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Waukesha, Wisconsin
Location in Wisconsin
Coordinates: 43°06′N 88°11′W / 43.1°N 88.183°W / 43.1; -88.183Coordinates: 43°06′N 88°11′W / 43.1°N 88.183°W / 43.1; -88.183
County Waukesha
 - Mayor Larry Nelson (D)
 - Total 70.4 km2 (27.2 sq mi)
 - Water 0.2 km2 (0.1 sq mi)  0.26%
Population (2008)
 - Total 68,008
 Density 2,399.5/km2 (6,214.3/sq mi)
Time zone Central (UTC-6)
 - Summer (DST) Central (UTC-5)

Waukesha (pronounced /ˈwɔːkɨʃɔː/) is a city in and the county seat of Waukesha County,[1] Wisconsin, in the Upper Midwest region of the United States. As of the 2008 population estimate, Waukesha had a total population of 68,008, and was the largest community in the county. The city is located adjacent to the Town of Waukesha. Milwaukee County is due east of Waukesha County.

In 2006, Money magazine ranked Waukesha 36th on its list of the "100 Best Places to Live", in the United States.[2] In 2007 America's Promise ranked Waukesha one of the "100 Best Communities for Young People" in the United States.[3]

Waukesha is home to the Episcopal monastery of the Order of Julian of Norwich.



The area that Waukesha now encompasses was first inhabited in 1834. Its first non-American-Indian settler was Morris D. Cutler.

By 1846, the area was incorporated as the village of Prairieville.[4] On February 8, 1847, the village changed its name to, "Waukesha,"[5] and in 1896, incorporated as a city.[6]


Waukesha's name

Over the years, many believed, incorrectly, that the origin of the name of the city was an Algonquin word meaning "fox" or "little foxes," though it is actually an Anglicization of the Ojibwe proper name Waagoshag or the Potawatomi name Wau-tsha. Wau-tsha (sometimes written as Wauk-tsha[7] or Wauke-tsha) was the leader of the local tribe at the time of the first European settlement of the area. This is confirmed by accounts of Increase Lapham, an early settler and historian of the region.[8] According to Lapham, the word for "fox" was pishtaka.[9] Cutler also told visitors about Wau-tsha, who was described as "tall and athletic, proud in his bearing, dignified and friendly."[7]

"Spring City"

Mary Todd Lincoln stayed in Waukesha for most of the summer of 1872.
Sears & Roebuck founder Richard W. Sears spent his last years on his farm near Waukesha.

Waukesha was once known for its extremely clean and good-tasting spring water and was called a "spa town." This earned the city the nicknames, "Spring City," and "Saratoga of the West."

According to author Kristine Adams Wendt, in 1868, Colonel Richard Dunbar, a sufferer of diabetes, chanced upon the medicinal properties of what he later named the Bethesda Spring while viewing a parcel of land recently purchased by his sister. Testimonials found in a Dunbar brochure of 1873 proclaimed the miraculous benefits of Bethesda Mineral Water for persons suffering from all manner of urinary tract and bladder problems, diabetes, Bright's disease, torpid liver, indigestion, chronic diarrhea, dropsy and "female weakness," among others.[10]

Wendt reports that by 1872, "area newspapers carried accounts of a community ill equipped to handle its new popularity among the suffering multitudes. The semi-weekly Wisconsin (Milwaukee) of July 31, 1872, reported 'that fully 500 visitors are quartered in hotels and scattered in private families here, seeking benefit from the marvelous waters...'"

Among those visitors was Abraham Lincoln's widow, Mary Todd Lincoln. She spent several weeks in Waukesha during the summer of 1872, still mourning the death of her son Tad the previous year. The former first lady stayed at the Hubbard boarding house and according to one contemporary account, "was all in black, with a full skirt to the dress which was very long." One newspaper opined, "Poor Mrs. Lincoln carries a heavy heart, and she is much of the time in tears."[11]

The "healing waters" were so valued that a controversial attempt was made to build a pipeline between the city and Chicago so that they could be enjoyed by visitors to the 1893 Columbian Exposition.[12] According to Time magazine, "[t]he scheme had been conceived by one Charles Welsh who had been given the springs by his uncle, but after several miles of pipe were laid, it was discovered that the cost was too great."[13]

Richard W. Sears, founder of Sears and Roebuck, may have been attracted to Waukesha by the waters. In failing health, Sears retired from business in 1908 and, according to The New York Times, "spent his time on his great farm near Waukesha." In 1914, Sears died in Waukesha of Bright's disease leaving an estate estimated at $20 million.[14]

Over the years, the natural springs have been spoiled by pollution and a number have gone dry.

Football history

Brad Robinson threw the first legal forward pass in Waukesha in 1906.

One of the most important "firsts" in American sports history occurred in Waukesha on September 5, 1906, when Carroll College (now Carroll University) hosted the football team from St. Louis University. SLU halfback Bradbury Robinson threw the first legal forward pass in football history in that game. The Carroll players and local fans were stunned. The visitors went on to win 22-0 and the sport was changed forever.[15]

Project Nike

During the Cold War Waukesha County was the site of three Nike Missile batteries, located in the city of Waukesha and nearby Muskego and Lannon. In the city of Waukesha the U.S. Army and later the Wisconsin National Guard operated the command and control center from 1956 to 1970 at what is now Hillcrest Park on Davidson Road. The missile pits existed near the corner of Cleveland Avenue and Hwy 164 - first holding Ajax missiles with conventional warheads and later the nuclear equipped Hercules warhead. The Hercules provided a similar nuclear capability as that of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in World War II. The Midwest Chapter of the Cold War Museum has promoted the preservation of the Hillcrest Park site as a local Cold War museum, honoring Cold War veterans and commemorating America's longest and costliest conflict.[16]

Contemporary politics

In 2006, Waukesha's mayoral election featured Ann Nischke as the Republican candidate and Larry Nelson, a former middle school English teacher, as the Democratic candidate. Nelson won the election, an anomaly in Waukesha County, which is one of the most conservative counties in the United States.[17] Nelson is a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition,[18] a bipartisan group with a stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets." The Coalition is co-chaired by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Geography and climate

Waukesha is located near the center of Waukesha County in southeastern Wisconsin, 18 miles west of Milwaukee. Waukesha is also located 59 miles east of Madison. The city shares borders with City of Brookfield, Town of Brookfield, Genesee, New Berlin, City of Pewaukee, Village of Pewaukee, Town of Delafield and Town of Waukesha.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 21.7 square miles (56.2 km²).About 21.6 square miles (55.9 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.2 km²) of it (0.32%) is water.

The city is located on both sides of the Fox River, which starts near Menomonee Falls and flows into the Illinois River.

Monthly Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rec High °F 58 66 82 91 93 100 109 101 101 88 77 68
Norm High °F 27 33 44 57 70 80 84 82 73 61 45 33
Norm Low °F 11 17 27 38 49 58 63 62 53 42 30 18
Rec Low °F -27 -28 -14 7 26 34 42 39 28 17 -9 -23
Precip (in) 1.48 1.31 2.28 3.53 3.02 3.78 3.83 4.77 3.52 2.62 2.63 1.87


Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1860 1,456
1870 2,633 80.8%
1880 2,969 12.8%
1890 6,321 112.9%
1900 7,419 17.4%
1910 8,740 17.8%
1920 12,558 43.7%
1930 17,176 36.8%
1940 19,242 12.0%
1950 21,233 10.3%
1960 30,004 41.3%
1970 40,271 34.2%
1980 50,365 25.1%
1990 56,894 13.0%
2000 64,825 13.9%
Est. 2005 67,658 [20] 4.4%
Source: U.S. Census[21]

As of the census[22] of 2000, there were 64,825 people, 25,663 households, and 16,296 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,000.5 people per square mile (1,158.8/km²). There were 26,856 housing units at an average density of 1,243.1/sq mi (480.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 91.22 percent White, 1.28 percent African American, 0.33 percent Native American, 2.17 percent Asian, 0.04 percent Pacific Islander, 3.31 percent from other races, and 1.65 percent from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.58 percent of the population.

Approximately 32.5 percent of households had children under age 18 living with them, 50.2 percent were married couples living together, 9.8 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.5 percent were non-families. Some 29.0 percent of all households were made up of individuals and 9.2 percent had someone living alone who was 65-years-old or older. The average household size was 2.43 people and the average family size was 3.04 people.

In the city, the population was spread out with 24.7 percent under age 18, 10.8 percent from 18-years-old to 24-years-old, 33.6 percent from 25-years-old to 44-years-old, 20.2 percent from 45-years-old to 64-years-old, and 10.6 percent who were 65-years-old or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 95.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $50,084, and the median income for a family was $60,841. Males had a median income of $40,743 versus $29,279 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,242. About 3.0 percent of families and 5.4 percent of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.0 percent of those under age 18 and 5.9 percent of those age 65 or over.


Waukesha is home to Carroll University, formerly known as Carroll College, a private Presbyterian university. Opened in 1846, it is the oldest college in the state[23] (a title also claimed by Beloit College). As a liberal arts school, Carroll offers more than 50 areas of study, primarily at the undergraduate level. Carroll University's enrollment is roughly 2,500 students.

Located on the city's northwest side, the University of Wisconsin–Waukesha, part of the UW system, offers two-year associate degrees. Students have the option of transferring to four-year institutions to complete their undergraduate education.

One of the two New Tribes Bible Institute campuses within the United States is located on a large hill in central Waukesha. Operated by New Tribes Mission, the school doubles as the first part of a four-year missionary training program, which includes field training in the U.S.[24]

The School District of Waukesha serves the city and portions of surrounding municipalities. It operates four high schools in the city: Waukesha South High School, Waukesha West High School, Waukesha North High School, and Harvey Phillip High School, an alternative school. It also runs three middle schools and 17 elementary schools.

The city is home to Waukesha County's only Catholic high school, Catholic Memorial High School. There are also two small, independent evangelical Christian schools in Waukesha: West Suburban Christian Academy, with two campuses, and Waukesha Christian Academy, a small K through 12 school located on the city's west side.

City technology

Cellnet Technology Inc (based in Alpharetta, Georgia) plans to make Waukesha the second community in Wisconsin outfitted with a city-wide Wi-Fi network blanket. (Midwest Fiber Networks is scheduled to make Milwaukee the state's first wi-fi municipality by summer 2006.)[25]

Cellnet, which began working on a similar "blanket" for Madison, Wisconsin in early 2006, had planned to present their idea to Waukesha's Information Technology Advisory Committee in February 2006. If the proposed installation of the network goes through, city residents would only have to buy a wireless card (typically $50 USD) to gain access to the internet from any area in Waukesha.

As of September 2007, the project was mired in logistical difficulties[26][27], and appears dropped shortly thereafter.

Sports and recreation

Downtown Waukesha is the site of one of the stages of the Tour of America's Dairyland cycling event, which features a criterium race, started in 1993.

Notable people

Sister cities


  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "Best Places to Live". Money. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  3. ^ "The 100 Best Communities for 2007". America's Promise. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  4. ^ "Land Divisions Within Waukesha County". Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Inc.. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  5. ^ Town of Prairieville. "NAME CHANGED FROM PRAIRIEVILLE TO WAUKESHA, P. 100, 1847, FEBRUARY 8, 1847" (PDF). Office of the Secretary of State of Wisconsin. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  6. ^ name="slahs-land"
  7. ^ a b Wisconsin Archeological Society, The Wisconsin Archeologist, 1922, p. 71.
  8. ^ Langill, Ellen D. & Jean Penn Loerke, From Farmlands to Freeways: A History of Waukesha County Wisconsin, Waukesha County Historical Society, 1984.
  9. ^ A geographical and topographical description of Wisconsin..., p. 136.
  10. ^ Wendt, Kristine Adams (Spring 1992). "Mary Todd Lincoln: "Great Sorrows" and the Healing Waters of Waukesha". Wisconsin Academy Review. Retrieved 2008-10-12. 
  11. ^ Wendt, Kristine Adams (Spring 1992). "Mary Todd Lincoln: "Great Sorrows" and the Healing Waters of Waukesha". Wisconsin Academy Review. pp. 14–19. Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  12. ^ Larson, Eric, The Devil in the White City, p.139,175-76
  13. ^ "Business: Mixings Mixture?", Time, January 20, 1930
  14. ^ "Richard W. Sears Dies. Founder of Sears, Roebuck & Co. Began Career as Railroad Employee.". New York Times. September 29, 1914. Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  15. ^ "Football’s Forward Pass Turns 100 Years Old". St. Louis University. Retrieved 2008-10-12. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ GM Today, April 6, 2006
  18. ^ "Mayors Against Illegal Guns: Coalition Members". 
  19. ^ "Average Weather for Waukesha, WI". Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  20. ^ "Waukesha city, Wisconsin". American FactFinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2007-04-25. 
  21. ^ Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (July 2004) (PDF). The Population of Southeastern Wisconsin. Technical Report Number 11 (4th Edition). Retrieved 2007-04-09. 
  22. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  23. ^ "Carroll College History". Carroll College. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  24. ^ "New Tribes Bible Institute". New Tribes Mission. Retrieved 2007-11-13. 
  25. ^ Esptein, Reid J. "Waukesha could be next city to go Wi-Fi" Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, February 3, 2006.
  26. ^ Darrel Enriquez and Larry Sandler "Is Wi-Fi a losing strategy?" Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, September 3, 2007.
  27. ^ Conning Chu "Wi-Fi plans falling short, official says" Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, June 22, 2007.

External links


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