North Point North Historic District

Roughly bounded by N. Downer Ave., E. Park Pl., and N. Wahl Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Northern half of Milwaukee's North Point Historic District

Photos 

Charles Rollins Manville House

The Manville Covering Company was founded in Milwaukee in 1885 by Charles Brayton Manville. In 1901, the company later merged with the H. W. Johns Co. of New York. The resulting firm was called Johns-Manville. (Today, Johns Manville, without the hyphen, is owned by Berkshire-Hathaway.)

Charles Rollins Manville, son of Charles Brayton Manville, stayed in Milwaukee to manage the operations here while the rest of the family moved to New York.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in May 2014

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Description 

Milwaukee's North Point neighborhood is considered one of the premiere neighborhoods. Situated on the bluff that overlooks most of the western shore of Lake Michigan, it has always been an exclusive area for Milwaukee's leading industrialists, financiers, merchants and businessmen of all types. The homes here are almost all large, designed by noted architects, with an interesting mix of architectural styles. Most were built between 1890 and 1930, and most remain intact the way they were built.

In the mid 19th Century, both the city and the county governments recognized the value of Milwaukee's lakefront. Land was set aside for those in need, including orphans, elderly and the infirm. Today, St. Mary's-Columbia is an enormous hospital in the heart of the neighborhood.

The first subdivision was platted just south of North Avenue in 1854. An additional subdivision was platted north of North Avenue in 1855. Only two of the houses built in the 1850s remain. Little development of the area occurred because the neighborhood was just two far removed from the business district.

The city built a steam powered pumping station below the bluff in 1873. A standpipe, to absorb pulsations of the steam pump, was built on the top of the bluff at the foot of North Avenue. The limestone Gothic water tower was built to keep the standpipe from freezing and although it is no longer used, the tower is a recognizable landmark of Milwaukee.

City fathers recognized the value of public access and set aside land for parks, including the Frederick Law Olmsted designed Lake Park that was built in the 1890s. The U.S. Coast Guard moved a navigational lighthouse from the foot of Wisconsin Avenue in 1855, to the top of the bluff in today's Lake Park. The North Point Lighthouse served Lake Michigan navigation until it was decommissioned in 1994. (The 1855 lighthouse was moved 100 feet west in 1888.)

Once the 138-acre Lake Park opened, thousands flocked to the playground and soon, the pace of North Point's development accelerated. The grand homes of diverse architectural interest led to the designation of the area as a historical district.

National Register information 

Status
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on March 24, 2000
Reference number
00000255
Architectural styles
Late 19th and 20th Century Revival: Tudor Revival; Late 19th and 20th Century Revival: Colonial Revival; et al.
Area of significance
Architecture
Level of significance
Local
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction
Property type
District
Historic functions
Single dwelling; Multiple dwelling; Secondary structure
Current functions
Single dwelling; Multiple dwelling; Secondary structure
Periods of significance
1875-1899; 1900-1924; 1925-1949
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 191
Contributing sites: 1
Non-contributing buildings: 7

Update Log 

  • September 23, 2014: Updated by J.R. Manning: Added Architects
  • September 22, 2014: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • January 19, 2014: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated Status and Added Description

Related landmarks 

Sources