History of Green Bay's Parks

Tank Park

Early History

Tank Park was platted as blocks 48 and 54 of C.L.A. Tank's Fifth Addition to Fort Howard, bounded by Third Street, Greenwood Avenue, Fifth Street, and Tenth Avenue. On July 11, 1891, Madame Tank formally deeded the park also including Ninth [Norwood] Avenue running between said two blocks to the City of Fort Howard, upon the express Condition that the above described premises shall and will never be used for any other purpose than Public (or City) Park and that the City of Fort Howard shall and will at all times keep the same improved, plant shade trees, and keep the same properly fenced. 1 2

The park was called Union Park until the Tank Cottage was moved to Union Park, which was then renamed Tank Park 3 (The name Union Park was used in the telephone directory listing for Tank Cottage as late as 1960. 4)

Tank Cottage

The Roi-Porlier-Tank Cottage was built in 1776 by that French-Canadian fur trader, Joseph Le Roi 20 on the west bank of the Fox River near the end of Eighth Street. 5 Tank cottage was to be torn down but the South Side Improvement Association had it moved to save it; the building moved in 1908 to Union (Tank) Park 6 where it was installed along Fifth Street at the corner of Tenth Avenue. 21

Tank Cottage was operated as a museum and the park served as the museum grounds. One member of the cottage's board wrote, Madame Tank … had the grounds landscaped and the roads laid out by Eastern landscape gardeners. Visitors enjoyed driving over the shady tree-lined roads to the Cottage entrance. 7 But times change and parks must adapt. By 1960, a number of boys were driving at a high rate of speed in Tank Park on the road which was originally made for pedestrians and those riding in horse-drawn carriages. To eliminate the present day hot rodders from causing an unreasonable amount of abuse, the roads through the park were blocked off. 8 The museum continued to operate in the Cottage and at least one historical drama was enacted there. 9

Beginning in the mid-1960s, plans took shape to create a central location for those many historic buildings which, like Tank Cottage, were no longer at their original, historic locations. This idea developed into Heritage Hill State Historical Park 10 and the house was moved to Heritage Hill in 1975 11 12 going up the river on a barge.

Park Development

In addition to the shade trees and paths, a wading pool was constructed in 1948 13, an octagonal, gazebo-style shelter was built, and public toilet facilities provided. 22 In 1972, a unpaved temporary walk was added, winding across the north side along Third Street. 23

After Tank Cottage was moved, Tank Park was redeveloped into its current form. In 1978, Inner City West Concerned Parents suggested closing Greenwood Avenue between the park and Tank School for child safety and ball game parking. 14 The city council agreed, creating a single large block which is shared between the park and the school. 15

An overall redevelopment plan was initiated in 1979. 16 For the first construction season, the park board determined that funds would only allow us to build a new shelter/rest-room building, remove and fill in vacated Greenwood Avenue, and perhaps do some additional work for both the parking lot and play area. 17 In the early 1980s, the planned tennis courts were built on the former location of Tank Cottage; this required the contractor to remove [the] stone wall which had set off the cottage and its garden. 24

With the support of the community organization CO-CARE, neighborhood parents campaigned for additional playground equipment for our children. They asked that the park department request $4,000 in the 1981 city budget and promised, The parents and children of the area will attempt to raise $2,000 to add to this budgetary request. 25 A donation of $1,580 was given in 1981 by the Jaycees at the request of Tina Milhiser of CO-CARE … for the purchase of equipment at the Tank Park playground. 26

In 1986 an alderman requested the park department to consider improving a cinder sidewalk in the Park so that it can be used in all seasons, 18 referring to the temporary walkway from 1972. The city forester was concerned that construction would cause extensive damage to the park's trees, but the county extension agent disagreed, arguing that the trees at issue were already dying due to stress from a high water table. 19

Continuing improvement

In the years since, the park has seen continued maintenance and improvements. In 1996, the circular wading pool was reconstructed. 27 The basketball court was rebuilt in 2004 28 and the playground was improved in 1995 29 and again, benefiting from an NFL grant, in 2010. 30

The most visible improvement may have been the repair and reconstruction in 2008 and 2009 of the distinctive open shelter. As part of this project, a cupola with railing was added to the top of the structure. In addition, the contractor was asked to waterblast underside of roof, … strip and refinish wood trim, … strip and paint concrete trim and other tasks. Because of the age of the structure, thousands of dollars worth of lead paint testing and abatement were included. 31


1 Copy (and transcript) of warranty deed, Mrs. C[aroline] L[ouise] A[lbertina] Tank to City of Fort Howard, dated July 11, 1891, and recorded in volume 69 at page 190. PRF file, Park Areas: Tank Park. (Madame Tank's second name is sometimes spelled Louisa, probably reflecting vocalization of the final vowel.)
2 Many streets on both sides of the river were renamed at the time of the union of Fort Howard and Green Bay in 1895. As a result, there was no confusion of having two streets or avenues with the same name anywhere in the combined city. The old Ninth Avenue, running parallel to Tenth Avenue, should not be confused with the continuing Ninth Street which parallels Third and Fifth Streets. Greenwood Avenue was Eighth Avenue.
3 Green Bay Smart Growth 2022, Chapter 13, Historic Preservation Analysis (PDF file), downloaded June 16, 2011.
4 Letter from Mrs Jessie Northrup Davis, Vice Chair of the Tank [Cottage] Board, to Green Bay Park Department, dated Oct. 5 – '60: Our telephone listing gives our location as Union Park. We are in Tank Park. PRF file, Park Areas: Tank Park.
5 Green Bay Smart Growth 2022, Chapter 13, Historic Preservation Analysis (PDF file), downloaded June 16, 2011.
6 Green Bay News-Chronicle, July 6, 1979, page A-6; Mrs. Erickson a poetess as 93. The two statements quoted here are not directly attributed in the article. PRF file, Park Areas: Tank Park.
The 1908 date is also attested by the text on the official historical marker for the cottage which had been in the park. (This marker was also moved to Heritage Hill and can be viewed inside the Tank Barn.)
A Press-Gazette article in 1970 stated, In 1917, George H. Rice deeded the Tank Cottage to the South Side Improvement Association. 20
7 Letter from Mrs Jessie Northrup Davis, Vice Chair of the Tank [Cottage] Board, to Green Bay Park Department, dated Oct. 5 – '60. PRF file, Park Areas: Tank Park.
8 Copy of reply from Vernon H. Krieser, Director of Parks & Recreation, to Mrs Davis, dated October 14, 1960. PRF file, Park Areas: Tank Park.
9 Theater program, dated June 9, 1968, The Roi-Porlier-Tank Cottage Committee presents Tank Cottage Dreams. PRF file, Park Areas: Tank Park.
Newspaper clippings, Green Bay Press-Gazette, dated June 10 and 13, 1968. PRF file, Tank Park.
10 Heritage Hill website, History of The Park, downloaded June 18, 2011.
11 Green Bay Smart Growth 2022, Chapter 13, Historic Preservation Analysis (PDF file), downloaded June 16, 2011.
12 The move was handled under a contract with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and cleanup of the site in Tank Park continued at least to the fall of 1976. Copy of memo from Michael R. Monfils, Mayor, to Chet Miller, Director of Parks & Recreation, dated August 12, 1976, and Miller's reply (not separately dated). PRF files, Park Areas: Tank Park and Tank Park.
13 Copy of Specifications for … Wading Pool in Tank Park listing a bid review meeting on May 12, 1948. PRF file, Park Areas: Tank Park.
14 Copy of a meeting agenda, dated 4/17/78. PRF file, Park Areas: Tank Park.
15 Copy of lis pendens resulting from a resolution adopted by the council on June 20, 1978; copy of resolution to abandon the street dated August 15, 1978, and marked as being approved on September 15, 1978. PRF file, Tank Redevelopment.
Copy of certified copy, Resolution confirming vacation of a portion of Greenwood Avenue, adopted October 3, 1978. PRF file, Park Areas: Tank Park.
16 PRF site plan, dated Feb., 1979, showing Greenwood Avenue closure, extension of the paved area of Tank School playground another 33 feet west, tennis courts in the southwest corner, etc.; interim statement from George M. Hougard & Sons, Inc. General Contractors, on a total contract of $35,895, dated July 31, 1979; undated Bidders List from 1979 including Hougard's bid for that amount. PRF file, Tank Redevelopment.
17 Copy of memo from Chet Miller, Director of Parks & Recreation, to Alderman James Stange. PRF file, Park Areas: Tank Park.
Blueprint plan of park area dated May, 1979, shows the new shelter and restroom building. PRF file, Tank Park.
18 Copy of hand-written memo from Guy Zima to Mayor and Common Council, dated August 19, 1986. PRF file, Park Areas: Tank Park.
19 Undated, typed statement (by Tim Lang according to a hand-written note) citing specific concerns about tree damage. Hand-written statement by Paul S. Hartman, dated Sept 23 and including a sketch map of the trees along Third and Fifth Streets. PRF file, Park Areas: Tank Park. (Copy of Hartman's letter also in PRF file, Tank Park.
20 James Ward, article in Green Bay Press-Gazette, June 28, 1970, page D-1. PRF File, Tank Park.
21 Blueprint plan of park area dated May, 1979; undated plan which includes the cottage, garden, and outbuilding. PRF file, Tank Park.
22 The dates for these improvements are obscure from the available records. The cottage, shelter, and pool are visible in the 1960 aerial photography available from the Brown County Land Information Office, http://maps.gis.co.brown.wi.us/geoprime/#, downloaded June 23, 2011.
23 Copy of plan, Proposed Temporary Walk, dated Sept. 22, 1972; a map dated Feb. 1972 of Tank Park & School does not show this walk. PRF file, Tank Park.
The walk appears on later maps; see especially the blueprint titled Existing Layout. PRF file, Tank Redevelopment. and dated October, 1977.
24 Pencil plan titled Tank Park Tennis Courts, dated July, 1981, with notes on contract requirements. (The proposed requirement about the wall reads, remove stone wall and haul to Wildlife Sanctuary.) The wall is also shown on other site plans in this file folder. PRF file, Tank Park.
25 Letter from from Jean P. Martinez on behalf of Tank Playground Committee, dated June 2, 1980, with signatures of 21 parents. PRF file, Tank Park.
26 Letter from James H. Frink, treasurer, W.E. Thew Supply Company, Inc., to Jim Robertson, Green Bay Park & Rec. Dept. PRF File, Tank Park.
27 Operating specifications and warranty, undated, PoolWorks, Inc., De Pere; memo from Richard D. Hall, P.E., Director of Public Works, to Chris Knight, Planning Director, dated December 11, 1996, and including final payment amounts. PRF file, Tank & Ft Hwrd Wade Pool.
28 The empty file folder titled Tank Basketball – 2004 CD is a reference to the Seymour Park file.
29 Playground plan dated March, 1981, with handwritten note Pre 94 Equip (Removed); installation documents dated 3/31/95 for Gerber Leisure Products equipment from Landscape Structures, Inc.; new playground plan (multiple copies) dated August, 1995. PRF File, Tank Play 94.
30 Minutes of Park Committee meeting of September 29, 2010, item titled Accepting A Playground Structure For Tank Park Donated Through The NFL/United Way Hometown Huddle Program; invoice for $4,667.13 dated october 21, 2010, from Minnesota/Wisconsin Playground of Golden Valley, MN. PRF File, Tank Packers Playground.
31 Hand-colored Building Elevation diagram with summary of work to be performed, undated; 2008 CD Funded Project Summary dated August 28, 2009; invoices; payment documentation; construction notes; design rendering; and photographs. PRF File, Tank Open Shelter Renovation – 2008.

Only annotated statements have been verified. Any other historical statements are unverified and based on personal knowledge or informal notes kept by the Green Bay Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department.
Last updated: June, 2011
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