History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Events - Health, Fundraising

- At A Glance -

First Lavender Hill 1984
     hosted by Steve Steinhauer
     in River West neighborhood.
Last known Lavender Hill 1993


View the Lavender Hill TimeLine

(The following history of the Lavender Hill Garden Party is based on a newspaper article by the founder, Steve Steinhauer, in the Wisconsin Light newspaper, volume 2 issue 10, AND additional information in the 1991 Lavendar Hill program.)

The annual Lavender Hill Garden Party was a by-invitation-only fundraiser to benefit the Milwaukee AIDS Project (MAP), to raise much needed money for MAP's direct patient support. All money raised was earmarked for client financial assistance, recreational needs, and wishes of MAP's clients and people living with AIDS. The name took the name of the area, Lavender Hill, in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee. It was called that because the land there was originally covered by a wild profusion of lilacs.

The Lavender Hill Garden Party had its inception in 1984. On August 19 of that year, 50 guests gathered in the garden of Steve Steinhauer in the Riverwest neighborhood for an afternoon and evening of music, drink and conviviality centered on the theme, "A Party You Will Never Forget".

The following March, Steve's friend and roommate, Danny, was diagnosed with AIDS. Steve wanted to find some way to help Danny and others in similar circumstances, and decided to hold another Lavender Hill Party, but this one to be a fundraiser for MAP, the Milwaukee AIDS Project. Lavender Hill II was thus held on August 11, 1985, with 125 guests attending. Again set up in a garden setting, with lavender flamingos scattered about, this event raised $1,900- and Steve decided to make it an annual event.

Lavender Hill III took place on August 10, 1986 with the theme "Lavender Under the Palms". 250 guests enjoyed themselves under 720 palm branches, and over $1,600 was raised.

Lavender Hill IV was held August 9, 1987. The theme was "A Victorian Garden Party", with 1500 plants and myriads of flowers around a gazebo, plus sparkling waterfall splashing into a fishpond. Over $3,600 was raised through 300 guests, thanks to donations of many goods and services.

(Steve's friend Danny, whose diagnoses for AIDS early in 1985 was the spark for founding the Garden Party, died of respiratory failure due to AIDS on August 12, 1987- 3 days after the 1987 Party. Danny was unable to attend this party, as he was hospitalized and unaware of his surroundings.)

Steve was determined to make the next party the best ever, in honor of his friend. August 14, 1988 saw the garden a lavender Land of Oz. Entering the party from the front entrance, Munchkin City, 375 guests followed the yellow brick road leading to the scarecrow in his cornfield, then through the forest to the Tin Man, the Lion, and finally to the entrance of Lavender City to be greeted by Dorothy and Todo. Almost $4,900 was raised.

The sixth annual Lavender Hill garden party, with a "Roman Holiday" theme, was held for the benefit of the Milwaukee AIDS Project on Sunday, August 20, 1989. Once again, Steve Steinhauer hosted the party in his River West neighborhood. The 310 guests entered via a pathway hung with lavender banners, into a garden area decorated to call to mind a villa in old Rome. At least $9,000 was raised after expenses.

Lavender Hill VII, "Wild, Wild Lavender West", was the theme in 1990. Cowboys and Indians traveled along Lavender Main Street and were rustled up in the "corral" among bales of hay and tumbleweed. Over $10,000 was raised.

The last known Lavender Hill was in 1993.

History of the Lavender Hill parties
through #5 in 1988

Credits: design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: December-2006.