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History of Cedarburg

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Brief History

  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.

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Cedarburg Timeline

1827- First grist mill constructed on Cedar Creek

1840- Groth Brothers purchase land from U.S. government and the area Cedarburg

1843- Columbia Mill built by Dr. Luening

1845- Frederick Hilgen and William Schroeder built a wooden Grist Mill

1846- Boclo Drug Store opens

1847- Hilgen-Schroeder Saw Mill erected on site of Legion Hall, New Dublin renamed Hamilton, stage coach begins to serve Cedarburg

1848- Weber Brewery opens

1852- Hilgen Spring Park Resort opens

1853- Concordia Mill built by Janssen brothers and Mr. Gaitsch, Cedarburg Turner Society formed

1855- Five-Story Stone Cedarburg Mill replaces the wood 1845 Grist Mill

1856- Three-Story HIlgen-Schroeder Grist Mill Store constructed across from the 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

1864- Cedarburg Volunteer Fire Department organized

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

1866- Cedarburg population approaches 1,000

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 built

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 including Bridge Street (Cedarburg Woolen Bill)

1882-Immanuel Lutheran church built

1885-Cedarburg becomes a city and establishes a police department.

1886- Washington House Hotel founded

1887- Grist Wind Mill burns

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, Lincoln 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 began operations

1907- Cedarburg Firehouse burns down on Easter morning, April 3rd

1907- Interurban electric railway service connects Cedarburg to Milwaukee on an hourly schedule

1908- New Firehouse erected

1910- Armbruster Store built

1922- City-wide water supply installed

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

1939- Highland Avenue stone bridge built with WPA funds

1941- Hilgen Spring Resort permanently closes, Barth’s Tavern opens

1947- City summer rec program begun

1948- First Cedarburg Music Festival

1950- Cedarburg Population at 2,810

1957- New High School built

1960- Cedarburg Population at 5,191

1961- Turner Hall demolished

1971- Ozaukee Art Gallery founded

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 brought a temporary shutdown in spring 2020, but Cedarburg remained opened through most of the pandemic.

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