Why Call it College Avenue When There’s No College Nearby?

The answer dates back to a campus that never came to be in the 1800s.

In the waning years of the 19th century, Milwaukee’s civic leaders envisioned a center of higher education near Lake Michigan, just outside the city limits. The southern city limits. 

The main east-west street leading to Downer College’s planned south side campus, Town Line Road, came to be known as College Avenue, according to historian Carl Baehr’s Milwaukee Streets.


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But Downer College ultimately scrapped its plans to build near the northern end of what’s now Grant Park, electing in 1897 to set up on the East Side, in the core of what’s now the UW-Milwaukee campus. (UWM swallowed several former Downer College buildings in the early 1960s, shortly before Downer merged with Lawrence College in Appleton.)  

But the residents of the south end of town must not have felt too jilted; the street name stuck even with its namesake on the other end of the city.


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s August issue.

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Executive editor, Milwaukee Magazine. Aficionado of news, sports and beer. Dog and cat guy. (Yes, both.)