The history of Trimborn Farm falls into four distinct periods:
Lime Manufacture: (ca. 1847 to 1899)
Werner Trimborn, with his children Leonard, August, and Helena, emigrated from Prussia to Milwaukee in 1847. In 1851, Trimborn formed a partnership with Jacob Kier, purchasing a quarry, kiln, and 10 acres at this site to start a lime production business. Kier did not continue with this venture, but the Trimborns went on to become one of the largest producers of high quality lime in Wisconsin.
The production of lime was an important industry in pioneer Wisconsin as it was used in construction, paper making, water purification, food preservation, and fertilizer. Trimborn’s farm was soon producing 200 barrels of lime daily with the assistance of 40 laborers and at least 40 horses. By the late 1870s, Trimborn Farm encompassed over 530 acres and employed approximately 40 people.
After Trimborn’s death in 1879, his sons August and Leonard continued the business until the development of Portland cement made lime production unprofitable. In 1882, they leased the farm and the lime business to outside interests while retaining ownership of the land. By 1900, the Trimborn family gradually began selling off the farm.
Dairy Farming: (ca. 1900 to 1935)
By 1901, much of the site was a working dairy farm owned by the Theodore Vollmer family. In 1919, the Froemming family purchased and farmed another portion of the original property. They are best remembered for constructing greenhouses that were in use until the 1980s. In 1928, a large portion of the Froemming land was donated to Whitnall Park. Thomas Saxe, a gentleman farmer and movie theater entrepreneur, purchased what was left of Trimborn Farm. He was a guiding force in early movie theaters throughout the state, most notably the Oriental Theater on Milwaukee’s Eastside.
Federal Ownership: (ca. 1935 to 1952)
The federal government acquired the farm as part of the Greendale Project. The Greendale Resettlement Administration used a portion of the farm as a housing and staging area while constructing the greenbelt community of nearby Greendale and leased out the remainder of the land as a dairy and sod farm.
After passing into private ownership, the site became home to farmers and an airstrip. Crop dusting, sky writing, and aerial photography took place until 1951. Some of the members who used the property as an airfield later established the Experimental Aircraft Association, now in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Some of the buildings and grounds, including the Stone Barn, were part of the Circle H Riding Stable until 1979.
Museum: (ca. 1980 to present)
The Milwaukee County Park System acquired the property in 1980 and began developing it into a historic site in conjunction with the neighboring Jeremiah Curtin House. The Park People, an adjunct group, began restoring, preserving, and interpreting the buildings and structures on the property.
In January 2004, the Milwaukee County Historical Society took over management of the property for the Parks Department. School and adult tours, drop-in programs, summer concerts, workshops, and special events show what life was like during the late 19th century and raise awareness of the site.
Today the complex includes a Cream City brick farmhouse, one of the last and largest stone barns in Wisconsin, a worker’s bunkhouse, threshing barn, and a 75-foot kiln.