Listen: During our second week of the Neighborhood Project, while we were in Walker's Point, Milwaukee historian John Gurda gave me a phenomenal historic walking tour of the neighborhood. John explored some deep history, painting a picture of how the past has carved out and shaped the neighborhood's present. While we were talking about the Neighborhood Project after our recorded interview, I mentioned that we'd be in Clarke Square and John's eyes lit up — his career started in Clarke Square, when he got a job at Journey House straight out of college. Not only does he have knowledge and stories to share, but this neighborhood has a great deal of personal significance to him. Since his storytelling style is such a good fit for the Neighborhood Project, I asked Join if he could join us in Clarke Square and he gladly complied.
We started Clarke Square's namesake square, a beautiful and compact square-block park at the heart of the nieghborhood: While we were surrounded on all four sides by beautiful houses and buildings, John added another historical note about a repurposed building bordering the Clarke Square park:
For our next stop, we stood on National Avenue and 17th — John painted a picture of the neighborhood in a completely different era, when country estates sprawled where a dense urban grid is now firmly in place: If you drive National Avenue from east to west, you'll find a huge range of restaurants, from tapas to a Columbian Bakery to foody-pleasing fare. And of course, there's always the fine chinese/vietnamese of Phan's Garden, whose particular building has some peculiar historical quirks:
We finished where John's career as a historian was sparked, on Washington and César Chávez drive, at the original site of Journey House. In this piece, John ties his personal history to the neighborhood, the city, and the profound value of storytelling: In this bit of out take, John details his own personal connection to Clarke Square, and why he found himself so compelled by the neighborhood in his early career: Want to learn more about Clarke Square? You can start at with Zilber Neighborhood Initiative or perhaps Journey House’s website. And of course, you can always get out to the neighborhood yourself and explore.