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Rediscover Milwaukee’s neighborhoods with help from John Gurda

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Eight years ago, local historian and writer John Gurda sat down with 88Nine to share stories from Milwaukee’s neighborhoods. The idea for the series came after the release of Gurda’s 2015 book, Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, which chronicles 37 contemporary portraits of Milwaukee’s neighborhoods.

With the weather warming and conditions ripe for exploring the city, we decided it was the ideal time to look back at this collection and share Gurda’s very well-informed perspective on these well-known areas of Milwaukee. We start on the south end of town with a pair of neighborhoods you can get to know by using the player at the top of the page to hear the full podcast or by checking out the videos below.

Walker’s Point

Our series starts with not only the oldest Milwaukee neighborhood, but also the one Radio Milwaukee calls home. Walker’s Point is one of the city’s original settlements and has always been known for its unique architecture and diverse people. You can trace its history way back to 1834, when George Walker came to the area and constructed his cabin on a point of land that’s now the south end of the Water Street Bridge — about a block away from Radio Milwaukee HQ.

Historic South Side

Clocking in at approximately four square miles, the Historic South Side is Milwaukee’s biggest neighborhood. It started as a stronghold for the Polish community in the late 1800s and grew quickly for a couple reasons: easy access to work and plenty of affordable land for them to establish themselves with small cottages. Back around 1910, roughly 70% of the neighborhood’s population was Polish by ancestry. These days, it’s 70% Latin, which makes it one of Milwaukee’s cultural centers.