Sussex Estates remains friendly place in the country

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Sussex Estates remains friendly place in the `country’ – Built in the early 1960s, subdivision is still home to some early residents

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Sunday, June 15, 1997

Readability:10-12 grade level (Lexile: 1160L)
Author: KRIS RADISH ; Special to the Journal Sentinel

When Mardene and Norman Waldhauser bought their ranch home in the Sussex Estates subdivision in 1962, there was one other home on the block, the electricity often went out, and Spruce St. was nothing more than a hunk of dirt

Thirty-five years later, the Waldhausers are one of dozens of original Estate families who have seen the village grow up around them and more than a few neighbors come and go.

“It’s changed a lot around here,” Mardene Waldhauser said. “But we’ve always liked living here. It’s a nice quiet area, and it was a great place to raise our family.”

Sussex Estates, bordered by Maple Ave., Champeny Road and Locust and Main streets, was nothing more than a few rolling fields and trees when it was developed as one of the village’s first subdivisions.

Historian Fred Keller said there were about 1,087 people living in Sussex in 1962, the year that construction of the subdivision began. Today, the village has 7,300 residents.

“The entrance to that subdivision on Locust was a former dump that we used to light on fire once in a while,” recallsKeller . “Horizon Homes started building three-bedroom ranch homes there and that was pretty much the start of a big growth period for this area.”

He said Horizon advertised the homes for sale from $18,490 to $25,000, including the lot and home but no garage. The biggest attraction, he said, was the water system that the developers were installing, thus eliminating the need for wells.

He said housing needs in communities such as Sussex swelled after World War II when the former military families sought homes outside large cities.

Today, homes in the Estates sell for an average price of $125,000. Homeowners have added everything from garages to elaborate backyard decks.

Waldhauser, who lives on Spruce St., said the neighborhood initially was all rocks and hills. After the streets were paved, the empty lots filled in quickly.

“We used to pay $12 a quarter for water,” she said. “This was really considered country back then.”

When her children were growing up, Waldhauser said, it wasn’t unusual for her to get out the cookie jar and find it empty after it had been passed around by the neighborhood kids.

“This is still the kind of neighborhood where someone will get your mail if you go out of town, and it’s still a friendly place,” she said.

A few doors away on Poplar Ave., Jan and Art Rude say they have so many memories from the 35 years they have spent in the neighborhood they don’t ever plan on moving.

“We dislike the growth just like everyone else, but we raised our three children here and we have a lot of memories,” Jan Rude said. “This is it for us.”

Like many Estate neighbors, the Rudes have updated their home, built a garage and filled up every piece of spare ground in the back yard.

“It’s fun to have the other neighbor kids come over now that our kids are grown,” said Art. “That’s why I built that swingset back there.”

Jan Rude said that when they moved to Sussex from Milwaukee , all their relatives and friends thought they were crazy for moving “out to the middle of nowhere.

“They all managed to find their way out here, though,” she said. “Once I brought home some chickens because I had convinced myself we really did live in the country, and Art told me there was no way we could keep chickens here.”

The Rudes agreed that it’s impossible to keep neighborhoods from changing, as some of the older residents leave and new neighbors take their place.

“It’s not quite like it used to be, but we still love it out here,” Jan Rude said. “We stay in touch with many old neighbors who have left.”

Clifford Staus, 83, who moved to Spruce St. in 1972, after working as a Milwaukee bus driver, said he particularly enjoys the neighborhood’s quietness.

“We just happened upon the place as we were driving around and thought it seemed like a nice neighborhood,” said Staus. “People pretty much help each other out, and it’s been a nice, quiet neighborhood.”

He said he still knows the majority of his neighbors, especially the ones who moved in about the same time he did. But, he added, it’s getting harder to meet the newer residents.

“There are still some of us old-timers around here, and we plan on staying as long as we possibly can.”

For graphic see microfilm or bound file Caption: Map Neighborhood Sussex Estates Photo color WILLIAM MEYER Mardene Waldhauser (left) and Jan Rude share a tranquil moment on the front step of Rude’s home on Poplar Ave. in Sussex Estates.
Memo: For graphic see microfilm or bound file