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Port Washington pierhead light, as viewed from Lake Michigan
Port Washington is the county seat of Ozaukee Countymarker in the U.S. state of Wisconsinmarker. The city is about 25 miles north of Milwaukeemarker and 110 miles north of Chicagomarker. In the 2000 census Port Washington had a population of 10,467. The ZIP code is 53074.


The area that became Port Washington was explored by the Frenchmarker in the late 17th century. In 1835, General Wooster Harrison became the town's first permanent settler, in what he originally named "Wisconsin City". Harrison later renamed the town "Washington". Harrison's wife, Rhoda, was the first white settler to be buried in the town when she died in 1837. Around 1843 the name was changed to "Sauk Washington". The town of Port Washington was formed in January 1846 and until 1847 included the surrounding areas and what is currently Fredoniamarker, Saukvillemarker, and Belgiummarker. The City of Port Washington was incorporated with its present name in 1882.

With a natural harbor at the mouth of Sauk Creek, the city became a port on Lake Michiganmarker. The city exported cord wood, wheat and rye flour, bricks, and fish and hides, among other things.

In 1843 the first religious services were held by the Methodist Episcopal Church in private homes and the first Catholic Church services were held in a similar manner in 1847. The Washington Democrat, the town's first newspaper, was started in 1847 by Flavius J. Mills. The population reached 2,500 in 1853 and continued to increase, with an influx of immigrants from Germanymarker and Luxembourgmarker between 1853 and 1865.

In 1870 the city saw major improvements in transportation. Not only was the railroad approved to extend through Ozaukee County, the harbor was drastically improved. The dredging that occurred resulted in the first man-made harbor in North America.

J. M. Bostwick was instrumental in the opening of the Wisconsin Chair Factory in September 1888, the success of which was vital for the town to flourish. The Gilson Manufacturing Company started making garden tractors and tractor lawn mowers in 1894 and soon became the second largest business, after the Wisconsin Chair Factory.

From 1910 through 1935 Port Washington was the home of Paramount Records and other associated record labels. In 1940 the population was 4,046; in 1950 4,754.

The Port Washington power plant operated by Wisconsin Electric Power Company, now known as We Energies was established in the area. In 1943 the company stated that the Port Washington Plant was "the most efficient steam power plant in the world." The coal-fired plant received shipments of coal primarily by lake boat from its beginnings in 1935 until 2004 when the coal-fired boilers were taken out of service. The plant has since been converted to generate electricity from natural gas. The conclusion of the receipt of coal also signaled the conclusion of Port Washington as a commercial port. The harbor is now used almost exclusively by recreational boaters.

Port Washington has the largest collection of pre-Civil War buildings in Wisconsin, several of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Port Washington Visitor Center is itself a historic building known as the "Pebble House." The three-story brick courthouse was built in 1854 and originally served as jail, housing for the jailer, county offices and courtrooms.


to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.0 square miles (10.2 km²), of which, 3.8 square miles (10.0 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) of it (2.53%) is water.

The city is located at the mouth of Sauk Creek on Lake Michiganmarker, and includes the 63-acre (250,000 m²) Lake Bluff Park, where Possibility Playground is located.. Its average elevation above sea level is 612 feet (187 m). Downtown Port Washington is close to the level of Lake Michigan (approximately 581 feet above sea level) and adjacent to the marina. The remainder of the city resides somewhat higher, spread across seven hills.


As of the census of 2000, there were 10,467 people residing in Port Washington. The racial makeup of the city was 97.0% White, 0.7% Black or African American, 0.5% Asian, 0.4% Native American, 0% Pacific Islander, 0.6% from other races, and 0.89% from two or more races. 1.5% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 3,244 families and 4,763 households, of which 34.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.5% were married couples living together, 7.4% had a female householder with no husband present and 31.9% were non-families. The householder lives alone in 26.3% of all households and 10.5% of householders were aged 65 or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.05.

In the city the population was spread out with 6.6% under the age of 5, 74.2% aged 18 and over, and 13.2% 65 years and over. The median age was 36.7 years. The population is 50.4% female and 49.6% male.

In 1999 the median income for a household in the city was $54,402, and the median income for a family was $62,557. The per capita income for the city was $24,770. About 2.6% of families and 4.0% of the population were below the poverty line.


Interstate 43 passes around Port Washington to the city's west and north. WI-32 passes north to south through the city while WI-33 travels from the west before it terminates downtown.

The Ozaukee Interurban Trail, a bike trail that follows the erstwhile interurban rail line, passes through Port Washington as it traverses Ozaukee County.

The TransPORT taxi service is available within the city and surrounding two-mile radius.


Port Washington has one of the largest charter fishing fleets on the Great Lakes. Shoe manufacturer Allen Edmonds, as well as lawn and garden equipment producer, Simplicity Manufacturing, were founded in Port Washington.


  • A local farmers' market operates in the city on Saturday mornings in the summer.
  • Many Sunday evenings free concerts are offered at the City Bandshell.
  • Movies are shown free on select Friday nights in summer at the Bandshell.
  • The Maritime Heritage Festival celebrates the town's nautical history.
  • The Lion's Fest & Fish Derby is an annual fishing competition.
  • Pirate Festival is a newer addition to the city's summer entertainment.
  • Fish Day, billed as the "World's Largest One Day Outdoor Fish Fry", has been held annually since 1964 on the third Saturday in July.

Notable people

Popular culture


  1. Sister M. Jane Frances Price, S.S.N.S., The History of Port Washington, in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin (Ph.D. diss., De Paul University, 1943), pp. 7-8.
  2. Ibid., p. 11.
  3. Ibid., p. 20.
  4. Ibid., p. 31.
  5. Ibid., pp. 32-33.
  6. Ibid., p. 33.
  7. Ibid., p. 35.
  8. Ibid., p. 57.
  9. Port Washington Chamber of Commerce 2008-2009 Visitor Guide
  10. Price, p. 59.
  11. Ibid., p. 60.
  12. Ibid., p. 65.
  14. Ibid., p. 40.
  16. Ozaukee County - City of Port Washington -TransPORT Taxi Service
  18. Simplicity
  19. Port Washington Wisconsin
  20. Maritime Heritage Festival
  21. Lion's Fest
  22. Port Washington Pirate Festival
  23. Port Fish Day
  24. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He's always been in the picture for Packers"
  26. Leland Stanford

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