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Waukesha, Wisconsin

Waukesha, Wisconsin
Waukesha, Wisconsin is located in Wisconsin
Waukesha, Wisconsin
Location in Wisconsin
County Waukesha
 • Mayor Shawn N. Reilly
 • Total 25.07 sq mi (64.93 km2)
 • Land 24.81 sq mi (64.26 km2)
 • Water 0.26 sq mi (0.67 km2)  1.04%
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 70,718
 • Estimate (2012[3]) 70,920
 • Density 2,850.4/sq mi (1,100.5/km2)
Time zone Central (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) Central (UTC-5)
Area code(s) 262
Website .us.wi.waukesha.ciwww

Waukesha ( ) is a city in and the county seat of Waukesha County, Wisconsin. It is a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The population was 70,718 at the 2010 census, making it the largest city in the county and the seventh largest city in the state. It is part of the Milwaukee metropolitan area. The city is adjacent to the Town of Waukesha.


  • History 1
    • Waukesha's name 1.1
    • "Spring City" 1.2
    • Football history 1.3
    • Project Nike 1.4
  • Geography and climate 2
  • Demographics 3
    • 2010 census 3.1
    • 2000 census 3.2
  • Economy 4
    • Top employers 4.1
  • Sports 5
  • Government 6
  • Education 7
  • Media 8
  • Recognition 9
  • Notable people 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


The area that Waukesha now encompasses was first settled by Europeans in 1834, with Morris D. Cutler as its first settler. When the first settlers arrived, there was nothing but dense virgin forest and wild prairie. The settlers laid out farms, constructed roads, erected government buildings and established post routes.[4]

By 1846, the area was incorporated as the village of Prairieville.[5] On February 8, 1847, the village changed its name to, "Waukesha,"[6] and in 1896, incorporated as a city.[7] The first appointed mayor of the newly incorporated city of Waukesha was John Brehm,[8] who served from January to April, 1896.[9]

Waukesha's name

Over the years, many believed, incorrectly, that the origin of the name of the city was an Algonquian 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[10] 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 A. Lapham, an early settler and historian of the region.[11] According to Lapham, the word for "fox" was pishtaka.[12] Cutler also told visitors about Wau-tsha, who was described as "tall and athletic, proud in his bearing, dignified and friendly."[10]

"Spring City"

Sears & Roebuck founder Richard W. Sears spent his last years on his farm near Waukesha.

Matthew Laflin, an early pioneer of Chicago, Illinois, provided the capital and enterprise that laid the foundation for Waukesha as a famous Wisconsin watering resort and was the proprietor of the grand resort, the Fountain Spring House. 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."[13][14]

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.[15]

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...'"

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.[16] 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."[17]

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.[18]

In 1956, Helen Moore, who ran a mud bath spa in Waukesha, appeared as a guest on What's My Line.[19]

Over the years, the natural springs have been spoiled by pollution and a number have gone dry. Water drawn from an aquifer reached radium levels exceeding federal standards.[20]

In 2013, Waukesha applied for permission to withdraw water from Lake Michigan.[21] Because Waukesha is outside the lake's basin, the 2008 Great Lakes Compact makes the city ineligible to withdraw water from the lake without approval from the governors of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.[22] As of September, 2015, only Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has consented.

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.[23]

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.[24]

Geography and climate

Waukesha is located near the center of Waukesha County in southeastern Wisconsin, 18 miles (29 km) west of Milwaukee. Waukesha is also located 59 miles (95 km) 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 25.07 square miles (64.93 km2), of which 24.81 square miles (64.26 km2) is land and 0.26 square miles (0.67 km2) is water.[1]

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

The Köppen-Geiger climate classification system classifies its climate as humid continental (Dfa).

Climate data for Waukesha, Wisconsin (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 62
Average high °F (°C) 27.8
Average low °F (°C) 10.7
Record low °F (°C) −29
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.45
Average snowfall inches (cm) 12.3
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 9.2 7.5 7.9 10.7 11.8 10.7 9.4 9.1 8.8 9.4 8.8 9.5 112.8
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 6.8 5.1 3.5 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 .1 1.1 6.2 23.8
Source: NOAA[25]


2010 census

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 70,718 people, 28,295 households, and 17,506 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,850.4 inhabitants per square mile (1,100.5/km2). There were 29,843 housing units at an average density of 1,202.9 per square mile (464.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 88.1% White, 2.3% African American, 0.4% Native American, 3.5% Asian, 3.5% from other races, and 2.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 12.1% of the population.

There were 28,295 households of which 32.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.9% were married couples living together, 10.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 38.1% were non-families. 30.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 3.02.

The median age in the city was 34.2 years. 23.7% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 30.4% were from 25 to 44; 24.7% were from 45 to 64; and 10.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.0% male and 51.0% female.

2000 census

As of the census[28] 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 per square mile (480.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 91.22% White, 1.28% African American, 0.33% Native American, 2.17% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 3.31% from other races, and 1.65% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.58% of the population.

There were 25,663 households out of which 32.5% of households had children under age 18 living with them, 50.2% were married couples living together, 9.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.5% were non-families. 29.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age 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% under the age of 18, 10.8% from 18 to 24, 33.6% from 25 to 44, 20.2% from 45 to 64, and 10.6% who were 65 years of age 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% of families and 5.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.0% of those under age 18 and 5.9% of those age 65 or over.


The Casper M. Sanger House is one of sixty-seven sites in Waukesha listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Top employers

According to Waukesha's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[29] the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 GE Healthcare 3,700
2 Waukesha Memorial Hospital 2,126
3 ProHealth Care 2,115
4 Waukesha School District 1,876
5 Cooper Power Systems 1,500
6 Waukesha County 1,376
7 Generac Power Systems 1,025
8 Nissen Staffing Continuum 1,000
9 Waukesha Engine 800
10 Waukesha Health System 734
11 HUSCO International 550


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.


Waukesha's mayor is Shawn Reilly and its citizens are represented by Jim Sensenbrenner (R) in the United States House of Representatives, and by Ron Johnson (R) and Tammy Baldwin (D) in the United States Senate. Paul Farrow (R) represents Waukesha in the Wisconsin State Senate, and Bill Kramer (R) and Adam Neylon (R) represent Waukesha in the Wisconsin State Assembly.


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.[30] As a liberal arts school, Carroll offers more than 60 areas of study, primarily at the undergraduate level. Carroll University's enrollment is roughly 3,400 undergraduate and graduate 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.

Waukesha County Technical College has a campus located in the downtown area.

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.[31]

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 operates two charter schools; Waukesha Engineering Preparatory Academy, or WEPA, and the Waukesha Academy of Health Professions, or WAHP. It also runs three middle schools, 14 elementary schools (including 2 STEM Academies, Randall Campus for K-5 and Saratoga Campus for 6-8. These are public schools that feature a curriculum more focused on Science Technology Engineering and Math.

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.


  • Newspaper, Waukesha Freeman, Conley Publishing Group, established in 1859
  • Newspaper, The New Perspective, Carroll University, established in 1874
  • Newspaper, The Observer, University of Wisconsin-Waukesha, established in 1978
  • Newspaper and online news website, Waukesha NOW, Journal Community Publishing Group, established in 2010
  • Online news website,, established in 2010.


Notable people

See also


  1. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010".  
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder".  
  3. ^ "Population Estimates".  
  4. ^ The History of Waukesha County, Wisconsin: Containing an Account of Its Settlement, Growth, Development and Resources. 1880 pp. 173, 232, 233.
  5. ^ "Land Divisions Within Waukesha County". Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Inc. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  6. ^ Town of Prairieville. "NAME CHANGED FROM PRAIRIEVILLE TO WAUKESHA, P. 100, 1847, FEBRUARY 8, 1847" (PDF). Office of the Secretary of State of Wisconsin. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-07-04. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  7. ^ name="slahs-land"
  8. ^ "John Brehm, 74, First Mayor of Waukesha Dies". The Milwaukee Sentinel. March 26, 1931. p. 3. 
  9. ^ "Hall of Mayors". City of Waukesha. 
  10. ^ a b Wisconsin Archeological Society, The Wisconsin Archeologist, 1922, p. 71.
  11. ^ Langill, Ellen D. & Jean Penn Loerke, From Farmlands to Freeways: A History of Waukesha County Wisconsin, Waukesha County Historical Society, 1984.
  12. ^ A geographical and topographical description of Wisconsin..., p. 136.
  13. ^ "Waukesha Spa" Milwaukee Journal. August 8, 1969.
  14. ^ Krueger, Lillian (2010). "'"Waukesha 'The Saratoga of the West. Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  15. ^ Wendt, Kristine Adams (Spring 1992). "Mary Todd Lincoln: "Great Sorrows" and the Healing Waters of Waukesha". Wisconsin Academy Review. Retrieved 2008-10-12. 
  16. ^ Larson, Eric, The Devil in the White City, p.139,175-76
  17. ^ iPad iPhone Android TIME TV Populist The Page (1930-01-20). Business: Mixings Mixture?", Time, January 20, 1930""". 
  18. ^ "Richard W. Sears Dies. Founder of Sears, Roebuck & Co. Began Career as Railroad Employee.".  
  19. ^ "Last Fred Allen Episode-What's My Line (2/3)". YouTube. 2008-09-04. 
  20. ^ Daniel S. Duchniak. "Waukesha Water Utility Public Notice". Retrieved 2015-02-05. 
  21. ^ "City of Waukesha Water Diversion application".  
  22. ^ "Waukesha Plan for Lake Michigan Water Raises Worries".  
  23. ^ "Football’s Forward Pass Turns 100 Years Old".  
  24. ^ "". 
  25. ^ "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data".  
  26. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  27. ^ Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (July 2004). "The Population of Southeastern Wisconsin" (PDF). Technical Report Number 11 (4th Edition). Retrieved 2007-04-09. 
  28. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  29. ^ City of Waukesha CAFR
  30. ^ "Carroll College History".  
  31. ^ "New Tribes Bible Institute".  
  32. ^ Walker, Laurel (2012-01-10). "Waukesha to get giant Gibson guitars". 
  33. ^ "Gibson GuitarTown: Nashville, Austin, and London Big Guitar Public Arts and Charity". 
  34. ^ "Best Places to Live 2012". CNN. Archived from the original on August 23, 2012. 
  35. ^ "Americas Promise Alliance – Waukesha, Wisconsin". 
  36. ^ "Americas Promise Alliance – Waukesha, Wisconsin". 
  37. ^ "Gold Medal Awards | National Recreation and Park Association". 
  38. ^ [2]
  39. ^ "Little Lord Fauntleroy – Section 1 Lot 39 Grave 6" (PDF). Prairie Home Cemetery. 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2014. 

External links

  • City of Waukesha
  • Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce
  • Sanborn fire insurance maps: 1884 1890 1895 1901 1911 1917 1922
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