Photo Essay: County Grounds

The Milwaukee County Grounds are steeped in civic history.  The insane asylum, the poor farm and the tuberculosis sanatorium were all situated here in the early 1900s.  The government took on some additional responsibility for “the poor, the destitute and the marginalized” by creating four cemeteries in the area, alternately known as “The Poor Farm Cemetery”, “The Almshouse Cemetery” or “Potter’s Field”.   Today, the buildings are crumbling, the cemeteries are marked with plaques, and the grounds are frequented by hikers and dogs.  There is a monarch butterfly trail that has been carefully maintained by volunteers and the park district has taken over one building there for offices, but the future of this area is uncertain at best.   There is talk of power lines and park development as well as commercial development.   The land lies adjacent to a 6 lane freeway, the medical center complex, and a water reclamation plant.   For now, it is the only open land that I can walk to from my house, yet it maintains a ghostly connection to its civic past.  I often try to overlook the traces of the human community there and photograph only wildlife.  Yesterday, though, I decided to open my eyes to whole of it.  Here are some visuals:

8 thoughts on “Photo Essay: County Grounds

  1. So poignant and so appropriate that you did these in black-and-white. The weeds on one of the picture look almost like they’ve been etched in grace. This place reminds me of the old Pilgram State in New York. I suppose every area had these at one time. Like to think we are more civilized, but now we just leave folks homeless and starving on the street and then bury them in Potters Field.

    A good job with this, Priscilla.

  2. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life | scillagrace

  3. Thanks for sharing this, I’ve been away from Milwaukee 5+ years, we lived on N 62nd + Lisbon since 97, and remember them rather well. Looks as if, surprisingly, not much has changed. I remember in the early 80’s several Mansions down near the Pabst Mansion got raised during the night one night to avoid all the uproar about trying to keep them. The more things change the more they stay the same. I came back home to Northern VA, Alexandria to be specific, and miss a lot but not the winters.
    ie the Snow.

    • Sadly, this open land has now been developed into a “research park” with two new roads, a condo complex and several other large office buildings. The monarch habitat has been erased. Only one of the historic buildings was preserved. I found it very sad and aggravating to watch the destruction, and so have moved to Washington County. I work for a conservation foundation/land trust. Preserving green space is very important to me.

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