A campaign for the Sherman Park Community Association, established in 1971, announced "Sherman Park: A Nice Place to Live." Almost half a century later, residents both old and new call Sherman Park home, citing its beautiful housing stock, its cultural diversity, and its entrepreneurial spirit. Take a tour of the places and residents that are committed to keeping Sherman Park a nice place to live.
Map of Sherman Park Points of Interest
1880s: A nearly 80 percent population increase saw more and more residents — mainly German immigrants — moving north and west of the city and transforming farmland into vital communities.
1890s: The city acquired Perrigo Park from its owners and renamed it Sherman Park after the Civil War general William Sherman, completing a triangle of beautiful city parks that included Lake Park and Washington Park.
1900-1920: A new middle class of professionals, business leaders and industrial managers grows, many of whom settle west of their plants, like A.O. Smith, on the 30th Street corridor. According to historian John Gurda, Sherman Park — with its marquee park, new zoning laws that restricted businesses to major streets like North, Burleigh and Center, and the mobility that automobiles afforded — quickly expanded, becoming one of the places to live in Milwaukee.
1920-1950: An influx of Jewish residents from the Haymarket neighborhood just north of downtown began the diversification of Sherman Park.
1960: Six of Milwaukee’s eleven synagogues were located in the area, and Washington High School graduated some of the city’s most well-known public figures, including Bud Selig and Herb Kohl.
1960-1980: African American residents began moving in, making up over 25 percent of the population by 1980. Residents banded together to serve and protect the community, joining the fair housing efforts and preventing the progress of the Park West freeway development. Gurda says that Sherman Park was a close-knit community with “home repair programs,” “soccer leagues” and a “sprawling network of block clubs.”
1980s: Deindustrialization, however, caused widespread unemployment throughout the city. This was particularly true for those working at factories like A.O. Smith, many of whom lived in Sherman Park.
2000s: The foreclosure crisis resulted in many vacant homes and boarded-up businesses.
(Source: John Gurda, Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods)
So where did that leave Sherman Park? While the urban experiment of Sherman Park suffered a heavy and lingering blow through these crises, organizations like the Sherman Park Community Association (SPCA) have worked for decades to offset these challenges — and still do, along with grassroots efforts like Program the Parks, community organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, social organizations like Common Ground and revitalization efforts from the City of Milwaukee.
With so many churches, synagogues and schools — as diverse as 53rd Street School, Yeshiva Elementary and the French Immersion School — a growing number of businesses and support from within and without, Sherman Park hopes to continue to be . . . a nice place to live.
Art & Design
Check out these Sherman Park businesses if you’re looking to design your home, your body, your company’s branding or your own homemade crafts.
Note: Because Sherman Park is ringed by smaller neighborhoods that are often considered, en masse, as “Sherman Park” — Grasslyn Manor, Sunset Heights, St. Joseph’s and Uptown Crossing to the west, Roosevelt Grove to the North and Metcalfe Park in the southeast — we’ll honor these neighborhood distinctions in the addresses below.
Where: 5600 W. North Ave. (Uptown Crossing)
Interiorscapes by The Plant Market has taken care of Milwaukee businesses’ plant needs for over 40 years, currently servicing over 600 locations throughout Wisconsin. They recently won the 2017 AmericanHort Design Award for their Spancrete Corporate Headquarters Atrium Redesign and the Pfister Hotel’s Holiday Display. If you’re not a business, don’t fret: on the first Saturday of each month, they sell plants that they’ve switched out from businesses for 50-90 percent off the original cost.
→ Atomic Tattoos & Piercing
Where: 5700 W. North Ave. (Uptown Crossing)
For nearly 16 years, Atomic Tattoos & Piercing has offered professional artwork and piercing in its two Milwaukee locations (the other is on the east side), as well as multiple locations around Tampa Bay, Florida. Knowledgeable and supportive tattoo artists and body piercing technicians can accommodate your design needs, questions and concerns at this locally owned and operated organization.
→ Barre District
Where: 5221 W. North Ave. (Uptown Crossing)
According to their website, Barre District “connect[s] with people in our community to make the barre workout the way we change our bodies [and] minds” and “live a healthier lifestyle through strength, flexibility and relationships with one another.” Barre (as in ballet barre) classes mix ballet, yoga and pilates. Their Barrebase classes sculpt the lower body, and the more intense Barrefight blends barre, cardio and tabata (a form of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT).
→ Great Impressions Graphics & Printing
Where: 5330 W. Burleigh St. (Sunset Heights)
The team at Great Impressions Graphics & Printing has been promising and delivering high-quality imaging services for personal needs and company branding, weddings and funerals, birthdays and many other occasions for over 18 years.
→ Cloud 9 Workshop
Where: 5205 W. North Ave. (Uptown Crossing)
While Great Impressions can do the work for you, you can also head over to Cloud 9 Workshop a few doors down from Barre District and learn how to create your own “fun and functional crafts from re-purposed and recycled materials.” Fall workshops include classes for tots (ages 2.5-5), kids (ages 6-11), after school, Saturday morning and homeschool Art Club (ages 5-11) and private parties for kids and adults. They even host corporate team-building sessions.
Neighbor Spotlight: John Morgan
“I know my neighbors,” says John Morgan, who lives with his wife in Sherman Park. “One man works in corrections, one woman is a Vietnam veteran, another retired from A.O. Smith, still others are retired school teachers.”
Morgan and his family moved from their east side apartment in 1975, upgrading to a Sherman Park bungalow. He takes pride not only in the work he did to maintain the character and integrity of his home but also in the fact that his children grew up with a diverse group of neighborhood friends, many of whom attended the Catholic schools nearby.
I spoke with Morgan at the popular Sherman Perk Coffee Shop on Roosevelt Drive, where he and a small group of older men meet weekly for what he calls a “Saturday Breakfast Club.” An army veteran who retired from the IRS’s Criminal Investigation Department, he enjoys the weekly camaraderie and periodic get-togethers at members’ houses or nearby establishments like Square One Art Glass on Vliet Street, where they learned how to blow glass. He still hangs out, too, with the surviving members of the Sherman Perk Raiders, a motorcycle group that would meet, lunch together and organize social rides. “This is what we call ‘community,’” he says.
Coffee & Community
Mix it up a bit and try a new place for coffee, a light meal and genuine community.
→ Sherman Perk
Where: 4924 W. Roosevelt Dr. (Grasslyn Manor)
Since 2001, Sherman Perk has occupied a 1939 gas station (in a vintage “Streamlined Moderne” style rarely seen anymore) in the heart of Sherman Park. Owned by a neighborhood resident of almost 40 years and named after the Manhattan coffee shop in the TV show Friends, Sherman Perk is a lovely second home to residents from this diverse neighborhood. Because so many Orthodox Jews live in the immediate area, the owner has made all beverages on the menu kosher, as well as the baked goods (from Le Parve Bakeries) and sandwich fixings (from the Kosher Meat Klub). Local politicians, the SPCA and other community organizations also host meetings at Sherman Perk, “where everybody knows your name” (sorry — mixing up TV shows).
→ Sharehouse Goods
Where: 5507 W. North Ave. (Uptown Crossing)
Part cafe, part retail store, Sharehouse Goods collects excess goods (they like to call it “stuff”) from the community, then liquidates it online and in the store. Donors — whether individuals or their dozens of partner organizations) receive part of the profit from the sale of old books, CDs, DVDs and other items. As they say, “There’s a lot of sharing going on.” That sharing includes, too, job creation at the store and in their warehouses. And while you’re sharing or purchasing, you can enjoy Stone Creek coffees and baked goods.
→ Tricklebee Cafe
Where: 4424 W. North Ave. (Uptown Crossing)
Their simple and fresh menu changes daily. On one day, for instance, Tricklebee Cafe offered a vegan navy bean and collards soup with sweet potato; a gluten free quesadilla with onions, greens, peppers and pico; and a host of beverages. But the unique parts of this community cafe are that it is locally sourced, mostly green and pay-what-you-can, allowing those with less the dignity of paying with even a quarter and those with more to donate more than the typical $5-6 cost of each meal. Rooted in the Moravian faith tradition, Tricklebee is doing community right in Sherman Park.
Neighbor Spotlight: Laura Richard
“The people in this community have creative ideas for starting new businesses, improving homes and investing in kids . . . We aren’t pioneers of this neighborhood, but we have the opportunity to join in with the story like the many people who already have — homeowners and renters; black, white and Hmong; gay and straight. They’ve been here long before our family came. This generation . . . [is] a generation willing to engage people who are different, while looking for creative ways to keep the neighborhood economically and racially diverse. Everyone is invited to the party.”
These are your best bets if you’re a meat lover.
→ McBob’s Pub & Grill
Where: 4919 W. North Ave. (Uptown Crossing)
A staple on North Avenue for 31 years, McBob’s offers Irish and Scottish fare by the half-pound. Their corned beef and Reubens are consistently rated one of the best in the city, but their Irish meatloaf, eggs Benedict and more American offerings like wraps, tacos and fish fries keep their diverse customer base coming back for more.
→ Kosher Meat Klub
Where: 4731 W. Burleigh St. (St. Joseph’s)
Everything is kosher at the Kosher Meat Klub, established in 1977. Offering not only fresh meats, bakery, frozen goods and a full line of groceries, they also cater events big and small. Members of the Orthodox Jewish Congregation Beth Yehuda a few blocks west benefit, in particular, from this cultural institution, which operates adjacent to the Black-owned My Barber Shop, which has been in business for almost 17 years.
→ Reynold’s Pastry Shop
Where: 3525 W. Burleigh St. (Sherman Park)
You might have seen them at your local supermarket, but you can also enjoy these portable “meals in themselves” right in the shop. Since 1956, Reynold’s Pasty Shop has specialized in what used to be, according to their website, “a staple of the southwest England diet that came to Wisconsin when Cornish workers migrated here . . . in search of mining jobs in the 1830s. The pasties would stay warm in their lunch pails.” Their signature Northern Pasty is a mixture of beef, potatoes, onions and carrots pocketed in a homemade dough.
Neighbor Spotlight: Camille Mays
Camille Mays, the Community Organizer for the Sherman Park Community Association that was established in 1971, has lived in the neighborhood for five years. She credits the diversity of Sherman Park for her move.
“We know that Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the country. But it’s like a breath of fresh air living in a part of the city that isn’t that way. There are old and young, black and white — and it’s not even just black and white. There are so many ethnicities, so much culture and religion — like a melting pot.”
Sherman Park’s diversity is also a positive learning experience, Mays says.
“When you are around so many different people, it causes all of you to be more open. Then there are more people communicating, talking about our different backgrounds. We’re trying to work on coming together constantly.”
Follow the spice to Asia or Jamaica at these three hot spots.
→ Mekong Cafe
Where: 5930 W. North Ave. (Uptown Crossing)
Mekong Cafe offers a dizzying array of Laotian, Thai and Vietnamese dishes, plus a juice bar with fresh fruit boba drinks (or bubble milk, a combination of milk, tea and tapioca pearls). Named after the long river that flows from China through Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, Mekong Cafe’s newly renovated interior immerses patrons in the art and culture of these three countries. Try the lunch buffet, dine in or order out, but be sure to try, for example, their curry egg roll, Laotian larb, Thai pud prik khing or Vietnamese pho — all rich and pungent and as spicy as you can handle.
→ Pepper Pot Catering
Where: 4120 W. Capitol Dr. (Roosevelt Grove)
Pepperpot Catering offers take-out and catering inspired by the owner’s homeland of Jamaica. Popular items with customers include (surprise, surprise) the spicy jerk chicken (which also comes as an egg roll), curry chicken, oxtails and shrimp and salmon kabobs. They tend to be very busy, so calling ahead is recommended.
→ Uppa Yard Jamaican Restaurant
Where: 4925 W. Fond du Lac Ave. (Grasslyn Manor)
Contending for the best Jamaican fare in Sherman Park is Uppa Yard, which offers similar menu items to Pepperpot. Here, customers rave about the curry chicken, the spicy oxtail and the steamed cabbage side, and most are willing to wait a little longer, since the cooks make many food items upon ordering.
Neighbor Spotlight: Pamela M. Anderson
Pamela M. Anderson, a local artist who moved to Sherman Park from Wauwatosa a little over a year ago, was “excited to move into a neighborhood that was really diverse.” While she and her husband love decorating and maintaining their historic home, they are also eager to become more involved in the community at large.
“We’re still exploring,” she says. “We want to support local businesses.” They have found that sociability is practiced by their fellow neighbors. For example, neighbor Laura Richard sent out an email about setting up a lemonade stand one recent hot summer afternoon, and soon the whole neighborhood showed up.
“We chatted into the evening hours on our front lawns,” Anderson remembers. “We also went to our first community meeting with our Alderman and local police. The community is strong because we work together and look out for each other.”
Anderson hopes to eventually harness her art background and get involved in beautification efforts and the arts, perhaps involving youth in the community.
Whether you live in Sherman Park or not, you can help create the Sherman Park you want to see by serving with these change-agents. As Laura Richard (see above) said recently, “As Sherman Park grows, so does Milwaukee.”
→ Sherman Park Community Association
Where: 3526 W. Fond du Lac Ave. (Sherman Park)
Established in 1971 and instrumental in the fair housing movement and stopping the progress of the Park West freeway, the Sherman Park Community Association continues to advocate for civic improvements, business development and resident communication through block clubs and councils, clean-ups and socials. Different committees conduct an annual housing survey and work to rehab homes and promote home ownership, publish Sherman Park Today!, fund-raise and work on education-related issues. New membership in the Association is encouraged.
→ Program the Parks
Where: Sherman Park
Healthy salads and smores on Sundays. Organized boxing and self-defense courses on Mondays. Chili Tuesdays, Karate Wednesdays, Tutor Thursdays, Friday Movie Night and Saturday Community Cookout. Repeat. Since June 2016, Program the Parks’ Vaun Mayes and Gab Taylor have been almost single-handedly creating a positive presence in Sherman Park and the surrounding neighborhood so area youth have a variety of productive, healthy and educational opportunities. Funded solely through local businesses and donations, Mayes and Taylor extend themselves even beyond the programming, providing rides to work, shoulders to cry on, someone to confide in and, most of all, advocacy.
→ Mary Ryan Boys & Girls Club
Where: 3000 N. Sherman Blvd. (Sherman Park)
Also serving teens (about 50 this summer), the new 3,130-square-foot teen center at the Mary Ryan Boys & Girls Club (on the northwest corner of Sherman Park) boasts colorful, geometric paint patterns, a new computer lab and game area, plus spaces for theater performance and quiet study. Opened earlier this summer, the $250,000 renovation is almost twice the size of the original center. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee has many volunteer opportunities.
The Future of Sherman Park
Sherman Park’s middle name is “change” (see history above) — and it’s nothing but resilient.
→ Sherman Phoenix
Where: 3536 W. Fond du Lac Ave. (Sherman Park)
The BMO Harris Bank building in Sherman Park will find a new home across the street this fall, while plans to renovate the existing structure are underway. The Sherman Phoenix, being developed by JoAnne Sabir and Juli Kaufmann, will be a spacious and vibrant entrepreneurial hub for more than twelve minority-owned businesses, including Funky Fresh Spring Rolls, Hello Beautiful, Embody Yoga, Buffalo Boss and a second location for The Juice Kitchen, which Sabir owns with her husband Maanaan.
→ MKE Rising
Common Ground’s MKE Rising campaign seeks to rehab 100 foreclosed homes in Sherman Park over four years, making them available to new homeowners with low-interest loans. With over 40,000 members in Southeastern Wisconsin, Common Ground is a citizen action organization that directly addresses social issues such as housing, employment and health care.
→ Sherman Park Rising
Where: 4715 W. Center St. (Sherman Park)
The latest creation of muralist Tia Richardson, who calls herself an integrative community artist, was indeed a community undertaking. After two listening sessions where she inquired of residents not what their neighborhood looked like now but where they saw it going, she integrated their responses into the 17-by-56-foot-long mural on the side of a building on 47th and Center. She then invited residents to paint the mural alongside her: the purple vines (representing obstacles), white lilies (hope), Little Free Libraries being placed in the ground (education), homes being lifted up (housing equity) and a bright yellow and orange sun shining across the entire mural. The ribbon cutting for this transformative artwork is September 22, 2017, at 1:15 p.m.