Port Washington, Wisconsin

Port Washington, Wisconsin

Port Washington is a city in and the county seat of Ozaukee County in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. It is about 25 miles north of Milwaukee and some 110 miles north of Chicago. In the 2000 census Port Washington had a population of 12,238 people. The ZIP code is 53074.

The city is located within the Town of Port Washington, though it is politically independent.


The area that became Port Washington was explored by French explorers 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. [Sister M. Jane Frances Price, S.S.N.S., "The History of Port Washington, in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin" (Ph.D. diss., De Paul University, 1943), 7-8.] Harrison's wife, Rhoda, was the first white settler to be buried in the town when she died in 1837. [Ibid, 11.] Around 1843 the name was changed to Sauk Washington. The town of Port Washington was incorporated in January 1846 and included the surrounding areas of what is currently Fredonia, Saukville and Belgium until 1847. [Ibid, 20.] 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, shipping and receiving various goods and materials. The city exported cord wood, barrels of wheat and rye flour, bricks, fish and hides, among other things. [Ibid, 31.]

In 1843 the first religious services were held by the Methodist Episcopal Church in private homes and the first Catholic Church services were held in a similar manner in 1847. [Ibid, 32-33.] "The Washington Democrat" was the town's first newspaper, which was started in 1847 by Flavius J. Mills. [Ibid, 33.] The population reached 2,500 in 1853 and continued to grow with an increase in immigrants from Germany and Luxembourg between 1853-1865. [Ibid, 35.]

In 1870 the city saw major improvements in transportation. Not only was the railroad approved to extend through Ozaukee County, the harbor was drastically improved. [Ibid, 57.] The dredging that occurred resulted in the first man-made harbor in North America. [Port Washington Chamber of Commerce 2008-2009 Visitor Guide]

J.M. Bostwick was instrumental in the opening of the Wisconsin Chair Factory in September 1888, the success of which was vital for the town to flourish. [Price, 59.] 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. [Ibid, 60.]

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.

Of notable maritime commerce was the Port Washington power plant run by Wisconsin Electric Power Company, better known as We Energies. In 1943 the company reportedly stated that the Port Washington Plant was "the most efficient steam power plant in the world." [Ibid, 65.] The coal-fired plant received shipments of coal primarily by lake boat from its beginning of service 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 signalled the conclusion of Port Washington as a commercial port. The harbor is now utilized 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 a historic building known as the "Pebble House". Additionally the three story brick courthouse was built in 1854 and originally served as jail, housing for the jailer, county offices and courtrooms. [Ibid, 40.]


), of which, 3.8 square miles (10.0 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) of it (2.53%) is water.

The city is located at the mouth of the Sauk Creek on Lake Michigan, and includes the 63 acre (250,000 m²) Lake Bluff Park. Its average elevation above sea level is 612 feet (187 m). Downtown Port Washington is close to the level of Lake Michigan (approximately 581 feet above sea level) and adjacent to the marina. The remainder of the city resides somewhat higher, spread across seven hills.


As of the census of 2000, [ [http://factfinder.census.gov American FactFinder ] ] there were 12,238 people residing in Port Washington. The racial makeup of the city was 97.0% White, 0.7% Black or African American, 0.5% Asian, 0.4% Native American, 0% Pacific Islander, 0.6% from other races, and 0.89% from two or more races. 1.5% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 3,244 families and 4,763 households, of which 34.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.5% were married couples living together, 7.4% had a female householder with no husband present and 31.9% were non-families. The householder lives alone in 26.3% of all households and 10.5% of householders were aged 65 or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.05.

In the city the population was spread out with 6.6% under the age of 5, 74.2% aged 18 and over, and 13.2% 65 years and over. The median age was 36.7 years. The population is 50.4% female and 49.6% male.

In 1999 the median income for a household in the city was $54,402, and the median income for a family was $62,557. The per capita income for the city was $24,770. About 2.6% of families and 4.0% of the population were below the poverty line.


Interstate 43 passes around Port Washington to the city's west and north. WI-32 passes north to south through the city while WI-33 travels from the west before it terminates downtown.

The Ozaukee Interurban Trail, a bike trail which follows the erstwhile interurban rail line, passes through Port Washington as it traverses Ozaukee County.

The TransPORT taxi service is available within the city and surrounding 2 mile radius. [ [http://www.ci.port-washington.wi.us/TransPORT.htm Ozaukee County - City of Port Washington -TransPORT Taxi Service ] ]


Port Washington has one of the largest charter fishing fleets on the Great Lakes. Shoe manufacturer Allen Edmonds as well as lawn and garden equipment producer Simplicity Manufacturing [ [http://www.simplicitymfg.com Simplicity - Lawn Tractors, Snowthrowers, Zero Turn Mowers, Riding Mowers, Yard Power Products ] ] were founded in Port Washington. Simplicity Manufacturing was bought out by Briggs and Stratton in 2004 and initially claimed the plant would not close. However, in 2007 Briggs and Stratton announced that the Simplicity plant would close October 15th, 2008 in favor of moving jobs to the southern part of the country where wages are lower. This will leave over 300 employees without jobs. Many employees who have had a long tenure at the plant (25+ years) and are under the age of 60 will only be provided with two months of health insurance after the plant closes. [Briggs and Stratton closing Simplicity]


* A local farmers' market operates in the city on Saturday mornings in the summer.
* Many Sunday evenings free concerts are offered at the City Bandshell. [ [http://www.portwashingtontourism.com Port Washington Wisconsin Home Page ] ]
* Movies are shown on select Friday nights in summer for free at the Bandshell.
* The Maritime Heritage Festival celebrates the town's nautical history. [ [http://www.portmaritimefestival.com/ Maritime Heritage Festival - HomeWelcome ] ]
* The Lion's Fest & Fish Derby is an annual fishing competition. [http://www.portlions.org/LionsFestPre08.htm]
* Pirate Festival is full of 'mayhem and merriment' and is a rather new edition to the city's summer entertainment. [ [http://www.portpiratefestival.com/ Port Washington Pirate Festival Home Page ] ]
* Fish Day is the billed as "World's Largest One Day Outdoor Fish Fry" and has been held annually since 1946 on the third Saturday in July. [ [http://www.portfishday.com Port Fish Day :: Port Washington Wisconsin ] ]

Notable people

*M. Rickert, fantasy fiction writer, was born in Port Washington.
*Dustin Diamond, Screech from "Saved by the Bell", actor, currently resides in Port Washington.
*Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford college, ran law firm in Port Washington. [ [http://www.inn-california.com/articles/biographic/lelandstanford.html Leland Stanford ] ]
* Vernon Biever, award winning photographer for the Green Bay Packers football team since 1946, was born in and currently resides in Port Washington. He was inducted into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame in July 2002. [ [http://www2.jsonline.com/packer/news/may02/45189.asp JS Online: He's always been in the picture for Packers ] ]
* Rich Strenger, athlete, was born in Port Washington and played for the Detroit Lions from 1983-1987.

Other Facts

The 1990's TV Series, "Step by Step" is set in Port Washington, Wisconsin but was filmed in California. Contrary to the opening credits, there is no theme park, mountains or ocean in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

In 2007, the Port Washington High School Varsity Boys Basketball team made it to the state tournament for the first time since 1936, when they won the tournament. The 2007 team finished 2nd after they beat Wisconsin Dells in the semi finals and than lost to Monroe in the championship game.


External links

* [http://www.ci.port-washington.wi.us/ Official website]
* [http://www.portwashingtonhistoricalsociety.org/ Port Washington Historical Society]
* [http://www.portwashingtonchamber.com/ Port Washington Chamber of Commerce]
* [http://www.pwssd.k12.wi.us/education/district/district.php?sectionid=1/ Port Washington/Saukville School District]
* [http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=623700 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Article]

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