At first glance, Brookfield may seem like a modern suburb, but it actually has roots going back to 1820, when the Town of Brookfield had its first official settler. Early residents included Caroline Ingalls, mother of the famed author Laura Ingalls Wilder, who was born in Brookfield in 1839. In the 1920s, the notorious Al Capone built a home and distillery on Brookfield Road.
Despite its famous residents, Brookfield remained a small agricultural community for more than 100 years. The current City of Brookfield wasn’t incorporated until 1954. Today, Brookfield is a major business, retail and industrial hub that’s home to 40,000 residents and hundreds of employers. The City is committed to maintaining a high standard for both the commercial and natural landscape to keep it a desirable community for families and businesses alike.
Homes and Neighborhoods
Brookfield is known for a semi-rural feel to many of its neighborhoods, with spacious lots and low-density development. The official City of Brookfield website describes the design as the “Brookfield Concept,” which refers to establishing and maintaining “substantial open space around structures, for generous light, air, convenience of access, safety from fire, and the enhancement of property values.” Owners and occupants are encouraged to maintain their lawns, trees, shrubs and flowers to define their lot and provide privacy without having to use solid fences to create walled-in yards. Neighborhoods are primarily defined by their local elementary schools.
Househunters will find a huge variety of living options in Brookfield, from condos and ranches to turn-of-the-century farmhouses and executive mansions that were built around the more recent millennium. Single-family homes make up more than 81 percent of the City’s housing stock, and the median value is higher than many of the surrounding communities. Residents also enjoy the lower tax mill rates of Waukesha County.
Shopping and Dining
Brookfield has some of the best shopping in Southeastern Wisconsin. In particular, Bluemound Road offers mile after mile of national retailers alongside trendy one-of-a-kind boutiques, starting with the 96 stores and restaurants at Brookfield Square. At the west end of the city is The Corners of Brookfield, an upscale town center with boutiques, restaurants, a department store and apartments.
Elsewhere in Brookfield, Les Moise is the place to go for tennis, skiing and snowboarding equipment and fashions. Cream City Yarn offers a huge selection of knitting and crochet supplies, as well as classes to sharpen your skills. Fava Tea sells loose leaf teas, flavored sugars and teaware. Faye’s has been a long-time favorite for women’s wear, from casual to elegant. You won’t want to skip goo goo gaa gaa when you’re shopping for a new baby gift. The Bee’s Knees at historic Stonewood Village is filled with handcrafted, repurposed and vintage items. When you’ve shopped ‘til you’re ready to drop, Brookfield offers several full-purpose day spas, including Azana and Urszula.
Brookfield claims more than 140 restaurants, from casual family eateries to elegant dining experiences. Locally owned, award-winning steakhouses include Mr. B’s Bartolotta Steakhouse, North Star American Bistro and Jake’s. Ethnic choices go beyond the usual Italian, Mexican and Chinese fare to embrace Japanese, Thai and Indian cuisine. Café Manna offers made-from-scratch vegetarian cuisine and Parkside 23 is known for its fresh, farm-to-table cuisine. Biloba Brewing is a family-owned brewery with a tasting room for enjoying their 12+ beers.
Points of Interest and Recreation
Brookfield offers 1,740 acres of parkland, including countless picnic areas, athletic fields and the acclaimed Wirth Aquatic Center. They are linked by the Greenway Trail System, a growing network of recreational trails for hiking, cross-country skiing and glimpsing wildlife. Mitchell Park, off Capitol Drive near Brookfield Road, includes bike paths, canoeing, a sledding hill, an archery target area and a popular dog park. For a great summer afternoon with the family, visit the quarry lake and sandy beach at Fox Brook Park.
Brookfield offers a broad range of activities for active families, including rock climbing, an indoor soccer complex, two ice arenas, golf courses and practice ranges. Brookfield Jaycees Skatepark offers 12,000 square feet of pyramids, ramps and transitions for the skateboarder or inline skater in your family.
The Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, located in Mitchell Park, offers displays of the visual arts, the Strohmaier Sculpture and Botanical Garden and two stages for the performing arts. It’s an intimate setting to view theatrical performances, nationally acclaimed dance troupes, and classical and jazz greats. Friday evenings in summer, the Wilson Center is home to the Starry Nights Free Outdoor Concert Series. Brookfield residents of all ages are invited to explore the arts themselves through classes in drawing, painting, ceramics, jewelry making as well as dance, theater and music.
The Elmbrook Historical Society operates the Dousman Stagecoach Inn Museum, which features historic buildings and wetlands. Special events include a Civil War reenactment, a celebration of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Summer Sundays.
Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: the sub-continental divide runs through Brookfield, marked by the crest at Calhoun Road and Capitol Drive. On the eastern side of this divide, water flows to Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes; on the western side, water flows to the Fox River and on to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.
Schools, Health, Transportation
More than 7400 students in Brookfield and neighboring Elm Grove are served by the esteemed Elmbrook School District, which includes five elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools and one special education school. Elmbrook is recognized as a destination district, consistently ranked one of the top five school districts in the state of Wisconsin based on standardized achievement data. Brookfield has easy access to the postsecondary educational opportunities in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.
The Milwaukee public transit system serves Brookfield, allowing for additional travel options. The I-94 corridor passes through the middle of Brookfield, offering access to downtown Milwaukee in as little as 15 minutes. Just hop on the freeway to travel to Chicago, Minneapolis or beyond.