Levi Barnes and Samuel Chapman established the area that would later become the Village of Waterford community on January 1, 1836, when they obtained waterpower rights on the Fox River. A dam was built and later a sawmill and flourmill were added which became the nucleus of Waterford. The Village developed as a result of the milling activities and got its name, "Waterford" because of its location at the shallow area of the Fox River where horse-drawn covered wagons could cross. Their families and other settlers soon followed and in a short time a thriving village had grown up on the banks of the Fox. Waterford was separated from the town of Rochester, of which it was originally a part, in 1847.
In 1898, a fire started in the basement of Louis Noll's general store on the site where the Ten Club Park band shell now stands. Most of the buildings on the south side of Main Street were destroyed.
The Village incorporated in 1906 and the first Village President, William Shenkenberg, was elected during the first election on February 20, 1906.
In 1923, Waterford was the largest and most prosperous village in western Racine County, Wisconsin, located in the Fox River Valley - the center of a rich farming community - one of the garden spots of the world. The population was about seven hundred. The schools, churches and shops of Waterford were unequaled in any Village its size in Racine County. It was the center educationally, religiously and commercially for hundreds of farmers and their families. Lumber, agriculture and masonry stimulated the economy. From the 1920's to the 1990's Waterford's population grew to approximately 3,000.
In the late 1990's the Village experienced urban pressure to expand from the north, the east and the south. Land was annexed from the Town of Waterford to facilitate construction of new residential single family homes and condominium development. In 1998 the Village developed its first Master Plan. In the 20th century, Waterford had grown to a community of over 4,800 inhabitants, offers shopping, industry and recreational opportunities.
In 2000, the Village annexed land from the Town of Waterford for purposes of creating a 79-acre business park, anchored by the Runzheimer International headquarters building which opened in the fall of 2001 at the intersection of highways 36 and 164. This area is also located in the Village's second Tax Increment District.
The Village is currently the home to the Graded and High School Districts. The Waterford Graded School District added two new elementary schools in 2001, giving it a total of three public elementary schools and a middle school. Waterford High School completed a new addition and renovation project which holds 1,200 students. The Village is also home to St. Peter's Lutheran Grade School and St. Thomas Aquinas Graded School. Community Methodist Church is another church within the Village limits, but without school facilities.
In 2005 the 79-acre business park was connected via the Tax Increment District along STH 36 to the Trail View Development, providing vacant commercial land for future development, a senior assisted living facility and senior condominiums.
Shortly after this development was created, the Village's Plan Commission developed Planning Priorities to guide future development within the existing Village limits and provide criteria for evaluating proposals for annexations. During this time the Village also created a park and open space plan, including public spaces, such as Whitford Park, Village Hall Park, Huening Park, River Bend Park, school playground and green space areas, and private parks located within individual subdivisions.
In June of 2008 the Village completed an update to their Master Plan and incorporated the planning document with the Racine County Multi-jurisdictional Comprehensive Plan, meeting Smart Growth requirements. Also completed this year was the first Safe Routes to School Grant which identifies the need for safe routes within the Village and along STH 83/20.
Now that the comprehensive planning documents have been updated, the Plan Commission and Village Board have begun to study the specific area of Main Street in Waterford located approximately between Milwaukee Avenue and Water Street within the Heritage District. The first study is being completed by the Clue Group in conjunction with Racine County Economic Development Corporation (RCEDC). Clue will be providing an analysis with concepts on how Waterford can fill a retail/office gap on Main Street. Second the Village is participating in the First Impressions Program provided by the UW-Extension. The program requires a group from Waterford to visit our identified comparable, Village of Kewaskum, and rate the community of criteria providing them with our first impression. Kewaskum will in turn do the same for Waterford. Last, the Ad Hoc Design Guideline Committee was formed to develop and provide recommendations on the design criteria for the structures located along Main Street. The Committee has also been requested to provide recommendations on implementing the guidelines and providing streetscape suggestions for the reconstruction of STH 83/20, a project with a likelihood of occurring in the next ten years.
As it has been for more the 175 years, Waterford is truly, "a great place to come home to."
Photos courtesy of:
Charles Noll, Waterford Public Library, The Gin Mill and Riverview Inn Bed and Breakfast.
Levi Barnes and Samuel Chapman's Sawmill
Louis Noll's General Store
Main Street in the 1920s
Westerra Business Campus - Runzheimer
Westerra Business Center
Westerra Retail Center