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Grafton, Cedarburg, Port Washington Wisconsin


The area now known as Grafton is one of the oldest in Ozaukee County. In 1838, Timothy Wooden purchased approximately 145 acres (0.59 km2) of land, which became the business district of Grafton. By 1841 development was underway, with the area consisting mainly of settlers of German descent. Located along the Milwaukee River, the village was incorporated in 1896. During the next century, Grafton's economy grew from a predominantly lumber-oriented industry base to a community of many occupations.
Grafton was home to Paramount Records, which produced blues and jazz records by artists between 1918 and 1935. The artists included Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake, Skip James, Papa Charlie Jackson, Ida Cox, and Ma Rainey.

  • Grafton is home to the first Costco Store in Wisconsin, which opened on August 30, 2007.
  • Grafton is home to the largest Kohl's department store in Wisconsin.
  • Grafton is home to the new Aurora Medical Center which opened in November 2010. This is the first "Green" hospital built by Aurora Health Care


The first white person to settle in the area was Joseph Gardenier, who built a log shanty on Cedar Creek, in what is now Hamilton. The shanty was his headquarters for surveying for the construction of the Green Bay Road.[3] Frederick August Leuning, who immigrated to the area in 1843, built a cabin near Cedar Creek on what was later the east end of the city. He called the cabin "Cedarburg", which meant "the castle of the Cedars". Soon afterwards, he built the Columbia Mill on that site.

In 1845, Frederick Hilgen and William Schroeder founded the village of Cedarburg. A year earlier, they had built a gristmill on Cedar Creek. After eleven years of operation, they replaced the original structure with the five-story, stone Cedarburg Mill. This became the focal point of the new community. Five dams and mills were eventually built along the creek in what are now the city and town of Cedarburg. The Hilgen Spring Park, begun in 1854, was a 74-acre (300,000 m2) resort, that attracted visitors from all over the Midwest.[3]

The Cedarburg Woolen Mill, was founded in 1864, and by 1893 it was the largest woolen mill west of Philadelphia. In 1897 a generator was installed, producing the first electricity in the town. In 1901, the city contracted an electric plant with steam engines running two 75 kW generators, and in 1909 the Cedarburg Electric Light Commission was formed to run the utility. In 1923, responsibility for water and sewerage was given to the utility, and it was renamed the Light & Water Commission. The utility is still in business today, and is one of 82 municipally owned electric utilities in Wisconsin.[5]

In September 2008, Senator John McCain started his presidential campaign in downtown Cedarburg the day after he accepted the nomination at the Republican National Convention. Law enforcement officials estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people were present for his speech.

The woolen mill closed in 1968, and sat vacant for several years, until an offer was made to buy the buildings. The prospective owner intended to tear them down and build a gas station and mini-mart. Then mayor, Stephan Fischer, told him he'd need a demolition permit. There was no such thing, but it bought enough time that the buildings could be saved.[6] William Welty bought the buildings on the corner and street, opening a restaurant. Jim Pape then bought the mill buildings on the creekside, opening a winery. Known as the Cedar Creek Settlement, the rest of the space was rented out to shops, studios and restaurants.

This began a tourism boom in Cedarburg. As the city became a quaint and pleasant place to visit, more galleries and studios opened, as well as souvenir shops and other attractions. Business associations started weekend festivals, which attracted even more people to the city.
Hilgen's and Schroeder's 1855 Cedarburg Mill, and a 1926 Wadham's pagoda.

Beginning in 1974, many buildings in the city of Cedarburg have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The individual sites, combined with the Historic Districts, include 216 buildings


The area that became Port Washington was originally inhabited by the Sauk tribe of Native Americans, and later explored by the French in the late 17th century. In 1835, General Wooster Harrison became the town's first permanent settler, in what he originally named "Wisconsin City". Harrison later renamed the town "Washington".[2] Harrison's wife, Rhoda, was the first white settler to be buried in the town, when she died in 1837.[3] Around 1843 the name was changed to "Sauk Washington". The town of Port Washington was formed in January 1846 and until 1847 included the surrounding areas and what is currently Fredonia, Saukville, and Belgium. The City of Port Washington was incorporated with its present name in 1882.

With a natural harbor at the mouth of Sauk Creek, the city became a port on Lake Michigan. The city exported cord wood, wheat and rye flour, bricks, and fish and hides, among other things.

In 1843 the first religious services were held by the Methodist Episcopal Church in private homes. The first Catholic Church services were held in a similar manner in 1847. The Washington Democrat, the town's first newspaper, was started in 1847 by Flavius J. Mills. The population reached 2,500 in 1853 and continued to increase, with an influx of immigrants from Germany and Luxembourg between 1853 and 1865.

In 1870 the city saw major improvements in transportation. Not only was the railroad approved to extend through Ozaukee County, the harbor was substantially improved. The dredging that occurred resulted in the first man-made harbor in North America.

J. M. Bostwick was instrumental in the opening of the Wisconsin Chair Factory in September 1888, the success of which allowed the town to flourish. The Gilson Manufacturing Company started making garden tractors and tractor lawn mowers in 1894 and soon became the second largest business, after the Wisconsin Chair Factory.

In 1896 Delos and Herbert Smith brought their commercial fishing business to Port Washington as that harbor afforded them the use of a steam powered fish tug. There, the Smith family would call Port Washington home to their family business. Smith Bros., as it was called, grew to a fleet of fishing tugs, fish wholesale, whitefish caviar, burbot oil, fish retail (markets), restaurants, and a hotel.

From 1910 through 1935 Port Washington was the home of Paramount Records and other associated record labels. In 1940 the population was 4,046; in 1950 4,754.

The Port Washington power plant operated by Wisconsin Electric Power Company, now known as We Energies was established in the area. In 1943 the company stated that the Port Washington Plant was "the most efficient steam power plant in the world." The coal-fired plant received shipments of coal primarily by lake boat from its beginnings in 1935 until 2004 when the coal-fired boilers were taken out of service. The plant has since been converted to generate electricity from natural gas. The conclusion of the receipt of coal also signaled the conclusion of Port Washington as a commercial port. The harbor is now used almost exclusively by recreational boaters.

Port Washington has the largest collection of pre-Civil War buildings in Wisconsin, several of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Port Washington Visitor Center is itself in the historic Dodge House, also known as the "Pebble House." The three-story brick courthouse was built in 1854 and originally served as jail, housing for the jailer, county offices and courtrooms.