Being Original is a big deal in Greendale.
This year marked 75 years since Works Progress Administration workers completed construction of Greendale as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The WPA built 572 homes, now known by residents as Originals. Four municipal buildings also were part of the construction: Village Hall, the post office, the police and fire department, and the hose tower.
As Greendale grew, three of those buildings — the police and fire department building, the hose tower and post office — became obsolete. The post office moved June 1, 1966, to a larger building after the village qualified for mail delivery service. The former post office was converted into office space.
The hose tower also is taking on a new identity. The Greendale Historical Society and the village are renovating the former fire hose drying tower and storage annex to serve as a much needed community center.
The neighboring police and fire department building, on the other hand, continues to sit empty. It’s been 15 years since it was used last, and to say that its future is murky probably is an understatement. The village officially put the building on the market Tuesday, requesting proposals for its “renovation/re-use/redevelopment.” Proposals are due Sept. 27.
It would be a serious blunder if village fathers sign off on swinging the wrecking ball at an historic building, during Greendale’s diamond anniversary year no less. While no development plans have been set in stone, there seems to be a push, spearheaded by Village President John Hermes, to emulate other Wisconsin communities such as Shorewood and Whitefish Bay by building high-end apartments as a means to increase density in the village center.
The village is steeped in history, so much so that it’s a National Landmark. Greendale’s village center has a charm that is rare in today’s mind-boggling affinity for suburban sprawl and big box stores. Strolling down Broad Street, one can’t help but think the village is the embodiment of a Norman Rockwell painting. In fact, the iconic creator of more than four decades of covers for The Saturday Evening Post has a semi-permanent perch from which to immortalize Greendale’s Village Hall.
Volunteers plant and tend to flowery landscaping that brightens downtown, leaving a whiff of perfume lingering in the air. Neighbors greet one another while strolling along the sidewalks and walking trails that wind through and around the village. Families munch on burgers and fries outside of Ferch’s before making their way to Daffodil Park for a bit of play time. And folks make their way to the gazebo with lawn chairs and blankets in tow each summer weekend to listen to free concerts.
Greendale offers a Rockwellian fantasy land that so many people are looking for, and many more communities envy. It would be a shame to sacrifice a part of what makes the village so special, and sully it by imitating other communities with high-density development.
Stay Original, Greendale, and embrace your past.