Old Town Port Tour
1. The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co. Port Washington Power Plant
(Click any image to enlarge)

This massive power plant building dominates the view to the south of the downtown and has been one of the landmarks of Port Washington since it was built. Now a part of the Wisconsin Electric Co., the plant was begun in 1930 and the first portion, having a steel frame and clad in brown brick, was opened in 1935. This portion is a fine example of the kind of the "stripped classical" type of Neoclassical design seen also on the Port Washington Post Office. Subsequent additions were built in 1943 and 1948-1950. These additions were designed to match the original portion and they combined to create what is now by far Port Washington's largest historic building. This building is still very much in use and is largely intact today, although the four tall smoke stacks that were originally associated with it have since been replaced by two even larger ones. Besides its architectural distinction, the power plant is also of even greater significance because of its importance to the history of engineering. For many years after it was first opened, the Port Washington plant was "the most thermally efficient plant in the world" thanks to the pioneering work done by its designers on the use of pulverized coal as fuel. In recognition of this status, the plant was designated a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark in 1980 by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

This building was re-constructed - Click here to see Re-construction photos
2. Wisconsin Chair Factory Fire Historical Marker

The Wisconsin Chair Company (non-extant) operated in Port Washington on and near this site from 1888 to 1954. The company was for many years a dominant employer and industry in Port Washington, The first few years of the company’s existence were financially difficult. However, in 1891 the firm acquired the patent to the MacLean swing rocking chair. This rocker set the company on a course toward rapid success. By 1892, the company gained a national reputation for the quality of its rockers. Practically overnight, the Wisconsin Chair Company had become the largest employer in Port Washington and one of the fastest growing companies in Wisconsin. At one time the company employed one sixth of the workers of Ozaukee County. The Wisconsin Chair Company had become the largest manufacture of floor rockers in the world and seemed invincible until the evening of Sunday, February 19, 1899.

3. The Wilson Hotel Building 200 N. Franklin St.

Built on the site of the old Union House Hotel, which was built in 1850 as a commercial building and expanded and converted into a hotel between 1867 and 1875, is the Wilson House Hotel. This hotel served as a headquarters for firemen battling the famous 1899 Wisconsin Chair Factory fire that at one point threatened the entire city. Like so many of the buildings in the downtown, the first story of the Franklin Street facade of the Wilson Hotel has been greatly altered over time, but fortunately, a sympathetic recent renovation of the building has undone some of the damage.

4. Barnum Blake Building 201 N. Franklin St.

Barnum Blake, prominent early Port Washington businessman, was involved in many enterprises such as lumbering, retail/wholesale trade, land speculation, and operated one of the three commercial piers. He had this building built in 1854. Although the design of the facade of this building fits within the overall framework of the Italianate style, the arched window elements and corresponding arched portion of the cornice are also analogous to the arched elements found in the contemporary "Rundbogenstil" designs that were then fashionable with the German-American community in nearby Milwaukee and even in Madison. This ethnic variation of Romanesque Revival style had been brought over to America by German-trained architects and found favor with many German immigrants who came to this part of Wisconsin in the 1850s.

5. Schanen Building 125 E. Main St.

The highly intact Art Moderne Style Schanen Building was constructed on the eve of World War II after a fire destroyed the previous building on the site. Overt Art Moderne design elements are few, being principally confined to the three-part windows and to the entrance bay, which features shallow, inset, fluted, two-story pilaster strips that flank the deeply inset flat-arched main entrance, which has canted side walls, and the tall second story window above it. The Schanen Building was built for attorney William F. Schanen to house his office and the offices and printing plant of the Ozaukee Press, which was owned and edited by his son, William F. Schanen, Jr. Schanen's architect was the Green Bay firm of Foeller, Schober & Berners, which had previously designed a fine Norman Revival Style house for him in 1928 at 746 W. Grand Ave.

6. Leland Stanford’s Law Office

Adjacent to the parking lot of the Thill Hotel Building is the former site of Leland Stanford’s Law Office. Leland Stanford is Port Washington’s most famous national figure. He moved to Port Washington from New York State to practice law in 1848. In 1852, the gold rush lured him to California where he operated a lucrative grocery business and later in 1861 was elected Governor. His business successes included becoming President of the Central Pacific Railroad. On May 10, 1869 at Promentory, Utah, the Central Pacific met the Union Pacific completing the transcontinental railroad. Stanford, as president of the Central Pacific, drove the golden spike. He also endowed Stanford University, which was named for his son who died at a young age. Unfortunately, the federal style building was razed in 1975.

7. Thill's Hotel Building. 101 E. Main St.

The Neoclassical Revival Style influenced Thill Hotel was built in 1902 on the site of an earlier hotel owned and run by Thill. Upon completion, the new building was both the largest and the newest hotel in Port Washington and it retained this distinction until after World War II. Three stories tall, with a rock-faced stone-clad basement story and the main stories clad in cream brick, the hotel's main facade features numerous classically derived details and has an overall feeling of symmetricality even though the actual design is not, in fact, truly symmetrical. Room Rates around 1900 were $1.50 a day and the hotel offered omnibus service to the railroad depot.

8. U. S. Post Office. 104 E. Main St.

The tan brick-clad Port Washington post office was built in 1937 to a design produced by the Supervising Architect’s office of the U. S. Treasury Department under the direction of William Simon, the Supervising Architect. The style was a favorite of this office in the 1930s and is sometimes referred to as "stripped classical," because buildings that display it are generally symmetrical in design and essentially classical in their inspiration, but have been stripped of all but the most elemental aspects of classical architecture. They also typically make use of traditional materials such as brick, stone, and ornamental metal work, all of which are present in this fine, highly intact building. The Post Office location has changed many times since the founding of the city. One prior location is the building north of and adjacent to the Port Washington State Bank which is clearly marked "Post Office".

9. Ozaukee County Courthouse 121 W. Main St.

The outstanding Richardsonian Romanesque Revival Style limestone-clad Courthouse was completed in 1902 to a design by Milwaukee architect Frederick Graf at a cost of $65,000. Attached to the 1902 Courthouse today is a Modern Movement addition built in 1969 and the former Ozaukee County Jail building, which was built in 1954 to a design by Green Bay architects Foeller, Schober, and Berners. Frederick A. Graf was born to German-born parents in South Germantown, Wisconsin in 1859. Trained as a carpenter, Graf moved to Milwaukee in the early 1880s and continued to work at this trade. In 1888, Graf entered the office of pioneer Milwaukee architect James Douglas as a draughtsman and apprentice architect. In 1892, Graf opened his own architectural office and advertised himself as a specialist in "fine residences." In 1898, Graf won what would be one of the most important commissions of his career; the Ozaukee County Courthouse in Port Washington. The Courthouse is built on the site of the previous Courthouse, an excellent brick-clad Italianate Style three-story building that had been built in 1854. The 1954 Jail Building was itself built on the site of a previous County Jail, which was a large brick Queen Anne Style house that contained both the jail itself and the residence of the jailer. The Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 .

Old Courthouse Centennial Jubilee
10. The Stairways of Port Washington

Port Washington has been known as the "City of Seven Hills" due to the topography upon which the city is built. The location of the seven hills are as follows: North Bluff, South Bluff, , north end of Wisconsin Street, Webster street at the high school, Orchard Lane, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and here at the west end of Main Street. A number of these hills have interesting local nicknames. The original layout of the city is a grid that ignored the topography. Some grading was done to impose the grid pattern. However, a number of streets were simply connected with stairways. Today these stairways provide beautiful natural niches within the city. The stairway here is simply the continuation of Main Street. At the top continue for block and take the stairway down to your left, which is a continuation of Montgomery Street. This hill is locally known as "sweetcake" hill.

11. Byron Teed/Eghart House 316 Grand Ave.

Locally known as the "Eghart House" this front gabled Victorian was built ca.1870-1872 by local carpenter and builder Lewis Teed for Byron Teed. The house was purchased by Judge Leopold Eghart from Teed in 1881 and remained in the Eghart family until 1969. Then a group of local citizens saved the house from an impending parking lot and restored it as a public museum. Furnished with Victorian antiques donated by local families it is open to tour on Sundays from May through September.  See more information

12. Hoffman House Hotel 200 W. Grand Ave. and

Ed. Lutzen Hotel and Saloon 201 W. Grand Ave.

Two historic hotels are located across the street from each other on opposite corners of W. Grand Ave. and Milwaukee St.. On the north side of Grand Ave. is the Hoffman House Hotel, built in 1895, and on the south side is the Ed. Lutzen Hotel and Saloon, built in 1899. The Hoffman House, billed as a "first class" hotel in every respect, is a three story Queen Anne style building with nicely detailed brickwork. The corner tower has paneling, ornamental swags, brackets and moldings all made of sheet metal. The side facing Grand Avenue had at one time an "automobile terminal". The intact state of this building is remarkable. The Hoffman House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Built in 1899, the Lutzen Hotel was actually built on the site of an earlier hotel that had been known as the American House. The corner tower of this Queen Anne style building of local cream brick was originally capped with a dome. Both the Ed. Lutzen Hotel and the Hoffman House Hotel are excellent representatives of the early demand for downtown hotels.

13. R. Stelling Grist & Flour Mill

To the south, at end and west side of Milwaukee Street, is the R. Stelling Grist & Flour Mill. The three-story Astylistic Utilitarian building is practically the only survivor of Port Washington's once numerous nineteenth century industrial buildings. Sources differ, but it is believed that this now vacant but still very intact building was either first built by Stelling in 1853 or was built in 1848 by George and Julius Tomlinson and afterwards rebuilt and enlarged by Stelling. Further research will be necessary to determine the original owners and construction date, but there seems to be agreement that this building assumed much of its present form under Stelling's ownership. The foundation and much of the first story of this building is made of rubble stone. The upper stories are clad in cream brick. The scarcity of intact nineteenth century industrial buildings in Port Washington, and the importance of the mill to the industrial history of the city, makes this building unique. 

Note: This building has been demolished - Click here for article - Loss of mill leave hole in city, hearts
14. Hoffman Adam Building/Ozaukee Theater 116 W. Grand Ave.

The Hoffman Adam Building was built in 1926 and housed the Ozaukee Theater. Built in the Mediterranean style popular in the 1920’s, this building is the last remaining structure representing the early vaudeville / movie theater houses.

15. Port Washington Municipal Building 100 W. Grand Ave.

A number of different buildings played at least partial roles in housing the various functions of city and town government in the period before the present Modern Movement style Port Washington Municipal Building constructed in 1958 to a design by the Port Washington architectural and engineering firm of Blong & Kempf. The predecessor of this building (pictured below left) occupied the same site and was a frame construction Italianate style concert hall with a seating capacity of 800 built by the Port Washington Gesang Verin (singing society), a German-American social organization that put an emphasis on music and group singing. Subsequently, this building served as the Port Washington Opera House and still later as the Port Washington City Hall, which, among other things, housed the city offices and the local library. The building was demolished when the present Municipal Building was built. 

City Hall Re-Dedication
16. Edward Dodge House "Pebble House" 126 E. Grand Ave.

An exceptionally fine and very rare example of cobblestone construction designed in the Greek Revival style is the Edward Dodge House built in 1848. Edward Dodge was an early Port Washington resident and blacksmith who with his spouse gathered the stones along the shoreline. The house originally was located on the south bank of Sauk Creek and was moved near the Wisconsin Electric Power Plant where it served for many years as a gatehouse. It subsequently was moved to its present location and is now the Port Washington Visitors center. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. 

17. Smith Bros. Restaurant Building 100 N. Franklin St.

The fine Colonial Revival style Smith Bros. Restaurant Building was built by the brothers in 1954 to house their very well known seafood restaurant. The previous restaurant was located on a portion of the site of the present building, but was destroyed by fire in 1953, necessitating the construction of the present building. Two-stories in height and clad in red brick, the Smith Bros. building is rectilinear in plan and is one of the largest buildings in the downtown and perhaps the best known to visitors. Designed by Milwaukee architect William J. Ames, the building is a fine, highly intact, late example of the Colonial Revival style.

18. Smith Bros. Fish Net House

To the south, across the west slip, is a simple Astylistic Utilitarian form building built by the Smith Brothers between 1922 and 1938 as a net storage and workshop facility for their commercial fishing operations. The Smith Brothers and their descendants have probably been the best known of Port Washington's commercial fishing families over the years, thanks in part to the very well known restaurants they have operated in conjunction with their other operations. This highly intact building has become the most visible resource associated with the commercial fishing history of Port Washington. The recent demolition of the two adjacent buildings, including the Smith Bros. smoke house building, now means that it is the last remaining intact historic building associated with Port Washington’s commercial fishing heritage.

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City Hall 100 W Grand Ave P.O. Box 307 - Port Washington WI 53074 - Email Us