Exploring Milwaukee’s diverse Enderis Park neighborhood and the park that serves as its central gathering place.
The Enderis Park neighborhood is a tight-knit community named after Dorothy Enderis, assistant superintendent at Milwaukee Public Schools in the 1940s. Dorothy’s work developing after school and multicultural education programs is reflected in the neighborhood today. Enclosed by the quaint restaurants and small businesses of Center Street and Lisbon Avenue, the neighborhood’s tudor-lined streets surround a central gathering place: Enderis Park.
We visit the park to find several people enjoying the outdoors, despite the cloudy, 60 degree day. Janel (13) and Jael (14) are reading on a stone bench just past the park’s two beach volleyball courts. The sisters are students at nearby Milwaukee School of Languages and have been studying French since their elementary school years at Milwaukee French Immersion School. “It’s very peaceful here,” Janel says, “I like to come here and read.”
Many families in the Enderis Park neighborhood send their children to Milwaukee’s language immersion schools. Milwaukee School of Languages and Milwaukee German Immersian School are both in close proximity to the neighborhood. These schools were established in the late 1970s with a curriculum designed to promote bilingualism before high school.
As we walk by the park’s tennis courts, we hear the muffled sound of tennis balls accumulating on the far court. Marjorie, a resident of neighboring Wauwatosa, is always able to find an open court at Enderis Park. “I like that it’s very diverse,” she says, explaining that she sees people of all ages and races spending time together at Enderis.
Walking through the park, we notice the same. Located in the most segregated city for African Americans, according to a Brookings Institute study, Enderis Park’s demographics are an anomaly—comparable to the city as a whole.
As we prepare to leave, we see Mark trailing his preschool-age son on a bike. Mark and his wife Erica first moved to the neighborhood 5 years ago, when Erica was working as a Latin teacher at Rufus King High School. “We ended up here and we love it. It’s so great and there are many activities,” Erica says, applauding their active neighborhood board, which plans Concerts on the Green—the neighborhood’s summer concert series—Easter egg hunts, and many other community events. She mentions that Alderman Michael Murphy—who created the “MKE Plays Initiative,” an effort to restore Milwaukee playgrounds—can often be spotted walking around the park and has been quick to address any of their concerns.
When the residency requirement for Milwaukee workers was lifted in 2013, Mark says, “We worried about people leaving, but we haven’t seen the exodus.”
On the way to our car, we see Jael and Janel talking with a group of friends by the playground and tennis balls strewn across the tennis court. Yard-signs posted throughout the neighborhood invite us to return for the concert the next day.