Merrill Park was founded by Milwaukee Road manager Sherburn S. Merrill. Merrill was also a farmer. By 1878, he purchased enough land to stake claim in everything between 30th and 35th Streets. Most of this land was sold to residents who ended up working for Milwaukee Road.
The neighborhood’s first residents were mostly Irish families, but eventually became home to many African Americans, Latinos, Italians, Croatians and Slovenians. Merrill Park could have cleaved along ethnic lines if it were not for institutions like St. Rose Parish. The Church was built in 1888 on 30th and Michigan Streets and regularly brought the community together through religious, social, athletic, political, and educational events. The church stands as the main landmark in the neighborhood today.
Even though many homes and mansions were razed or converted into offices and apartments, Merrill Park retains special aesthetic features. Institutions like Marquette University High School and the Tripoli Shrine Masonic Temple built in the 1920s for example, still stand as strong edifices against an urban backdrop.
The neighborhood reeled from the shuttering of Milwaukee Road in 1977 and I-94 construction that changed its boundaries, yet managed to retain its self-help tradition and philosophy. St. Rose Parish’s Community Beautification and Stabilization Committee, as well as the Merrill Park Neighborhood Association are testaments to Merrill Park’s inherent strengths.