Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Sup. Taylor Wants a Harriet Tubman Park

County board member pushing to rename Wahl Park on city's North Side.

By - Jul 7th, 2020 01:38 pm
Wahl Park. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Wahl Park. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Sequanna Taylor announced she has drawn up a resolution that would rename Wahl Park as Harriet Tubman Park.

Postcards have been mailed out to neighbors living around the park, Taylor said in a Facebook post. And she is looking for feedback from local residents on the potential renaming of the park.

Wahl Park is located between 60th St. and Sherman Blvd., and south of Hamton Ave. It is named for Christian Wahl, a German immigrant to Milwaukee who arrived in the middle of the 19th century. Wahl was among the earliest proponents of the parks system in Milwaukee, and sat on the first parks commission in the area. Wahl, among others, advocated for a system of many smaller parks, as opposed to one massive park like New York City’s Central Park.

Harriet Tubman was an abolitionist and leader on the Underground Railroad, leading hundreds of people enslaved in the southern U.S to freedom in the north. Tubman was born into slavery and escaped, famously following the north star in the night sky.

Urban Milwaukee was unable to reach Taylor for comment.

The replies on Facebook to Taylor’s announcement were positive. Two women talked in the comment section of the post mentioning their memories of using the park. One said, Granny is going to appreciate the name change. I think most of the elders who are still on the block will appreciate it.” To which the other woman replied, “Yes big time I say go for it.”

Wahl Park was created in 1956. A bronze bust of Wahl that was originally in Lake Park was moved there upon completion. Lake Park was Wahl’s true passion. 

He was instrumental in hiring Frederick Law Olmsted to be the architect of Lake Park. Wahl loved the topography of lake park and its many ravines. According to the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee, Wahl once said, “ravines add greatly to the natural beauty of the landscape, and not only necessitate bridges, but make them possible; for in many cities which, like Chicago, lie absolutely flat, the landscape gardener has been obliged to first make a ravine in order to have some excuse for a bridge.”

Wahl was so obsessed with Lake Park that he was criticized at the time for micromanaging its development. One alderman said Wahl should not stand beside a laborer digging a hole and watch each shovelful.”

Wahl Ave., which borders the west edge of Lake Park, is named after him.

If Taylor manages to secure a name change for Wahl Park, it would be the second park in a year to undergo a name change. In 2019, Sup. Felesia Martin successfully changed the name of Columbus Park to Indigenous People’s Park. Martin at the time said the name change was intended to demonstrate that Milwaukee County government values all people.

Columbus Park was created in 1956 on land that was originally ceded to the U.S. in 1833 as part of a treaty with the Potowatomi, which was part of the rationale for the change.  

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Categories: MKE County, Parks

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