Starting in 1842, Cedarburg began as a fresh start in America and has grown into Wisconsin’s #1 Small Town. Located just 20 miles north of Milwaukee with gently rolling hills, Cedarburg was settled by German immigrants escaping religious persecution. Building flour and textile mills to harness the hydropower of Cedar Creek, Cedarburg’s first settlers established a rural trading center by 1846, while harvesting limestone with local quarries for functional houses and businesses. Faith centered lives meant many churches with religious schools and strong public schools. First families such as Groth, Hilgen, Schroeder, Wittenberg, Worth, and Dobberpuhl envisioned a well-planned out business district with manufacturing and a robust retail service industry to support residents, travelers, and businesses. Cedarburg grew and prospered.
Before electricity, the river was a source of power. Mills soon dotted the small but fast flowing Cedar Creek. While the river was an advantage for power, clean drinking water was just as important. Breweries such as Weber and Cedarburg Brewing locally supplied thirsty residents. So too did natural springs such as Ritter's Victoria Springs or those at Hilgen Spring Park.
The Cedarburg Bridge, originally named the “Red Bridge” spans the creek to the north of the city so farmers could buy and sell wares. It is now the last covered bridge in the state. If the industry and markets weren't enough of an attraction for out of city dwellers, the Hilgen Spring Park drew in many visitors from throughout the state as well as from Chicago. Food, music and an ever-changing entertainment scene brought many Milwaukee and Chicago vacationers.
Modern transportation followed Cedarburg’s rise in population and development in the later 1800s with the Green Bay Road just east in Hamilton, a wood plank road in Cedarburg, and a train line stop in 1870. By 1908 electric rail service went through Cedarburg from Milwaukee to Sheboygan that transported travelers and functioned as a commuter line too. Rail Service continued through Cedarburg until 1948, when the construction of automobile highways and car ownership became very popular.
A post-World War II baby boom also led to more families moving to Cedarburg with new housing subdivisions ready for them to move in. The migration out of the cities and into the suburbs and surrounding areas, helped Cedarburg’s population grow 84% from 2,810 in 1950 to 5,191 in 1960. While many towns “tore down the old and put up new” in the 1960s and 70s, Cedarburg saw the value in preserving its old buildings and thriving downtown. In 1972, Jim Pape and Bill Welty helped saved the Woolen Mill from demolition and jump-started the revitalization of Cedarburg. Using the Cedar Creek Winery and shops as a backdrop in 1973, the Wine & Harvest Festival began, followed by the February Winter Festival and then in June 1985, the Strawberry festival. These festivals brought a sense of pride and tourism to Cedarburg, with the downtown named to the National Historic District in 1986. After Washington Avenue, the residences and businesses along Columbia became the second National Historic District in the city. Containing more stone buildings than any other Wisconsin community, Cedarburg's own landmarks commission helps identify and preserve the unique architecture.
Additional festivals such as Oktoberfest, 4th of July, Country in the Burg and A Cedarburg Christmas join the Ozaukee County Fair to help make the Cedarburg festivals a year-round tradition and Cedarburg a year-round destination.
1827- First grist mill constructed on Cedar Creek
1843- Columbia Mill built by Dr. Luening
1845- Frederick Hilgen and William Schroeder built a wooden Grist Mill
1840- Groth Brothers purchase land from U.S. government and the area Cedarburg
1846- Three-Story Store built next to the Grist Mill, first store in today's Cedarburg
1846- Boclo Drug Store opens
1847- Hilgen-Schroeder Saw Mill
1852- Hilgen Spring Park Resort opens
1853- Concordia Mill built by Janssen brothers and Mr. Gaitsch
1855- Five-Story Stone Cedarburg Mill replaces the wood 1845 Grist Mill
1850s John Schroeling organized Singer Society and Turner Society
1862- (September) Cedarburg Mill used as fortress for area families concerned over the confused news of Dakota Conflict in Minnesota
1865- Jochem grocery store opens and Hilgen and Wittenberg Woolen Mill Woolen Mill completed, too late to sell blankets to the Union for the Civil War. Wirth Store opens selling ready-made boots and shoes
1867-First Cedarburg Volunteer Fire Company organized
1869- Cold Springs soda water factory built by Hilgen
1870- First railroad connection and St. Francis Borgia Catholic Church build
1871- Excelsior Mill built by Wahausen and Company
1872- Hilgen Mill built for lumber work and Straub's washing machines.
1874- Stone bridge built over the Cedar Creek at Bridge Street. Bruss’ store and Lehman hardware open
1876-Cedarburg covered bridge built.
1880- Bank of Cedarburg Founded
1881 March- Heavy spring flooding washed out the Hamilton dam (Concordia Mill) and many bridges.
1882-Immanuel Lutheran church built.
1885-Cedarburg becomes a city and establishes a police department.
1886- Washington House Hotel founded.
1890- Cedarburg Wire and Wire Nail Company opened at Excelsior Mill, first in state to make round nails
1894- Second Cedarburg Firehouse moved to vacated schoolhouse. Public grade school built. Windmill destroyed
1896- Steam engine addition provides more power to the Woolen Mill and Cedarburg High school opens downtown.
1897- Direct current electric generator provides electricity to the homes of the Wittenbergs, Roebken and Woolen Mill
1901-Municipal power plant operational
1907- Cedarburg Firehouse burns down on Ester morning, April 1st.
1907- Interurban electric railway service connects Cedarburg to Milwaukee on an hourly schedule
1930- January 29- Cedarburg Supply Company bought the Cedarburg Mill
1933- Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) builds rock walls on Cedar Creek to ease flooding.
1941- Barth’s Tavern opens.
1972 -Old Woolen Mill saved from demolition by Mayor Stephen Fischer and new owners Bill Welty and Jim Pape establish a winery and shops called Cedar Creek Settlement Shops.
1973- First city-wide festival, Wine and Harvest and Winter festivals to promote artist and tourism in Cedarburg.
1974- Winter festival is added to City-wide festivals.
1985- Strawberry Festival added as a 3rd City-wide festival
1986- Washington Avenue Historic District added to the National Register of Historic Places.
1996- (April) Following heavy spring rains, the Hamilton Pond dam failed
2008- Cedar Creek Blacksmith shop converted to a restaurant -Anvil Pub and Grille.
2014- Cedarburg Art Museum opens in the old Jochem mansion on Washington Avenue..
2015- Cedarburg History Museum and Chamber of Commerce move to current location on Columbia Road, 1 block East of Washington Avenue in the old Grist Mill and Barth’s Tavern location.
2020-2022- COVID-19 virus pandemic that brough a temporary shutdown in spring 2020, but Cedarburg remained opened through most of the pandemic.