Behind the modern Glendale municipal Office complex on Milwaukee River Parkway sits the preserved, original Town of Milwaukee Hall. Now a museum of area history, the Town Hall building could tell stories of life spanning parts of two centuries.
The Town of Milwaukee was created in 1838 by the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature. The move formed a manageable governmental district and service region for an area that was sparsely populated. From the start, the Town of Milwaukee comprised the northern half of Milwaukee County. As settlers moved in, the area was constantly decreased - primarily a result of local incorporation into villages and cities, who would then undertake their own community services. The Town of Milwaukee continued as the governmental unit for unincorporated areas. When Glendale incorporated in 1950, the Town of Milwaukee technically dissolved.
Throughout the community history, political and governmental life for the Town of Milwaukee centered around the Town Hall. Originally, Town Hall meetings were held in private homes or other makeshift locations. But the coming of the railroad to the area in 1870, brought with it increased population and the need for more services, and centralized location for governmental records, archives - and meetings. In 1872 the citizenry voted to appropriate $1,000 to buy a lot and build a centrally located hall, a lot near West Bender and North Port Washington Roads. Town Clerk (and County Surveyor) Anson Buttles, platted the lot and supervised construction, which was completed in November, 1872, at a cost of $800.
The Milwaukee Town Hall was used regularly, but infrequently - primarily for the occasional meetings of the three-member Board of Supervisors and the Annual Town Meeting. Town government was minimalist at that time, consisting of a Town Chairman, Clerk, Justice of the Peace, Constable, Head of the Common School District and a "Fenceviewer." (The "Fenceviewer's" job was to help settle property boundary disputes...)
Town government meeting minutes were recorded in both German and English (reflecting the heavy German settlement in the area..)
Other, unofficial organizational events took place from time to time at the original Town Hall, but the building remained much as it was when it was built. Over the years, the communities of Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, Fox Point, River Hills and Brown Deer incorporated, each time reducing the area of responsibility for the Town Milwaukee, which was finally dissolved some five years after the incorporation of Glendale in 1950.
Since the Town Hall was within Glendale's corporate boundaries, it was Glendale's property. Used primarily as a polling place, the old Town Hall slowly deteriorated until 1962, when the site was needed for development. An interested and concerned group of citizens lobbied and raised funds to save the structure, and in response, the Glendale City Council formed a special committee to investigate its preservation. In July, 1963, the Town Hall was moved to the present location behind the Glendale municipal complex. Renovation and restoration was spearheaded by the Glendale Women's Club and by 1967, the Town Hall reopened as a museum and meeting hall.