Mid-Town Neighborhood Association (Milwaukee, Wis.) Records, 1961-1980


The Mid-Town Neighborhood Association (MTNA) was organized in 1960 by a small group of area residents and businessmen led by Rudolph Witte, the group's first president. Initial efforts of the group concentrated on persuading property owners within the boundaries of North 20th and North 35th Streets and West State and West Brown Streets, to clean up yards and alleys and to refurbish homes and businesses. The founders believed that rehabilitation of area dwellings in order to preserve the original neighborhood atmosphere was preferable to widespread razing of structures. This philosophy was carried on by later presidents, Virginia Slaughter, Fr. John Baumgartner, and Frances Krueger.

MTNA projects such as clean-up campaigns, dwelling inspections, and free lawn and flower seeds, remained on the neighborhood level until mid-1964, when the City of Milwaukee and the federal government became involved by funding an urban renewal plan called the Midtown Conservation Project. Immediate disagreement arose between the city and the Association over the number of houses to rehabilitate, the city preferring to raze many more than the local group felt was desirable. Another area of concern was rooted in the city's efforts to increase the number of apartments in the neighborhood at the expense of single-family dwellings. Thus, from 1964, the efforts of the Association were directed toward modifying the decisions of the city's Department of Redevelopment and forcing the city to be responsive to input from MTNA. The dispute reached a peak in 1968 when the city proposed a plan for a community organization under federal Model Cities guidelines, to which MTNA objected because all decision-and policy-making power remained vested in the Department of Redevelopment. The city rebuffed the objections but did agree to designate MTNA as the channel for citizen participation in the area and provided funds for an office and MTNA's own community organizer. This action preserved MTNA's official role as the community's representative, but did not end MTNA's opposition to city policy.

Throughout the 1970s MTNA opposition continued to focus on city plans to raze large sections of older neighborhoods. Specific controversies revolved around playgrounds, traffic control, and higher density zoning. Other areas of Association concern included the allocation of low-interest mortgage loans, enforcement of building codes, absentee landlords, and a new freeway which was planned so as to eliminate even more neighborhood housing and businesses.

All of these disputes were resolved with varying degrees of success, from the Association's point of view, and in the intervening years, enthusiasm of MTNA members waned. There were divisive internal struggles for leadership in 1968, 1971, and 1972, which reflected changes in the composition of the neighborhood and in the philosophies of the members. Many of the early supporters left the Association, to be replaced by newer residents whose interest diminished as the Midtown Conservation Project was completed. As of 1971, MTNA was still organized but was struggling to retain members and community interest.