Tied through their birth during the Roosevelt Administration and through history to Greenbelt, MD, stand Greendale, WI, and Greenhills, Ohio. Green Sister Cities is a column with stories about these historic communities.
History and Folklore!
Do you like Greendale’s winding streets, the green spaces, the walking paths, and the parks? If so primarily you have Elbert Peets to thank. If not, you probably should consider moving to someplace that has a lot of asphalt and concrete.
Elbert Peets was the landscape architect who created the initial design of Greendale in 1936. He believed in preserving as much of the natural features of the land as possible. The streets were planned to flow with the contours of the land. The houses were situated to take advantage of the open spaces, and the walkways placed to provide easy and safe access to Village businesses and recreation.
On April 30, 1935 as part of the “New Deal” policy, President Roosevelt signed an executive order authorizing the creation of “Greenbelt Towns”. These towns were to be modeled after the English garden communities. The Resettlement Administration was created to supervise this project.
After a selection process that considered 100 cities, Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. were selected for development. Each Greenbelt town had a planning team comprised of town planners, architects and engineers chosen by the Resettlement Administration. Greendale’s team was made up of executive in charge Fred Neumer; town planners Jacob Crane and Elbert Peets; architects Harry Bentley and Walter Thomas; and engineering designer Charlton Putnam.
As Greendale started expanding in the late '40s and '50s, Elbert Peets was called upon to consult with the design. The homes were more modern, but the bends in the streets, the green spaces, the walking paths, and the areas for parks remained a priority. His name is not one of the most recognizable in the history of Greendale, but his legacy will remain for as long as Greendale exists.
The Greendale Historic District was placed on the National Park Service’s National Registry of Historic Places in 2005. Peets was a bachelor and passed away in 1968. But certainly he can be considered one of Greendale’s founding fathers.
But did you know?
The houses in Greendale were built ‘backwards’ by design. The designers reasoned that having a lawn, a backyard, and a garden was something most new residents probably never had. Families primarily were moving to Greendale from crowded conditions in cities. So the rear entrances were placed close to the street and the larger living area viewed the backyard. These backyards were often expansive parks. Two examples of this today can be seen by walking through Pioneer Park and Daffodil Park.
Greendale Parks in the Summer!
One of the big reasons families move to Greendale is the numerous recreation opportunities provided by the many parks and playgrounds. Especially in the summer when school is out and the weather is perfect, the parks offer an excellent opportunity for fun for families and residents of all ages.
Children living in most sections of the Village can walk to a park without having to cross a busy street. Children in some sections need adult help to cross a busy street, but the distance is still walkable. For instance, children in the Overlook Farms subdivision need assistance to cross 76th Street to get to the Community Center, but once there the recreation options are numerous, and the play areas safe.
Some of the original parks and recreation areas are gone, like the horseshoe pits and tennis courts on the Village Mall, and the wading pond and playground by the middle school. But they’ve been replaced by other parks and recreation areas.
Also, winding through many of these parks and through wooded areas throughout the Village (like west of Parking Street), are numerous walking paths. So for family fun this summer, whether you’re young or old, Greendale is the place to be!
This is a condensed version of David J. Miller's reflections on his village's design. , take a look at Greendale Patch.