Cedarburg is a quaint and thoroughly charming town about 20 miles north of Milwaukee. Founded before Wisconsin was a state, the small town drew folks who built mills on Cedar Creek. Though it’s close to our biggest city, Cedarburg feels miles away. It’s the perfect spot to spend a day shopping and relaxing. This small town has embraced its history. Old buildings abound here and the locals have worked to restore and preserve them. According to the city, there are more than 200 buildings in this area listed on the National Historic Register. Many of them have been repurposed and are now shops and restaurants along the city’s main street. You’ll love spending a day wandering these buildings that are more than a century old and spending a day in one of Wisconsin’s most quaint little towns.
1. Cedarburg Mill
The most iconic building in town is the main mill. The Cedarburg Mill was built by Cedarburg founders Frederick Hilgen and William Schroeder in 1855 at a cost of $22,000. The lower walls are 32 inches thick and the largest part is five stories high. There were no cranes at the time, so an incline was built to push and pull the materials up to the top. A dam was built to provide power and the mill was in working order up until a few years ago. Located at N58W6181 Columbia Rd., Cedarburg, WI 53012.
2. Washington House Inn
On the other end of town, the Washington House Inn began 1846 in this exact location. Originally a wooden house, it was replaced in 1886 with the cream city brick building that still stands there today. It was an inn into the 1920s, but moved on to different commercial space for six decades. In 1983, it was renovated back into an inn and reopened in 1984 as the Washington House Inn. Located at W62 N573 Washington Ave., Cedarburg, WI 53012.
3. The Hilgen-Wittenberg Woolen Mill complex
Now known as the Cedar Creek Settlement and home to Cedar Creek Winery, among other spots, this mill was built in 1865. It produced yarns, blankets, flannels, socks, and mackinaws. The enterprise spread over multiple floors - the basement was for finishing and dying. The first floor contained four sets of carding machines, and the second floor was for weaving and spinning. In 1873, the mill doubled in size, adding a gabled roof addition and additional machinery purchased from England. During WWII, the mill was a major supplier of wool blankets. In 1945, the mill discontinued its weaving operation and stopped making blankets, but continued specialty hand weaving yarns and other items. The mill stopped all operations in 1969. Located atN70 W6340 Bridge Rd., Cedarburg, WI 53012.
4. Cedarburg Art Museum
Wittenberg Woolen Mill owner Diedrich Wittenberg built this house as a gift for his daughter and her husband, who married in 1895. It was designed in 1898 by Cedarburg architect William Hilgen and is the largest mansion in Cedarburg. Come for the gorgeous art on display, but stay for the fabulous turn-of-the-century Victorian details in this gorgeous house. Located at W63 N675 Washington Ave., Cedarburg, WI 53012.
5. The Old Firehouse
The term "old" is used because this building was replaced by the present firehouse in November of 1964. This building was constructed in 1908 to replace the previous firehouse that had been destroyed in a fire on April 2, 1907. This land was once home to an old school that the fire department bought land from. There's a tall hose tower that was used for drying the long fire hose. Located at W61 N619-623 Washington Ave., Cedarburg, WI 53012.
6. Wadham's Oil and Grease Filling Station
This Milwaukee-based company built more than 30 of these "Japanese Tea House" style filling stations in the area in the 1920s. A few still remain, but this one is in particularly great shape and as it sits right next to the Cedarburg Mill, it's a particularly jarring juxtaposition of styles. Located at N58 W6189 Columbia Rd., Cedarburg, WI 53012.
7. Visitor's Center, General Store and Museum
Located in the old Hilgen & Schroeder Mill Store, this newly renovated spot has huge collection of vintage ads, a soda fountain and the 19th-century dry-goods store. Take time to peruse the massive photo albums by the register; they offer a comprehensive town history. The building was constructed in 1856 and is in the iconic cream city brick. It was meant to be the retail outlet for the mill, back when there was no street between them. Located at 6194 Columbia Rd., Cedarburg, WI 53012.
8. Covered Bridge
The Cedarburg Bridge is the last remaining covered bridge in the state of Wisconsin. It was built in 1876 and was retired as an auto bridge in 1962. The bridge is made of pine logs that are set in place in lattice truss construction using 3×10-inch planks that were secured by two-inch hardwood pins. This technique eliminated the use of nails or bolts.
9. Cedarburg Brewing Complex
According to the Wisconsin HIstorical Society, This building was built in the 1840s for Cedarburg Brewing, making it one of the oldest breweries in southeast Wisconsin. The newest brewery to occupy the space is Rebellion Brewing. It's a fascinating old building using locally quarried limestone and Cream City Brick. It's in a great location, perched right on the creek. The brewery stables and two-story smokehouse also remain. Located at W62 N714-730 Riveredge Dr., Cedarburg, WI 53012.
Have you ever visited this beautiful and beautifully preserved small town? Tell us all about it in the comments!
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