The city of Milwaukee is full of enclaves with their own unique histories. Lincoln Village is one such area. This neighborhood has grown based on the waves of immigrants that have come through the city. Each wave has left its mark, creating a melting pot of cultures and heritages.
Lincoln Village was originally settled by the city’s Polish community
According to various U.S. censuses, this city remains one of the highest Polish populations in the United States. The original Polish population still remains and continues to leave a mark on this community. Since that initial settlement, waves of immigrants have continued to come through the area, such as African Americans in the 1930s and 1940s. Recently, the Latino population has spiked in the community. Most of these recent immigrants hail from Mexico, as well as other Central and South American countries.
Both the Polish and Latino communities have cultural similarities, such as being religious-oriented, hardworking and civically engaged. They are also a source of entrepreneurs, leading to many new local businesses in this community. However, this also means that the neighborhood is diverse economically, ethnically and culturally.
The main commercial street is home to not just one, but two, historical landmarks. The first is the Basilica of St. Josaphat, which is one of 62 minor basilicas in the U.S. and a beautiful example of the Polish Cathedral style of church architecture that is prominent within the Great Lakes area. The other is the Forest Home Cemetery, where many of the city’s famous beer barons and social elite are buried.
The main street is home to many specialty Polish and Mexican shops, including one of the oldest florist shops in Milwaukee, the largest bicycle shop in the city and the Milwaukee Bicycle Company. This is a brand based on the family owned shop with its distinct style of parts and bicycles. There are also a recording studio and restaurants with food styles from El Salvador, Mexico and Serbia.
The architecture in Lincoln Village also reflects the cultural shifts of this vibrant community. The streets are extremely close together and it gives the neighborhood a strong tie with Europe. One of the residential building is the Polish Flat, which resembles a cape style home with a ½ story to provide additional living space on the ground floor. Additionally, the neighborhood has plenty of examples of Polish gables and other architectural details.
The Riviera Theater is an example of the transitional theater that moved from photoplay to more traditional movies. It includes the stadium style balcony that allowed individuals to reach the balcony from the main floor. While the outside was plain, the inside was full of unique details. Today, it is a storage facility for the Milwaukee Bicycle Co.
Within the neighborhood, there is also a healthy mix of other residential options. This includes walkups, apartment buildings and single family homes. In addition, this is home to Kosciuszko Park. This is one of the largest parks in the south side of Milwaukee. The park is a natural gathering place for the neighborhood, providing multiple recreational activities to its residents. This community is truly a taste of the immigrant melting pot of Milwaukee.