Jan Weiler is a long-time resident of the Sherman Park neighborhood. She grew up in Milwaukee and attended high school in Menomonee Falls and college at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Following in the footsteps of her father who was a teacher and principal in Milwaukee Public Schools. Ms Weiler served as a full-time teacher and substitute teacher for over forty years.
Ms. Weiler has always been connected to this neighborhood because her great grandparents and grandparents lived in Sherman Park. When she was a child, she spent her summers at their home. As an adult, she returned to the neighborhood to take care of her aging grandmother while attending college.
Ms. Weiler loves her duplex that she and her sister Leslie co-own. Her sister lives upstairs while Weiler and her husband occupy the lower unit. Her residence has become a place for her neighbors to gather. The Weilers have always been socially active in their block. She remembers her husband fixing bikes and teaching the boys in the neighborhood how to use tools. The kids would use Ms. Weiler’s yard as their football field. She remembers, “I used to like to walk the dog early in the morning, because all the ladies would be sitting on their porches and we would chat as I walked.”
Ms. Weiler appreciates the social network in her neighborhood and loves the architecture of the historic homes in Sherman Park. Her home has intricate wood craftsmanship; such woodwork is rare in contemporary buildings. She points out the beveled glass, the stained glass, and the solidness of the building structure. She loves the old stove that their grandmother left them. She is also proud of her claw foot bathtubs. She has done quite a bit of work on her home as well. She put siding on the exterior, fenced in the yard, applied new roofing, and installed a security system. She and her family feel secure in their abode. She attributes that feeling to her many ancestors who have lived in the community.
Many of Ms. Weiler’s neighbors on the street are elders. Ms. Weiler mentioned the older couple across the alley. She helps them take care of their dog, Roxie. Originally, she helped her neighbor walk the dog. Then she watched over the dog during the day. Eventually, Roxie came to live with the Weilers. Now, the two households jointly take care of Roxie. Ms. Weiler told us about another wonderful neighbor up the street with whom she walks her dog or goes out shopping. Together, they take their dogs to the groomer every eight weeks. Then there are the newest neighbors who live to her north. Ms. Weiler helps them with gardening.
Ms. Weiler told us about a community ritual that describes the sense of neighborliness in her block: every week, when the garbage trucks drive through the alleys behind their homes, a group of dedicated neighbors gather and follow the trucks. They clean up the trash in the alley behind their homes.
These stories exemplify how the Weilers and their neighbors have formed a lasting bond of friendship and affection. She views herself as a balance in the neighborhood and as an anchor for the community.
Ms. Weiler appreciates those residents who have contributed to the improvement of the housing stock in the neighborhood. Years ago, one of her neighbors bought a city-owned “dollar house,” and fixed it up. But dangers and mishaps happen and residents need to be prepared for them. Ms. Weiler recalls that once, two doors down from her home, a vacant property caught fire. She explained that is often scary to have boarded up and vacant homes around you. It causes everyone to be on constant alert. In addition to that feeling of uncertainty, such houses are not always taken care of. Their lawns remain untended and the visual aesthetics of the façades suffer. Vacant properties in the neighborhood sometime become targeted by people who break in to steal parts of the building, pull the wood off the doors, or simply squat illegally.
Ms. Jan Weiler believes that she has a right to live and serve this community, despite difficulties. She embraces the diversity of the neighborhood and has contributed to its vitality.
Walking the Neighborhood
Description of the Neighborhood