Greendale Man Repairs and Makes Art on Local Chimneys

By Joel Waldinger | November 11, 2021


Just outside Milwaukee sits a community like no other in Wisconsin. Greendale is the only Depression Era village built during the Roosevelt Administration in the state. In 1936, Eleanor Roosevelt came for the dedication. Today the Roosevelts, the Depression and the Norman Rockwell style living aren’t the only things unique to Greendale.

Meet Al Emmons, self-described Walt Disney of Greendale. He is a chimney repairman by trade and an artist by accident. Sitting atop chimney after chimney overlooking Greendale, Al had an idea to start decorating the chimneys with artwork. Al says, “Once we started putting the sculptures, then it was over because people would call me up and say, I know what I want on my chimney. I didn’t even tell him how much yet.”

Behind every one of those chimneys there is a real-life story including the fireman’s memorial, on a house where a fireman lives. Another chimney sports a life-size panther, the pride and mascot of Greendale. Across the street a neighbor is intrigued by fairy tales and pixie dust. “The woman loved Peter Pan stories and the theory and feeling behind it, which is a good thing and a happy thing. And Tinkerbell, is just a plus. It’s a joy to think about that, you know, making other people happy.”

These days favorites come in all shapes and sizes. 40-years and more than 200 chimneys later, visitors come by the busload for chimney tours and the stories. Al Emmons is a true “Greendale Original”.

Joel Waldinger

Joel Waldinger

Joel Waldinger is a reporter for the “Wisconsin Life” project and considers a sunset over the “big island” on Manson Lake to be a perfect ending to a day of fishing and fun in the Northwoods. 

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