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West Bend City

West Bend City Hall is located at 1115 South Main Street, West Bend, WI 53095; phone: 262-335-5100.

Beginnings [1]

In the fall of 1845, the Territorial Legislature of Wisconsin commissioned three Milwaukee men, Byron Kilbourn, James Kneeland, and Dr. Eratus B. Wolcott, to lay out a road from Milwaukee to Fond du Lac—the Milwaukee-Fond du Lac Road. While laying out the road, the survey party selected a site for a town—which eventually became the City of West Bend—at a point 40 miles northwest of Milwaukee where the road first came adjacent to the Milwaukee River. The site was selected for two reasons—first, it was approximately half way between Milwaukee and Fond du Lac and would provide a convenient stopping place for travelers between these two cities; and second, the rapid current of water in this stretch of the river had potential for water power and thus could facilitate economic growth. An unincorporated village was platted around the Milwaukee-Fond du Lac Road in 1845 by Jasper Vliet, a member of this survey party. Vliet laid out the new streets in a grid pattern.

Immediately thereafter, Byron Kilbourn—seeing the economic advantages of locating a mill at the newly platted village—secured the financial support of Kneeland, Wolcott, and E. N. Higgins. Kilbourn, Kneeland, and Higgins purchased eight 80-acre tracts of land. As Wolcott's part of the investment in the new settlement, he agreed to finance and build a sawmill and a gristmill. After all four men entered into a partnership agreement in September 1845, they chose the name West Bend for the new village. By 1848 a dam was constructed across the Milwaukee River, as well as a sawmill and a gristmill near Beech Street.

Simultaneously with the 1845 founding of West Bend, Barton Salisbury also noticed the economic potential of the West Bend area for industrial development based upon the fall of the Milwaukee River through the area. Salisbury built a sawmill on the Milwaukee River near its confluence with Pigeon Creek. The site of this sawmill eventually became the Village of Barton so named after Barton Salisbury.

During the 1850s and 1860s the settlements located around these mills grew rapidly and became trading centers for the largely rural population of the Towns of West Bend and Barton. In 1868, the Village of West Bend was incorporated from a part of the Town of West Bend.

In 1872-1873 the Chicago & North Western Railway's Milwaukee to Fond du Lac line was constructed through West Bend and subsequently served as a catalyst for continuing development of the West Bend area. In addition to fostering the growth of the West Bend area, the railway altered the pattern of urban growth in the area. The directors of the Chicago & North Western located a depot on the east side of the Milwaukee River. Prior to that, much of West Bend's commercial, industrial, and residential land uses were located on the west side of the Milwaukee River in the pattern established by the initial plat of the Village in 1845. The Village was incorporated as the City of West Bend on March 18, 1885. Between 1890 and 1930, West Bend experienced significant economic expansion. In 1925, the Village of Barton was incorporated from a part of the Town of Barton.

  1. City of West Bend, 2020 Comprehensive Plan, adopted, 2004; amended, 2012; http://www.ci.west-bend.wi.us, accessed January, 2014.
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