Community

Top 6 Reasons to Discover Whitewater

Nestled within the trees, lakes, prairies, and hills of the Kettle Moraine State Forest in southeastern Wisconsin, is Whitewater, a city rich with opportunity and exploration.

Scenic Kettle Moraine

Whitewater is nestled in the beautiful Kettle Moraine, come join us for a hike, bike, or run. 

Premier Arts Opportunities

Word class art, music, and theater are all available right on Main Street.

Elite Athletic Teams

National Championship winning UW-Whitewater athletics are not to be missed.

Family Fun

4th of July Festival, Whitewater Aquatic Center, Young Memorial Library, and Whitewater Makerspace are just a few of the many opportunities for people of all ages. 

Walkable Community

From Downtoan to UW-Whitewater to the west side, you can walk throughout the community to take advantage of all we have here.  

Enjoy the Area Lakes

Enjoy the area lakes including Whitewater Lake, Rice Lake, Cravath Lake, and Tripp Lake. There are plenty of recreational opportunities – fishing, swimming, kayaking, boating, etc.

What Our Members Are Saying

I am a Chamber Member because being a Bank Manager, it’s important to have a presence in the town, it’s all about networking and who you know! The connections I make at Associated Bank and the connections I make within the Chamber are all related. If I can assist a business customer with a need by connecting them to a Chamber Member, or if I can assist a Chamber Member with a connection I have at the bank, it’s a win-win! When our locally owned businesses and Chamber Members are thriving, the town thrives. It’s all about nourishing those connections within the town so everyone can benefit in this community.

Sarah Wambura

Branch Manager, Associated Bank

Whitewater’s History

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Before Whitewater

Long before the city’s official founding, the area was home to many different ancient peoples. The most recent historic Native American tribe living in the Whitewater area was the Potawatomi. The soft white clay found in Whitewater Creek gave the water a whitish appearance and the community its name: Whitewater.

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Early Beginnings

Samuel Prince is credited as the first permanent white settler in the Whitewater area after he built the first log cabin home in July 1837. Many of the earliest Whitewater settlers hailed from upstate New York and came to Wisconsin in search of new economic opportunities, like farming. At this time, wheat was the top-producing crop in the state. However, local farmers needed somewhere to process their harvested wheat crops. In 1839, settlement leaders sought the assistance of Dr. James Trippe, a wealthy southeastern Wisconsin businessman, to build both a dam and grist mill on East Main Street. Whitewater was well on its way to a solid start.

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A Maturing Village

It did not take long for Whitewater to blossom into a lively hub of industrial activity. The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad (later the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad or the “Milwaukee Road”) laid the first tracks through Whitewater in 1852. Additionally, in 1868, Whitewater Normal School (known today as the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater) opened its doors as a state teachers’ college. Both of these developments further ensured Whitewater’s permanent place on the map.

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The Industrial Era

Throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century, agriculture continued to be an important component of the city’s livelihood. This includes the production of agricultural equipment by the Esterly Manufacturing Company as well as plows and wagons by the Winchester & Partridge Manufacturing Company. These factories were the main employers in town, especially for the many newly arriving European immigrants to southeastern Wisconsin.

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The Commercial Era

Despite the abrupt closure of both of the Esterly and Winchester & Partridge factories in the 1890s, Whitewater still maintained close ties with the agricultural industry, especially the dairy industry. Many local farmers brought their milk to local milk plants as well as the many cheese factories and creameries. Other employers included the Whitewater Canning Company and the Whitewater Raincoat Factory. These industries, as well as the continued growth of the Whitewater Normal School, helped Whitewater thrive throughout the first half of the twentieth century. 

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The Contemporary Era

After WWII, Whitewater saw significant growth in many different forms. With the post-war population and economic booms, shopping options expanded in many cities like Whitewater to beyond just the downtown district. In addition, the University saw a substantial increase in their offered programs and, subsequently, enrollment, spurring the construction of the first dorm buildings in the 1950s. The physical boundaries of the city grew as well, with new housing and businesses stretching the city limits to their largest proportions.

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Whitewater of Today

Today, Whitewater is a bustling city full of many kinds of activity. Many companies call Whitewater’s Business Park home, maintaining the area’s tradition of manufacturing and production. The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater continues to be the largest employer in town, serving over 12,000 students between its Whitewater and Janesville campuses.

Visit the Discover Whitewater Office

To learn more about Whitewater’s history, and for information regarding local landmarks, businesses, recreation, entertainment, and more, stop by our office at 150 W. Main Street.