The Menomonee River Valley was historically a wild rice marsh. The river and adjacent lands were used extensively by Native Americans for travel, fishing, hunting, and agriculture. By the late 1800’s, the marsh was filled and industry occupied much of the area. In fact, there are several manufacturing firms still active in the valley, some of which were founded over 130 years ago. The Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul railroad Shops, located to the east of what is now Miller Park, at one time employed 5,000 men, many living and walking to work from the surrounding neighborhoods. Over 50,000 worked in the valley by 1920.
Interstate highway development of the 1950’s, and the economic recession and accelerated deindustrialization of the 1970’s and 1980’s led to dramatic shifts in the Valley. Most businesses closed or left – until fewer than 7,000 people worked in the Valley. The storage of sand, salt, coal, and junked vehicles contributed to the environmental degradation of the area.
Since the 1990’s, efforts to revitalize the area into a sustainable and productive commercial and recreation district began to gain traction, led by brownfield clean-up and development, location of several businesses to the area, the formation of the Menomonee Valley Partners, and efforts by neighborhood groups and local, state, and federal governments, including expansion of Canal Street and the development of the Hank Aaron State Trail.
Today, the efforts of so many are evident in the rebirth of the Menomonee River Valley. For more information on the Valley, visit Menomonee Valley Partners (special thanks to MVP for providing much of the information provided here).