before our actual founding]

East Siders Seeking to Better Area – Milwaukee Journal (1973)

East Siders Unite to Fight for the Esthetic, Historic – Milwaukee Journal (1976)

East Side Organizations Gain as They Seek Specific Goals – Milwaukee Journal (1978) [continuation of article here]

Trusting in Preservation – City LifeStyle (2003)


Past Presidents of Historic Water Tower Neighborhood /
Water Tower Landmark Trust

1974 – Russ Good
1975 – Warren Deshotels
1976 – Patricia Van Alyea
1977 – Fran Wasielewski
1978 – Harold Emch
1979 – Harold Emch
1980 – William Hartwig
1981 – Charles Netzow
1982 – Marilynn Schall
1983 – Margadette Demet
1984 – Bob Elsner
1985 – Carl Beckstedt, Jr.
1986 – Herb Heavenrich
1987 – Tim Frautschi
1988 – Tim Frautschi
1989 – Bucky Good
1990 – Frank Demet
1991 – Frank Demet
1992 – Chris Smocke
1993 – Paul Linn
1994 – Paul Linn
1995 – John Scripp
1996 – John Scripp
1997 – John Bach
1998 – John Bach
1999 – Michael Benton
2000 – Michael Benton
2001 – Joan Evans
2002 – Jeff Bentoff
2003 – Mary Wasielewski
2004 – Jeff Grzeca
2005 – Toni McBride
2006 – Dave Remsted
2007 – Jeff Grzeca
2008 – Andy Nunemaker
2009 – Sandra McSweeney
2010 – Jeff Bentoff
2011 – Dawn McCarthy
2012 – Lloyd Dickinson
2013 – Lloyd Dickinson
2014 – Sandra McSweeney
2015 – Donna Neal
2016 – Sally Peltz
2017 – Laurel Maney


Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett Proclamation Honoring HWTN/WTLT 40th Anniversary (November 2013)

Historic Water Tower Neighborhood


Milwaukee Common Council resolution commending the Water Tower Landmark Trust for its program of architectural and historic preservation (October 1973)

October 2, 1973

Resolution commending the Water Tower Landmark Trust for
its program of architectural and historic preservation


The Water Tower Landmark Trust. Inc.

has undertaken a program of preservation in one of Milwaukee’s oldest and finest neighborhoods; and

            Whereas, The Trust aims at perpetuating the cultural architectural traditions which have distinguished the East Side, and have enhanced the natural beauty of Milwaukee’s lovely lakefront; and

            Whereas, Citizen and community efforts have long been directed at maintaining this area in its most natural and classic condition, with notable success in the cases of Villa Terrace and the Water Tower Fountain; and

            Whereas, The focal point, and symbol of this entire area is the city’s beautiful and historic Water Tower, which was built 100 years ago, and has come to exemplify Milwaukee’s architectural heritage and bountiful supply of pure water; and

            Whereas, The Trust had chosen to inaugurate its new program of architectural, historic and cultural concern and action with a Centennial Celebration, commemorating the Water Tower’s construction 100 years ago, on October 20, 1873; and

            Whereas, The members of this Honorable Body wish to express their support for the concepts of citizen participation and neighborhood preservation which these activities represent; now, therefore, be it

            Resolved, That the Common Council of the City of Milwaukee herewith congratulates the Water Tower Landmark Trust, Inc. on this the one hundredth anniversary of the construction of Milwaukee’s premier landmark, commends them on their civic and cultural endeavors, aimed at preserving one of the city’s finest neighborhoods, and wishes them every success in the future; and, be it

            Further Reolved, That this resolution be spread upon the permanent record of this Council and a suitable engrossed copy presented to the Water Tower Landmark Trust, Inc.

Adopted under Suspension of the Rules.