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West Bend
An Aerial view of downtown West Bend Wisconsin.
Country United States
State Wisconsin
County Washington
Elevation 932 ft (284 m)
Coordinates 43°25′22″N 88°11′03″W / 43.4227777°N 88.1842611°W / 43.4227777; -88.1842611
Population 29,894 (2008)
Incorporated 1885
 - Annex of Barton November 1, 1961
Mayor Kristine Deiss
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 53095 or 53090
Location of West Bend within Wisconsin.

West Bend is a city in and the county seat of Washington County, Wisconsin, United States in southeastern Wisconsin. The population was estimated to be 29,894 people in 2008.[1] The city has a strong German heritage.



Before the arrival of European settlers in southeastern Wisconsin, the Potawatomi and Menominee Indians inhabited the land now occupied by the city of West Bend.

In 1845, the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature authorized the building of a road to connect Fond du Lac and Milwaukee. Byron Kilbourn, one of the highway commissioners, and Jasper Vliet, a surveyor, were put in charge of determining the route the road would take and of identifying a good halfway point for travelers. The path they chose is now U.S. Route 45 and the rest stop is present-day West Bend. Because many people used the resting place it evolved into a popular area. The Milwaukee River running through the town eventually played a major role in the city's history. It was because of the western bend in the river that West Bend got its name. The river also produced enough energy to power saw mills and gristmills. The railroad arrived in in 1873, bringing with it more settlers and industrialization. At this time, West Bend saw a growth spurt, and in 1885 the city officially became an incorporated Wisconsin community.[2]


The Village of Barton

In 1845 early settler Barton Salisbury, while on a surveying trip up the Milwaukee River, found a rapids that he believed would be a good source of power for a sawmill. He built a log hut on the west side of the river and the village of Barton was born. On November 1, 1961, the city of West Bend annexed the Village of Barton.[3]

Library controversy

In 2009, a controversy arose after a local couple complained about the presence of sexually explicit books in the young adult section of the West Bend Community Memorial Library. They circulated an online petition [4] that called for the books to be labeled as explicit and moved to the adult section, as well as for the library to install Internet content filters and purchase books that represented a balance of materials related to heterosexuality and homosexuality. The library board refused to change its policy or to restrict access to the books in question.[5] As a result, the city's common council voted against reappointing four members of the library board, stating that they were "not serving the interest of the community."[6][7]

The Christian Civil Liberties Union also filed a claim against the West Bend library, asking that Francesca Lia Block's book Baby Be-Bop be "burned or destroyed", drawing further media attention to the local library dispute, though garning no support in the local area.[8][9][10]

On July 30, 2009, Pew Research Center reported that the library controversy was the third most blogged about topic from July 20-24, behind news about President Barack Obama's first six months in office and gossip about the TV show Dr. Who, but drawing more attention in the blogosphere than the Arrest of Henry Louis Gates.[11]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.9 square miles (33.5 km²), of which 12.7 square miles (32.9 km²) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.6 km²) is water. The total area is 1.86% water.


In 2008, the population of West Bend was estimated to be 29,894, an increase of 6.2% over 28,152 people at the 2000 census.

At the 2000 census[12], there were 28,152 people, 11,375 households and 7,518 families residing in the city[6]. The population density was 2,218.3 per square mile (856.5/km²). There were 11,926 housing units at an average density of 939.7/sq mi (362.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.30% White, 0.34% Black or African American, 0.42% Native American, 0.53% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.61% from other races, and 0.79% from two or more races. 1.84% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 11,375 households of which 32.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.3% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.9% were non-families. 27.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.00.

Age distribution was 25.5% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 31.1% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 14.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 93.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.6 males.

The median household income was $48,315, and the median family income was $56,299. Males had a median income of $39,904 versus $23,816 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,116. About 3.4% of families and 5.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.5% of those under age 18 and 3.7% of those age 65 or over.


Although many current residents of West Bend work in neighboring communities, the city's economy has been historically based in manufacturing and financial services. West Bend Mutual Insurance Company was founded in the city in 1894[13] and West Bend Savings Bank (now Westbury Bank) in 1926.[14] The West Bend Aluminum Company (later the West Bend Company) was founded in 1911 by Bernhardt C. Ziegler,[15] and remained in West Bend until 2003. Ziegler had previously founded the securities brokerage company B.C. Ziegler & Co. in 1902.[16] In 1915 Robert H. Rolf founded Amity Leather in downtown West Bend, which eventually became the world's largest manufacturer of leather billfolds.[17] Amity leather left the city in 1996. The strong economy in West Bend in the 1930s led Ripley's Believe it or Not to claim that West Bend was the only city in the United States that did not enter the Great Depression. In 1949, the printing company Serigraph, Inc. was founded in a garage in West Bend and went on to employ people all over the world.[18] The Gehl Company is also located in West Bend.[19]


The West Bend Municipal Airport is located three miles east of West Bend.


  • Elementary Schools
    • Jackson Elementary School, (Jackson, WI)
    • Decorah Elementary School
    • McLane Elementary School
    • Fair Park Elementary School
    • Green Tree Elementary School
    • Barton Elementary School
  • Middle Schools
    • Badger Middle School
    • Silverbrook Middle School
  • High Schools
    • West Bend East High School
    • West Bend West High School

Both share one campus, but are two separate academic schools

  • Post-Secondary Schools
    • University of Wisconsin-Washington County, (UWWC)
    • Moraine Park Technical College

There are the two public high schools in West Bend, West Bend East and West Bend West. The two schools are located within the same building. The entire city is covered by a single school district. The University of Wisconsin–Washington County (UWWC) is located in the city, as is a campus of Moraine Park Technical College.


West Bend is a city of trails. A paved riverwalk snakes through the city along the banks of the Milwaukee River. The recently completed Eisenbahn Trail[20], a Rails to Trails project, has added another trail for walking, running, biking, and skating. West Bend also has numerous parks and play areas.

Just north of downtown is Regner Park, which offers a wooded area for hiking, a baseball diamond, a community swimming pond with a beach, a fishing pond, and several softball and soccer fields. On the southeast side of the city is Quaas Creek Park, home to the Roman "Doc" Gonring Athletic Complex and Quaas Creek Trail[21]. This facility includes scenic bike/pedestrian trails, a canoe launch, three softball fields with two concession stands, and a children's playland area. This park was a community effort, funded with public and private donations, state and federal grants, and supported by efforts of the West Bend Athletic Association and the West Bend Parks Department.

The city's downtown area has several specialty shops, an active night life and historic buildings. Maxwell Street Days and German fest are two popular summer events held in the downtown. Seafood Fest is held every year at Regner Park on the first weekend in June. The Farmer's Market every Saturday in downtown West Bend is a place to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers. A more recent annual event in Riverside Park is JazzFest.


Activities include visiting historic downtown West Bend or going for a ride in Wisconsin's first indoor go-kart track (Stockys). A theater, an ice skating rink, a locally-owned 1950s styled custard stand (Toucans) and numerous coffee shops round out some of the entertainment options available. West Bend is also home of the Museum of Wisconsin Art, an art museum dedicated to showing the works of Wisconsin artists. The Old Courthouse and Old Jailhouse Museums and the new West Bend Co./Regal Ware Museum attract visitors, as well.

Sister cities

Also, Annecy, France offers a foreign exchange program through West Bend High Schools.

Notable people


External links

Coordinates: 43°25′17″N 88°10′58″W / 43.42139°N 88.18278°W / 43.42139; -88.18278


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