Clarke Square is a neighborhood of many riches. Above all, the people of Clarke Square fill the neighborhood with their talents, ambitions, and values. One of the most diverse communities in Milwaukee, it is home to Journey House, a community-based organization that helps move families out of poverty. The community boasts the Milwaukee County Mitchell Park Conservatory where visitors can enter the world's only beehive-shaped glass domes. César E. Chávez Drive, a commercial strip that forms the neighborhood's eastern border, draws Milwaukee's Latino community and others to shop, eat authentic Mexican food, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
The neighborhood is named for Norman and Lydia Clarke, who in 1837 purchased a parcel of land immediately west of Walker’s Point, one of three original settlements that eventually formed the city of Milwaukee. Clarke’s Addition, as it was known in those days, went largely undeveloped until the late 1800s when Walker’s Point had absorbed all the residents it could accommodate. Newcomers moved into Clarke Square, building on the vacant lots and reaching the neighborhood’s western boundary of Layton Boulevard by 1900.
These early settlers had their roots in Germany, Scandinavia, the British Isles, and the eastern United States. They were drawn by the jobs to be found in the Menomonee Valley, located just north of Clarke Square. Giant companies such as International Harvester and the Milwaukee Road, along with smaller local ventures, employed thousands of blue-collar workers. Many of them walked to work from their homes in Clarke Square. Enterprising merchants and tradesmen located their businesses within the neighborhood, adding a commercial element to the mix.