History of the HBHA
The Historic Brewers Hill Association was started by a few neighbors sitting and talking on the curb in front of their houses. Through the years much has changed and most for the better.
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History of Brewers Hill
The Historic Brewers Hill neighborhood is located on bluffs overlooking the Milwaukee River valley, which emerged as the river, century after century, cut into its valley. The neighborhood remains as one of two residential areas from the City of Milwaukee’s original settlement period during the 1830s but it wasn’t until the 1850s that the neighborhood was officially plated on paper as Sherman’s Addition to Kilbourntown.
The commercial importance of the Milwaukee River set into an important series of events for Brewers Hill. From 1860 to 1930, industries that developed along the river bank, such as foundries, mills, tanneries, and breweries, generated a demand for services and housing stock. Brewers Hill prospered as hundreds of Milwaukeeans moved to the neighborhood, which offered sweeping views, easy access to Downtown, and close proximity to large employers on the riverfront. The neighborhood became an important residential enclave sandwiched between the factories that lined Commerce Street and the bustling retail centers of then-Third Street and North Avenue. Great economic diversity marked the area’s early years with business owners living next to laborers, leading to a mixture of grand houses on large lots next to closely spaced workers cottages and duplexes.
After the 1930s, the neighborhood fell into a state of disrepair as business left the river valley and residents left Brewers Hill. While many of the original houses survived the decline of the post WWII years, the city was forced to demolish a number of abandoned buildings in the 1960’s and 1970’s, leaving gaps in the streetscape of Brewers Hill. A residential renaissance emerged in the late 1970s as an interest in revitalization swept through the neighborhood. Because of the architectural diversity of the existing housing stock and location near Downtown, many old homes, often dilapidated or boarded-up, experienced the slow, arduous process of rehabilitation. In 1981, residents formally incorporated as the Historic Brewers Hill neighborhood association (HBHA), dedicated to revitalizing and improving Brewers’ Hill.
In 1983, portions of the neighborhood were designated a Local Historic District and National Historic District. On the National Register, the nomination stated ‘Its core of Greek Revival and Italianate, single-family, brick or frame houses constitutes the most remarkable assemblage of architecture of its type remaining from Milwaukee’s early years…. chiefly in it’s variety of building types and concentration in a small, exclusively residential area’. As interest and investment in the neighborhood grew throughout the 1990s and 2000s, new houses were built to fill the gaps, condos and townhouses were carved out of old factories and warehouses, and new construction occurred on both city-owned and privately-held acreage. The HBHA also hosted several widely popular home & garden tours during this time period.
Present day, Historic Brewers Hill remains as an integrated neighborhood with a mix of income, life styles, and building choices. The HBHA is dedicated to maintaining an active, diverse, and stable membership to keep the neighborhood going for another 100 years.
*Above material sourced from City of Milwaukee neighborhood plan publications and Preserve Milwaukee, Winter 1995 edition.