Charles B. Whitnall served as Secretary of the Milwaukee County Park Commission from its inception in 1907 until his retirement in 1941. As Secretary, he was a strong proponent of public land acquisition along Milwaukee Countyâ€™s lakefront and waterways. A longtime dream of Mr. Whitnall's was to locate and set aside a large tract of land as a haven for city dwellers â€“ a place people could go to enjoy lakes, streams, wildlife, flowers and trees. In 1924, he found the ideal parcel and, over the following five years, advocated its purchase. Milwaukee County eventually purchased the parcel (1929-1930). Originally dubbed Hales Corners Park, the property was later (1932) renamed Whitnall Park in honor of its visionary, Charles B. Whitnall. After his death in 1949, Mr. Whitnallâ€™s ashes were scattered over his beloved Whitnall Park.
In 1929, when Whitnall was 70 years of age, he led the effort to create a magnificent park space for his fellow citizens. His partner in this project was a young man, 26-year-old Alfred E. Boerner.
Alfred E. Boerner was born in 1900 in Cedarburg and studied the very new field of landscape architecture at the University of Wisconsin. He became the landscape architect for Milwaukee County in 1926 and was appointed General Manager of the system in 1952. His philosophy, which included displaying plant material appropriate for home owners, business, industrial and municipal sites continues to guide the ongoing development of the Gardens. Boerner died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1955. In 1957, the Gardens were named for the landscape architect who designed the original five formal gardens, Alfred E. Boerner.
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