Historic Places

  • 1840 Census of Jefferson County- Date in History: 1840 The first census ever taken in Jefferson County in 1840 found a total of 914 white inhabitants living here. Not surprisingly pioneer men outnumbered the women by a three to two ratio. It was also a land of the young as only 24 of the 536 males in the county were […]
  • Aztalan State Park- Date in History: 1835 The most important archeological site in Wisconsin lies in Aztalan State Park, near Lake Mills. Archeologists think that about 1,000 year ago a group of Native peoples left their base village of Cahokia, now near East St. Louis, and came north, settling on the west bank of the Crawfish River. Here […]
  • Barrie School- Date in History: 1939 The second and current Barrie School on Harriette Street in Fort Atkinson, opened in 1939. The $125,000 project was financed by the school district and by a large grant from the federal government’s Public Works Association or the PWA. The PWA was one of the so-called alphabet soup agencies created by […]
  • Bettersox Knitting Mills- Date in History: 1908 In 1908 Arthur Hoard founded the Bettersox Knitting Mills in Fort Atkinson, which for more than 50 years was the nation’s largest mail-order hosiery mill. It was located on South Water Street East where the Super 8 Motel now sits. Originally specializing in knitting men’s socks for sale in Wisconsin, Bettersox […]
  • Bon Ton Bakery- Date in History: Early 20th Century On the northwest corner of South Main Street and Milwaukee Avenue in Fort Atkinson, where the little parking lot for W.D. Hoard & Sons is now, there used to be an old frame building that had been built by Charles Rockwell way back in 1840. By 1916 this building […]
  • Caswell House- Date in History: 1873 – 1919 The site of the new Walgreen’s Drugstore going up at the corner of North Main and North Third Streets in Fort Atkinson used to be the site of Congressman Lucien Caswell’s dramatic 17-room Italianate mansion. Built for Mr. Caswell in 1873 by local mason Joseph Emery, the house boasted […]
  • Coe, Converse and Edwards- Date in History: 20th century In 1902 two local nurseries in Fort Atkinson combined to form the Coe, Converse & Edwards Company. Their main office was located on Rockwell Street in the building that now houses Dunsmoor Doors. The huge nursery had well over 220 acres and would continue to grow. They would eventually employ […]
  • Cold Spring- Date in History: 1830s One of the founders of the village of Cold Spring was Abram Brink, who settled on Whitewater Creek in 1838 opposite a spring of pure cold water – so cold in fact as to entitle it to the name of Cold Spring. Brink was a one-man dynamo, constructing a dam and […]
  • Crawfish River- Date in History: N/A In Elba township in Dodge County there is a 150-year-old resting place named Okeeg Cemetery. According to local tradition the unusual name of “Okeeg ” was the Indian name of the nearby Crawfish River. This tale is supported by an old 1840 government-issued map that labels the Columbia and Dodge Co […]
  • Creamery Package- Date in History: 1898 to 1967 In 1898, the Creamery Package Manufacturing Company of Chicago came to Fort Atkinson, buying our city’s thriving creamery equipment manufacturer, Cornish Curtis & Greene located on North Main Street. Over the next few years the growing company continued to focus on the dairy industry, and by 1916 Creamery Package […]
  • Curtis Haummerson House- Date in History: c. 1900 With plans now afoot to redo historic Sherman Avenue in Fort Atkinson, an effort is being made to minimize the impact on this beautiful street. It’s not just a matter of saving trees but of preserving the historic setting for the impressive homes and the stories they tell. For instance, […]
  • Early Breweries- Date in History: 19th century Canadian-born Henry Pritchard opened the first commercial brewery in Fort Atkinson in 1850. “Pritchard’s Ale” was produced and bottled in buildings located on the south bank of the Rock River just west of the current Robert Street Bridge. In 1879 the business was sold to Irish immigrant Andrew Dalton, who […]
  • First Library- Date in History: 1890-1916 The first public library in Fort Atkinson opened in 1892 thanks to the efforts of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. It was located on the second floor of the old Wigdale building, or where JM Carpets is today. Space was limited here, so the city, like many other towns across the […]
  • Fort Atkinson Airport- Date in History: 1946 In 1946 the city of Fort Atkinson rented 120 acres just two miles north of town for a grass field airport. The landowner was Ray Gardinier, an airport advocate who looked forward to the day when “tree-ripened California fruit will be at our grocer’s every morning, and planes will be thicker […]
  • Fort Atkinson Municipal Building- Date in History: 1920’s The Fort Atkinson Municipal Building, dedicated this week in 1929, was born in controversy. In the 1920s, Mayor William Weld, decided that it was about time that the city had a real city hall instead of renting rooms around town. He proposed selling the city-owned gas and electric utilities in order […]
  • Fort Community Credit Union- Date in History: 1940 to present Fort Community Credit Union, now headquartered at 800 Madison Ave in Fort Atkinson, began back in 1940 as a small credit union for the employees of Moe Light, a business that was located in the Oak Street industrial park where Five Alarm Fire is today (2006). When Thomas Industries […]
  • Fort Hospitals- Date in History: 20th Century Hospital service in Fort Atkinson began in 1903 when Dr. Frank Brewer set up some surgical facilities and a few beds above a barbershop on South Main Street. Shortly thereafter, he added a wing on to his own house and ran the “Fort Atkinson Emergency Hospital” until 1910 when his […]
  • Fort Replica- Date in History: 1960s The replica of Fort Koshkonong out in Rock River Park in Fort Atkinson was built in the late 1960s by a group of civic-minded citizens who believed that the only town in Wisconsin to be named after a Fort should actually have one. Led by Gus Klatt and Ben Beebe, they […]
  • Hartel Building- Date in History: 1920 The large building at the corner of North Main and Sherman Avenue, known by most of us as the Hartel Building, was actually built by the Creamery Package Company in 1920. At that time, Creamery Package – a maker of dairy and food processing equipment – dominated the entire block all […]
  • Haven Motel- Date in History: 1920s – 1980 The Haven Motel with its adobe cabins sits south of Fort Atkinson on highway 12 on the way to Whitewater. Built in the late 1920s by the Lein family, it was originally called Lein’s Cabins and advertised as the only motel between Chicago and Minneapolis. During the time that […]
  • Helenville- The citizens of Helenville Wisconsin, an unincorporated community eight miles east of Jefferson, should be grateful to an early settler for the care he took in naming their town. Ortgies Bullwinkel came to the area in 1848, and like many early settlers, he soon had his hand in a number of ventures – buying up […]
  • Hoard House Donation- Date in History: 1956 The house that began the Hoard Historical Museum was a generous gift given to the city of Fort Atkinson. Built in 1864, the stately and solidly built cream brick home at the end of Merchants Avenue was purchased in 1909 by Frank & Luella Hoard. Frank was the youngest son of […]
  • Hoard Museum beginnings- Date in History: 1930s In 1933 the Fort Atkinson chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, or DAR, met in the home of Luella Hoard to start thinking about the city’s upcoming centennial celebration. They decided to begin collecting historic artifacts and got permission to store the items in a basement room of the […]
  • Hobo Hotel- Date in History: 1931 – 1940 On December 15th, 1931, an unusual hotel opened its doors in Fort Atkinson to accommodate the increasing tourist traffic coming to town. These “box-car tourists,” as they were called, were not your usual visitors with money to spend. No, these travelers were penniless, unemployed men set adrift by the […]
  • Indian Mounds- Date in History: 1991 When white settlers first arrived in Wisconsin, the landscape was already dotted with some 20,000 Indian mounds. In Jefferson County alone there were at least 700 mounds, the majority encircling Lake Koshkonong. Now Indian mounds were not uncommon, but effigy mounds – or mounds in the shape of an animal – […]
  • Irish Patch- Date in History: c. 1880 By the 1870s a small group of Irish immigrants had settled in Fort Atkinson, occupying a few unpainted shacks just east of the railroad tracks near the intersection of North Main and North Fourth Streets. “The Irish Patch,” as the locals called it, was notorious for rowdy behavior, particularly on […]
  • Jefferson County Fair- Date in History: 1853-present One hundred and fifty years ago, in 1853, a group of pioneer farmers in the county got together to form the Jefferson County Agricultural Society to encourage improvements in farming and animal husbandry. They held their first annual agricultural fair in September of that year on the land next to the […]
  • Jefferson County Seat War- Date in History: 1850’s The small village of Jefferson was chosen as our county seat because of its central location. But by the 1850s the citizens of prosperous Watertown felt that they should have the county government. In 1856 the Mayor of Watertown convinced the state assembly to let the voters decide, and to ensure […]
  • Jones Dairy Farm- In 1883 while surveying the Scuppernong Marsh, Milo Jones contracted a case of rheumatism that would cripple him for life. Confined to a bedroom off the Jones’ farmhouse kitchen, Milo watched every fall as the family butchered a couple of pigs and made sausages using his mother’s famous Vermont recipe. After a few years it […]
  • Jones Park- Date in History: 1896 When Milo Jones settled in Fort Atkinson in 1838, he purchased 800 acres of land along the Rock River from the United States government. On some of that land he operated a dairy farm, but over the years, a slightly wooded portion on the southern edge of his property known as […]
  • Lawton Hotel- Date in History: Early 20th century The old Lawton Hotel used to be a familiar landmark on the corner of South Third Street and Janesville Avenue in Fort Atkinson. At one time the Congregational Church’s parsonage, the expanded house was purchased in 1901 by Raymond “Bob” Lawton who operated it as the Lawton Hotel. It […]
  • Lincoln in Jefferson County- Date in History: 1832 Did Abraham Lincoln really sleep here in Jefferson County? He sure did. In the spring of 1832 Abraham Lincoln was a 23-year-old clerk working in a small store in New Salem, Illinois. When the Black Hawk War broke out, Lincoln joined the Illinois militia to help General Henry Atkinson chase the […]
  • Lucien Caswell’s Description of Lake Koshkonong- Date in History: 1840 Lucien Caswell was one of the first white settlers to live on Lake Koshkonong. The following is his description of the lake in 1840, before the Indianford Dam was built. “When August came, Lake Koshkonong was like a great magnificent meadow, and later on as fall approached, it was like a […]
  • Municipal Swimming Pool Opens- Date in History: 1955 On Father’s Day 1955 the city fathers of Fort Atkinson gave a wonderful gift to their children when they formally dedicated the long awaited new swimming pool in Rock River Park. Discussions about a municipal pool had begun back in the 1930s, but referendums to finance a pool were defeated in […]
  • NASCO- Date in History: 1940s The Mary Hoard Art Show, which opens at the Hoard Museum this Sunday, is being sponsored by NASCO International of Fort Atkinson. NASCO – or the National Agricultural Supply Company – started here in 1941 when Norman Eckley, a Fort Atkinson ag teacher at the high school, created some teaching aids […]
  • National Dairy Shrine Comes to Fort- Date in History: 1970s & 1980s The National Dairy Shrine was organized in Iowa in 1949 as a way to honor dairy leaders and pioneers, to record the history of the dairy industry, and to promote its products. In 1973 the Shrine decided to move its home from Waterloo Iowa to Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. A […]
  • North Hills Ski Club- Date in History: 20th Century Though you might not think of Fort Atkinson as a ski destination, we once did boast our very own ski hill. When Karl and Marilla Fuge moved to Fort in 1946 they bought some hilly land about 1 mile north off of Hwy 89. The Fuges soon met others interested […]
  • Octagon House- Date in History: 1850s The Octagon House in Watertown was built in the 1850s by pioneer settler John Richards. Richards had come to Wisconsin from Massachusetts in 1837 and ran a mill and farm on 140 acres along the Rock River in Watertown. In 1849 he returned to Massachusetts to marry the prominent Eliza Forbes, […]
  • Railroad Depot- Date in History: 1906 In 1906 the Chicago-Northwestern Railroad built a handsome new depot in Fort Atkinson. This stately red brick building with stone trimming was located along the track near the intersection of Janesville Avenue and South Third Street. The depot was an impressive structure for the time, equipped with electric lights and bathrooms, […]
  • Ralph Park- Date in History: 1944 Ever watch a softball game at Ralph Park in Fort Atkinson and wonder who Ralph was? Benjamin Ralph was born in Vermont and came to Fort in 1853 at the age of eight. Over the next two decades he helped his family run a general store, but in 1875 he struck […]
  • Robert Street Bridge- Date in History: 1909 In the late 19th century, the citizens of Fort Atkinson began arguing over whether they needed a second bridge over the Rock River. Some on the northwest side of town were opposed to the idea, fearing it would destroy the exclusiveness of their neighborhood. Other, more practical sorts, were in favor […]
  • Savall & Wiring Laundry- Date in History: 1895 – 1927 “White as snow, smooth as glass, clean as innocence,” was the slogan for the newly opened laundry business of Savall & Wiring in downtown Fort Atkinson. Opened in 1895, the laundry occupied a 28 x 60’ brick building on S. Water Street East. By 1910, they employed 12 people […]
  • Thiebeau Point- Date in History: c. 1830 Thiebeau Point on the southern shore of Lake Koshkonong was named for Joseph Thiebeau, a French-Canadian who was possibly the first white settler to live on Lake Koshkonong. By the early 19th century, a number of French fur traders – most of them married to Indian women – were living […]
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