Neighborhood History

The history of the HWTN area and of our historic homes and other buildings goes back to the beginnings of Milwaukee history and reflect the changes we’ve seen in our city and the way we live. Fortunately, the homes and other features of the HWTN area have been preserved for all of us to enjoy and for generations in the future to learn from.

Recognizing this important history, the City of Milwaukee has created four residential historic districts, one business historical district and specific designations for three other significant buildings – all within HWTN’s boundaries.

The National Register of Historic Places has created five separate districts within HWTN’s boundaries and named several notable buildings separately. More than 1,000 area homes and buildings are listed in the National Register!

In creating the city districts, the following highly informative studies were written to document the histories of our neighborhood and its homes and other buildings: North Point North, North Point South, North Lake Drive, North Lake Drive Estates, Downer Avenue Commercial, St. Mary’s Hospital, Lloyd Smith House (Villa Terrace) and North Point Water Tower.

Interested in the history of a specific home? Check out the many resources available in the “Researching Your Home’s History” section of our Historic Preservation page.

Walking Tour Brochure of North Point Historic Buildings

A wonderful brochure is available to lead you on a self-guided tour of 20 of HWTN’s most significant historic buildings. Print out and use the brochure as you explore the neighborhood’s fascinating historical treasures by foot, bike or car. You’ll learn fascinating facts about these buildings that will help you enjoy and appreciate our area even more.

Listen to John Gurda’s Talk about East Side’s History

Click below to hear a fascinating talk about the history of Milwaukee’s East Side that local historian and writer John Gurda gave at HWTN’s November 2011 annual meeting. John’s presentation, “Weaving The East Side Fabric,” spans our area’s history, from its beginnings as a new development north of Milwaukee to its current status as one of Milwaukee’s most vibrant neighborhoods. John has written many essential local histories, including “The Making of Milwaukee,” and is a captivating speaker. Listen and learn the story of the East Side.

AUDIO: “Weaving The East Side Fabric”

Historic Photos and Maps of Water Tower Neighborhood and Milwaukee

Historic Post Card Collections


Additional Resources on the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood and Area Homes

  • Free book to HWTN members: Members can receive a free copy of the out-of-print “The Heritage Guide,” by H. Russell Zimmermann. This book includes mini-histories of numerous historic buildings in our neighborhood and the metro area.
  • Zimmerman’s out-of-print “Magnificent Milwaukee: Architectural Treasures, 1850-1920,” is a coffee-table book with great photos and histories of some of HWTN’s most impressive homes. It’s available via on-line used book sellers.
  • The invaluable book “North Point Historic Districts – Milwaukee,” by Shirley de Fresne McArthur, tells the story of the HWTN area and many of its homes. It is available at the Milwaukee Public Library, Boswell Book Co. on Downer Avenue or from online sellers. Highly recommended. It includes parts of McArthur’s prior, out-of-print book, “North Point South.”
  • Milwaukee historian John Gurda’s excellent “The Making of Milwaukee” includes a history of the East Side.
  • Milwaukee’s East Side, including our neighborhood, were featured in an episode of Milwaukee Public Television’s “Around the Corner with John McGivern.”