Franklin is a young city with a long history. It was once part of the Town of Kinickinnic, but the town was renamed for the American patriot Benjamin Franklin in 1838. At the time, the area was mostly covered with walnut, butternut and hickory forests—which provided a great home for bears, panthers, wolves, wildcats, deer and turkeys. It remained a rural community for more than 100 years as Irish, Dutch and German immigrants came to farm there. Finally, in 1956, residents voted to incorporate as a city to avoid annexation by the City of Milwaukee.
Today, Franklin is consistently among the fastest-growing cities in Wisconsin, with a population that has quickly grown to more than 36,000. The City’s Mission Statement pledges that “residents will have access to parks, open space and a wide range of recreational programs and facilities that help to promote an active and healthy lifestyle.”
In 2011, Money Magazine ranked Franklin to its list of the “100 Best Places to Live.” The ranking was based on the best combination of economic opportunity, good schools, safe streets, things to do and a real sense of community. In 2015, Foreign Direct Investment magazine designated Franklin as a “Top 10 Micro American City of the Future” based on connectivity, cost effectiveness and business friendliness and human capital. Indeed, since 1976 Franklin has been home to Carma-Labs, makers of Carmex® Lip Balm and other products, which are shipped all over the world.
Homes and Neighborhoods
Franklin offers a huge variety of housing stock to prospective buyers, from luxury townhomes and condominiums to historic homes and elegant executive retreats. What all homes have in common in this semirural community is generous lot sizes and spacious yards.
The city has an active Neighborhood Watch system, which is managed through well-organized homeowners associations.
Shopping and Dining
Franklin is home to major national retailers such as Sam’s Club, Target, Wal-Mart, Sears and Blains Farm & Fleet, as well as charming, one-of-a-kind shops. Residents are just minutes away from major shopping centers such as Southridge Mall.
Franklin has an outstanding dining tradition, with many individually owned restaurants and cafés. Wegner’s St. Martins Inn is legendary for its fish fry and European cuisine. Sweet Basil serves Thai and Laotian street food with a modern twist, along with Asian-Midwest fusion desserts. Asian Garden is popular for traditional Chinese recipes. India Palace offers a modern interpretation of classic Indian dishes. Little Cancun provides traditional Mexican specialties and margaritas in a casual setting.
For bar favorites, Milwaukee Burger Company has brought its famous burgers, bloodys and cheese curds to Franklin. Point After Pub and Grille offers sandwiches, pizza, salads and fish fries. The Hideaway Pub & Eatery also offers a popular fish fry along with homemade pizza and sandwiches. Mulligans Irish Pub & Grill has a full menu of Irish specialties plus pizza, steaks and to-die-for desserts.
If breakfast is your favorite meal of the day, Honey Butter Café is billed as a cozy, farm-to-table breakfast and brunch spot. Mimosa is open for breakfast and lunch and also offers boxed prepare-at-home meals.
Points of Interest and Recreation
The Milwaukee Milkmen pro baseball team play at Routine Field in Franklin’s Ballpark Commons. This American Association team plays other Midwestern teams and promises pro baseball that’s “udderly different.” Ballpark Commons is also the site of the Milky Way Drive-in Theater, which features the classic drive-in experience with recent films from May through September.
For winter sports enthusiasts, Franklin’s The Rock Snowpark provides a dramatic escape in the middle of the city. With a vertical drop of 245 feet, the hill offers multiple runs for all skill levels, as well as a large snow tubing hill. The wood-beamed lodge has a dining hall, bar and plenty of windows for viewing all the fun.
The Rock Sports Complex offers plenty of year-round fun, including a BMX Track and The Umbrella Bar, the first outdoor sports bar in the Midwest and a great place to watch the game and enjoy other entertainment.
Franklin’s parks encompass 173 acres, with seven miles of bike trails and 15 recreational facilities. The largest is Whitnall Park, which features ponds, a waterfall, a playground, golf course and a beer garden. Boerner Botanical Gardens, at the north end of the park, offers in 12 formal gardens and beautifully landscaped paths. It’s the site of China Lights, which celebrates Asian folk culture with colorful lantern displays, performances and food. Kayla’s Playground at Franklin Woods is an all-accessible, all-inclusive playground for children and families of any age and ability.
For Independence Day, Franklin celebrates with both a Children’s Parade of decorated bikes, wagons and strollers and a Main Parade. There’s a vendor fair and fireworks in the evening. National Night Out in August is generally observed with displays at the Library and smaller neighborhood celebrations. Summer Concerts in the Park happen Sundays at 2 p.m. at Lions Legend Park Band Shell, at Loomis Road and Legend Drive.
The Polish Center of Wisconsin is located in a park-like setting in Franklin, where it offers a place to share tradition, culture, food and fun.
The Franklin Historical Society maintains several historical buildings, including the Sheehan-Godsell Cabin, the city’s first European-style log cabin; Old Town Hall, which dates back to 1886; Whelan School, where today’s students can experience an old schoolhouse education for one day; and St. Peter’s Chapel, which was built in 1857 and still gets heat from a potbelly stove and light from kerosene lamps.
St. Martins Fair is a huge, city-wide flea market ad block party held on Labor Day weekend at St. Martins Road and Church Street. Vendors sell everything from fruits, veggies and dried flowers to hardware, clothing and sporting equipment. There is prepared food for purchase and entertainment. On Labor Day weekend, the fair attracts more than 100,000 visitors.
Schools, Health, Transportation
Homeowners in Franklin are served by three school districts. The Franklin Public School District serves the center of the city with five elementary schools (Ben Franklin, Country Dale, Pleasant View, Robinwood and Southwood Glen), Forest Park Middle School and Franklin High School. The Oak Creek/Franklin Joint School District serves a 7-square mile portion on the east side of the City of Franklin with Cedar Hills Elementary, Meadowview Elementary, West Middle School and Oak Creek High School. The Whitnall School District serves residents on the northwest side of Franklin at Hales Corners Elementary and Edgerton Elementary, Whitnall Middle School and Whitnall High School.
Franklin residents have fast access to the medical facilities and resources in Milwaukee, as well as Ascension SE Wisconsin Hospital – Franklin Campus, which offers emergency and walk-in care 24 hours a day, surgery, rehabilitation and physicians’ offices.
Franklin’s main thoroughfares offer fast access to I-94. It’s just a few minutes to the airport and as little as 15 minutes to downtown Milwaukee from the heart of the city.