Letter From Milwaukee

Milwaukee Eastside Neighborhood Preservation Group Celebrates 50 Year Anniversary




By Stephanie Van Alyea



This year the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood celebrated 50th years (1973-2023) at its traditional Holiday Party and honored two intrepid founding members; Barbara Elsner and Pat Van Alyea.

The Water Tower stands 175 feet tall, built in 1873.

Historic Water Tower Neighborhood is a residential neighborhood association on Milwaukee’s fashionable East Side that borders Lake Michigan. One of the city’s oldest neighborhood organizations, the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood was founded in 1973 (originally under the name Water Tower Landmark Trust) to preserve the neighborhood above Lake Michigan near the Water Tower, to promote “the preservation and enhancement of the unique and celebrated architectural residential character of the neighborhood.”  

A typical home in the HWTN neighborhood.

Within its boundaries are many treasures, not just neighborhood treasures, national treasures!: including the Water Tower, the North Point Light House Museum and Lake Park which was designed by Frederic Law Olmstead. HWTN actively support policies that keep them accessible to the wide swath of Milwaukee residents and visitors. 

The North Point Lighthouse Museum, constructed in 1888.

HWTN takes its name from the neighborhood Water Tower which stands as a beacon over the historically significant neighborhood and Lake Michigan. The Water Tower was built in 1873 of Wisconsin-cut limestone, in 1968 it was designated a landmark, one of only 5 water landmarks in the United States. Quote: Pat Van Alyea one of the two surviving founders was quoted as saying “The turning point for Milwaukee’s East Side was 50 years ago when the Water Tower Landmark Trust was created to save the lakefront.”

HWTN neighborhood offers the largest group of historic homes in Wisconsin. The majority of homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register of Historic Places named several notable buildings as standouts. One of them is the Bogk House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright built in 1916 and the Lloyd Smith House designed by David Adler, now known as the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, where the holiday celebration is taking place.

Designed by David Adler in 1923 the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, formerly the Lloyd Smith House.

The Smith Family founded the A. O. Smith Corp. Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Smith commissioned David Adler to design a home in the style of an Italian Renaissance Villa. It was completed in 1923. David Adler was one of America’s most important great-house architects and was born in Milwaukee. The Smith family donated the home to become a Decorative Arts Museum in the early 1960’s. Today Villa Terrace is a museum and the sight of many lovely events.

Party in the great room at Villa Terrace

The HWTN holiday party was a festive affair with its two surviving founders in attendance. A glorious buffet of catered and homemade dishes. Wine and cocktails were served, all while live music was played by

Pianist Mark Davis. The Party Committee Chair Adrian Zilvetti and Special Events Chair Jeff Steinhorst welcomed all invitees.

Charmaine and Kurt Gunderson

Kristin Bergstrom and Lloyd Dickinson.

Penelope and Tim McGrath

From left to right: Fran and Mary Wasielewski with Pat Van Alyea HWTN Founder.

From left to right: Special Events Chair Jeff Steinhorst with committee member Lauren Kaszak and Secretary Maureen Sievers.

Nora and Jim Barry Nora and Jim Barry Nora and Jim Barry Nora and Jim Barry

Sandra and Marc McSweeney

Jason Bennett and Andrew Barringer

At the party it was announced that this December 8, 2023 was officially proclaimed Historic Water Tower Neighborhood Day by the Mayor of Milwaukee Cavalier Johnson and the County Executive David Crowley. Moira Fitzgerald presented the prestigious proclamations!

Founder Barbara Elsner with her daughter Margaret Howland

Founder Barbara Elsner with her daughter Margaret Howland