SHOREWOOD - In 1900, 68 voters went to the polls and decided to break off from the town of Milwaukee, forming the village of East Milwaukee.
The community was home to only 300 residents at the time and was best known for an amusement park in the area of what is now Hubbard Park. The amusement park expanded to span the area from Edgewood Boulevard north to Newton Avenue, and from the Milwaukee River east to Oakland Avenue. The amusement park, which went by several different names over the years, included beer gardens, a bandstand, a rollercoaster, a tower of light and a motorcycle racing track, according to Shorewood Historical Society President Karen de Hartog.
A growing number of people were moving to East Milwaukee, since automobiles and the streetcar had made it easier to live in a suburb and commute to the city for work. The growing number of business professionals moving into East Milwaukee did not appreciate the raucous amusement park visitors, though, and the parks closed in 1916.
In 1917, elected officials in the village of East Milwaukee decided to shift their identity from a semi-rural amusement park destination to a more populous urban suburb.
But first, they needed a new name.
They decided on Shorewood, which was inspired by their position on the shore of Lake Michigan and their large bounty of trees, particularly on the west side of the village.
The name change from East Milwaukee to Shorewood was the beginning of a tremendous boom in housing growth that would come to define Shorewood as the most densely populated community in Wisconsin.
At the time of the name change, Shorewood had 1,600 people living in 500 homes. Housing construction boomed in the 1920s, with 200 homes built per year, mostly in the undeveloped area west of Oakland Avenue. By 1930, Shorewood's population had grown eight times over to roughly 13,479.
To celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Shorewood moniker, the Shorewood Historical Society and Shorewood Public Library have compiled photos of 47 homes that were built at the time of the name change in 1917, according to the village assessor's office.
A number of village organizations have also organized a self-guided historical walking tour featuring 12 commercial buildings and homes that were original to the 1917 neighborhood.
The tour guide will be available at the Shorewood Village Center, 3930 N. Murray Ave., where there will also be early 20th-century games and refreshments. With the tour guide in hand, participants can either bike or walk along the route and learn more about the village's history from docents who will be stationed at each stop.
Those who cannot make the tour on May 20 can pick up maps at Village Center throughout the year and walk or bike to the designated sites on their own.
"We're trying to get people to visualize what life was like in 1917," de Hartog said.
The Shorewood Historical Society and Shorewood Library are also hosting a picture preservation program at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, at Village Center. Large scanners will be available for people to copy any historical photos they might have that could be copied and shared with the Shorewood Historical Society. Individuals may also bring up to 50 personal photos to be scanned free of charge to a digital format.
The Shorewood Historical Society will also showcase centennial memorabilia during a Summer Sounds concert Wednesday, Aug. 2, at Hubbard Park, 3562 N. Morris Blvd.