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Wausau (pronounced /ˈwôˌsô/) is a city in and the county seat of Marathon Countymarker, Wisconsinmarker, United Statesmarker. The Wisconsin River divides the city. The city is adjacent to the town of Wausaumarker.

According to the 2000 census, Wausau had a population of 38,426 people. It is the core city of the Wausau Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes all of Marathon County and had a population of 125,834 at the 2000 census. It is the 297th largest MSA in the United States. Besides Wausau, other significant communities in the metropolitan area include Schofieldmarker, Rothschildmarker, Westonmarker, Kronenwettermarker, and the town of Rib Mountainmarker.



The Wisconsin River is what first drew settlers to the area during the mid-1800s, which was known as "Big Bull Flats" or "Big Bull Falls" by the original French explorers. The long rapids created many bubbles (bulle, in French). A treaty with the Chippewa Indians in 1836 transferred the land in the area to federal ownership. Wausau means "a faraway place" or "a place which can be seen from far away" in the Ojibwe language.

George Stevens, who lent his name to Stevens Pointmarker, a city south of Wausau, began processing the pine forests into lumber in 1840. Subsequently, other sawmills along the Wisconsin River began to spring up as well. By 1846, Walter McIndoe arrived and took the lead in the local business and community. His efforts helped, in part, to establish Marathon Countymarker in 1850.

Early settlers

By 1852, Wausau had been established as a town and continued to grow and mature. German immigration into the area brought more people, and by 1861, the town was incorporated as a village.

Churches, schools, industry and social organizations began to flourish with the state granting the city a charter in 1872, and with elections held the first Tuesday in April.

The residents elected August Kickbusch, Sr. as their first mayor in 1874. Five years earlier, Kickbusch had returned to his homeland of Germany and brought back to America with him 702 people, all of whom are believed to have settled in the Wausau Area. Kickbusch founded the A. Kickbusch Wholesale Grocery Company, a family business carried on by his grandson, August Kickbusch II. In 1917, August Kickbusch II purchased a modest four-square style house at 513 Grant Street and undertook massive renovations, adding two sun rooms, arcaded windows and a tiled porch in the Mediterranean style, a formal classical entrance, and ornate custom-designed chimney crowns. The home is on the national register of historic places as part of the Andrew Warren Historic District.

When the railroad arrived in 1874, Wausau was even more accessible to settlers and industry, which was still mostly focused on lumber. This allowed the city to continue to grow and flourish, even as other villages and towns in the area were forced to close because of the rapidly vanishing forests and closing of the lumber mills.

Twentieth century

The Grand Theater, built in 1927, replaced the Grand Opera House (1899).

Wausau's favorable location on the Wisconsin River was partly responsible for the city's survival. Further, the economy was reformed and diversified in the early 1900s by an insurance group called Employers Insurance of Wausau, who were later known as the Wausau Group or Wausau Insurance Companies. Its logo, first introduced in 1954, was the downtown Milwaukee Road railroad depot, which was set against the backdrop of the community's skyline. This company put Wausau in the minds of people across the country. The Wausau Insurance Company is now a part of Liberty Mutual after being purchased by Liberty Mutual. It is no longer known as Wausau Insurance Company but is now called Liberty Mutual.

As with the arrival of the railroad, the arrival of the automobile helped improve roads in the area.

The stock market crash in 1929 had a major effect on the Wausau area. Many industries were forced to cut back by laying off and dismissing workers or by closing all together. After decades of positive growth, the city virtually ground to a halt. However, under the New Deal, Wausau was significantly modernized. And after World War II, the city once again continued to grow in industry, education, recreation, and retail, more so than in population.

In 1983, the Wausau Center shopping mall opened and still exists today. By the mid- to late-1990s, the city of Wausau began to purchase and develop more of the West Industrial Park to meet the needs of the expanding economy and companies.

The 400 Block in downtown Wausau

In the late 1990s, the city tore down a number of aging buildings on a square in the center of downtown, creating what is known locally at the 400 Block, an open, grassy block with paved sidewalks crossing it. The square is a focal point for summer festivals and lends a certain charm to the city's quaint downtown district.

The new millennium

By the end of the twentieth century, the Wausau City Council had begun to implement the Redevelopment Plan, or the Wausau Central Business District Master Plan. This included redevelopment and economic structuring of downtown Wausau. Significant school construction in recent years has occurred in response to changing demographics.

Geography and climate


Wausau is located at .

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 17.8 square miles (46.0 km²), of which, 16.5 square miles (42.7 km²) of it is land and 1.3 square miles (3.3 km²) of it (7.15%) is water. The city is located at an altitude of 364.2 meters (1,195 ft). Wausau is close the center of the northern half of the western hemisphere. Just west of Wausau, 45 degrees latitude meets 90 degrees longitude, which is exactly halfway between the equator and the north pole and a quarter of the way around the world from the prime meridian.


Wausau's climate is classified as halfway between temperate and subarctic (boreal and hemiboreal). Wausau is built on or around a hemiboreal forest which has some of the characteristics of a boreal forest. They also share some of the features of the temperate zone forests to the south. Coniferous trees predominate in the hemiboreal zone, but a significant number of deciduous species are found there as well.

The area has four distinct seasons.
  • Average annual precipitation: 31.6 inches (80.3 centimeters).
  • Average daily high temperatures:
    • January: 20.8 Fahrenheit (-6 Celsius)
    • July: 84.3 Fahrenheit (29 Celsius)


[[Image:Wausau-Merrill CSA.png|thumb|left|200px|Location of the Wausau-Merrill CSA and its components:]]

Wausau is the larger principal city of the Wausau-Merrill CSAmarker, a Combined Statistical Area that includes the Wausau metropolitan areamarker (Marathon County) and the Merrill micropolitan areamarker (Lincoln Countymarker), which had a combined population of 155,475 at the 2000 census.

As of the census of 2000, there were 38,426 people, 15,678 households, and 9,328 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,330.7 people per square mile (899.7/km²). There were 16,668 housing units at an average density of 1,011.0/sq mi (390.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 85.91% White, 0.54% Black or African American, 0.59% Native American, 11.41% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.30% from other races, and 1.21% from two or more races. 1.04% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 15,678 households out of which 27.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.7% were married couples living together, 9.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.5% were non-families. 33.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 3.08.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.4% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 27.5% from 25 to 44, 20.4% from 45 to 64, and 17.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 92.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $36,831, and the median income for a family was $47,065. Males had a median income of $33,076 versus $24,303 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,227. About 7.2% of families and 11.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.1% of those under age 18 and 8.4% of those age 65 or over.

Government and politics

City hall
Wausau has a mayor-council form of government. Twelve elected alderpersons comprise the city council, each representing one district of the city.


Nearly one third of the Marathon County economy is based in manufacturing, and the balance of service and industry provides a stable and productive work force. Prominent industries include paper manufacturing, insurance, home manufacturing, and tourism. The Wausau region has a consistently lower than average unemployment rate and continues a steady growth in job creation and economic viability among manufacturers and service providers alike. Wausau has 12 banks with 41 branch locations, three trust companies and three holding companies in the metropolitan area. There are also 13 open membership credit unions with 18 branch locations.

The Wausau area is a center for cultivation of American ginseng. Wausau is also known for its red granite, which is mined nearby.


Colleges and universities

Wausau is home to Northcentral Technical College and the University of Wisconsin–Marathon Countymarker, a 2-year college that is part of the University of Wisconsin system. Wausau is also home to a number of satellite campuses, including University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, Upper Iowa University, Lakeland College, Concordia University, and Rasmussen College (2010).

Public schools

Public schools are part of the Wausau School District. The main dividing line that is used to place students is the Wisconsin River, which runs north to south through the city. The Wausau School District has 14 elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools. The Wausau East High School sports teams are the Lumberjacks and the Wausau West High School the Warriors.

Charter school

Wausau Area Montessori Charter School comprises grades 1-6 and is housed at Horace Mann Middle School. Enrollment for the 2007-2008 school year finds WAMCS increasing from 50 students in 2006-2007 to 80 students the following year. Two kindergarten classes are available at the Montessori Children's Village and Rib Mountain Montessori.

Private schools

The city's Roman Catholic parochial schools are known as the Newman Catholic Schools. These include Newman Elementary Schools at St. Anne, St. Michael and St. Mark, Newman Middle School at St. Matthew's, and Newman Catholic High Schoolmarker. Newman High's sport teams are the Cardinals. Trinity Lutheran is a Missouri Synod Lutheran grade school.

Public libraries

The Marathon County Historical Society maintains a library at its headquarters.
The Marathon County Public Library - Wausau Headquartersmarker, located downtown, near the Wausau Center Mall is the largest library in the Wausau area. The MCPL - Wausau Headquarters was formed when the County and City libraries merged in 1974; it serves as the headquarters for the Marathon County Public Librarymarker system, which encompasses all public libraries in Marathon County, including eight branch libraries.


The Marathon County fairgrounds is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Mass transit system

Roads and Highways

U.S. 51 Northbound US 51 to Woodruff, Wisconsinmarker. Southbound, US 51 routes to Stevens Pointmarker.
I-39 Southbound, routes to Stevens Pointmarker.
WIS 52 travels east to Antigomarker.
WIS 29 travels east to Green Baymarker, and west to Abbotsfordmarker and Chippewa Fallsmarker.


The Wisconsin Woodchucks baseball team of the Northwoods League, an NCAA summer baseball league, plays home games at the Athletic Parkmarker in Wausau. The Wisconsin Woodchucks were formerly known as the Wausau Woodchucks. Woody Woodchuck is the mascot of the Woodchucks.

Granite Peak Ski Areamarker offers downhill skiing at nearby Rib Mountain. The mountain is the highest skiable mountain in the state and the second highest vertical drop in the Midwest. It first became a ski area in 1937, when Wausau residents cleared six runs by hand, installed the nation’s longest ski lift and built a chalet with stone quarried nearby. The newly remodeled historical chalet includes an upstairs lounge with views of the mountain and features live music every Saturday night. Today, Granite Peak has 74 runs and 7 ski lifts. Granite Peak earned Ski Magazine’s #1 ranking in Wisconsin, Upper Michigan and Minnesota.

Wausau is also home to a world-class kayak course, having hosted numerous regional, national, and world competitions over the last two decades.

Media and entertainment

See also: List of radio stations in Wausau and Central Wisconsin, List of television stations in Wausau-Rhinelander and area

The only local daily newspaper is the Wausau Daily Herald, with a daily circulation of 21,400 during the week and 27,500 on Sunday. City Pages is a smaller free weekly newspaper. Le Dernier Cri is a monthly newspaper that reports on local business.

Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum
Wausau is home to the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museummarker, known for its "Birds in Art" collection as well as Leigh Yawkey Woodson's heirloom collection of decorative glass.

Notable natives

Cultural references

Exact replica of the downtown Milwaukee Road station on the former campus of Wausau Insurance on a hill above the city
  • Popularly known from the lead-in commercial for the American television news show 60 Minutes in the 1970s and early 1980s for Employers Insurance of Wausau and, later, Wausau Insurance Companies. (Taxi driver: "You're from Warsaw? My brother lives in Krakow.")
  • Referenced in the film, The Great Buck Howard: "Welcome to Wausau, Wisconsin!"


  1. Kickbusch house
  2. Wausau Central Business District Master Plan
  3. school construction
  4. Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Components, Office of Management and Budget, 2007-05-11. Accessed 2008-08-01.
  5. Combined Statistical Areas and Component Core Based Statistical Areas, Office of Management and Budget, 2007-05-11. Accessed 2008-08-01.
  6. Wausau Daily Herald

External links

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