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Columbus, Wisconsin
Columbus City Hall
Columbus City Hall
"Red Bud City"
Location of Columbus in Dodge County, Wisconsin.
Location of Columbus in Dodge County, Wisconsin.
Country  United States
State  Wisconsin
Counties Columbia, Dodge
 • Total 4.59 sq mi (11.89 km2)
 • Land 4.55 sq mi (11.79 km2)
 • Water 0.04 sq mi (0.10 km2)
871 ft (265 m)
 • Total 5,540
 • Density 1,124.53/sq mi (434.20/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (Central)
Zip Code
Area code(s) 920
FIPS code 55-16450
City Hall

Columbus is a city in Columbia (mostly) and Dodge Counties in the south-central part of the U.S. state of Wisconsin. The population was 5,540 at the 2020 census. All of this population resided in the Columbia County portion of the city. Columbus is located about 28 miles (45 km) northeast of Madison on the Crawfish River. The Columbia County portion of the city lies within the Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area while the Dodge County portion is a part of the Milwaukee-Waukesha-Racine CSA. Nearly all of the city is located within the town of Columbus in Columbia County, though a small portion lies within the town of Elba in Dodge County.


H. A. Whitney, a Yankee peddler from Vermont, moved to Columbus in 1845 and constructed the first wood frame store building in the community on the land where the Whitney now stands. The building served as a combination store/tavern/rooming house and post office, with Whitney as the first postmaster. In 1857, the building burned down and was replaced by the current Whitney Hotel in 1858. This cream brick, Italianate-style hotel's third floor ballroom was heated by six wood-burning stoves. The local newspaper reported on a ball there in 1863, "if you ever hear of a ball by Fuller, ask no questions, but go at once, and enjoy yourselves, and for one night forget the 'fear of the draft'".

During the 1880s, The Whitney hosted traveling health practitioners whose expertise ranged from "delivering a 40-foot long tape worm" to a local couple to curing piles. Near the turn of the 20th century, the ballroom was turned into an apartment, and from then on served as commercial, professional, and apartment space.

In the 1950s, a restaurant and bar occupied the first floor of the building. From the 1960s to the present, a succession of owners occupied the building and maintenance was deferred. In the 1950s, the building fell into disrepair and as a result of its continued decline, faced demolition in 1990. In February 1991, Heartland Properties, Inc. helped local citizens create the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation (CDDC), which served as the developer to restore the Whitney.

Today, the Whitney provides affordable housing for eight households and 1,570 square feet of downtown retail space for local businesses, including the Daily Citizen newspaper.


Columbus is located at 43°20′14″N 89°1′21″W / 43.33722°N 89.02250°W / 43.33722; -89.02250 (43.337366, -89.022753).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.25 square miles (11.01 km2), of which, 4.21 square miles (10.90 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 288
1860 892 209.7%
1870 1,888 111.7%
1880 1,876 −0.6%
1890 1,977 5.4%
1900 2,349 18.8%
1910 2,523 7.4%
1920 2,460 −2.5%
1930 2,514 2.2%
1940 2,760 9.8%
1950 3,250 17.8%
1960 3,467 6.7%
1970 3,789 9.3%
1980 4,049 6.9%
1990 4,093 1.1%
2000 4,479 9.4%
2010 4,991 11.4%
2020 5,540 11.0%
U.S. Decennial Census

In 1900, 2,349 people lived in Columbus, Wisconsin; in 1910, there were 2,523 residents.

2020 census

As of the 2020 census, 5,540 people were living in Columbus, Wisconsin.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 4,991 people, 2,123 households, and 1,336 families living in the city. The population density was 1,185.5 inhabitants per square mile (457.7/km2). There were 2,287 housing units at an average density of 543.2 per square mile (209.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 95.7% White, 0.9% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 1.1% from other races, and 1.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.3% of the population.

There were 2,123 households, of which 31.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.5% were married couples living together, 9.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 37.1% were non-families. 30.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.91.

The median age in the city was 38.3 years. 24.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 7.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.7% were from 25 to 44; 27.2% were from 45 to 64; and 14.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.8% male and 51.2% female.


Columbus is served by Amtrak's Empire Builder between Chicago and Seattle, with a train stopping at the station in each direction every day.

Columbus is also served by Lamers Bus Service which provides a Connect to Madison, Wisconsin from Amtrak.

Lamers Bus Columbus, Wisconsin
Lamers Bus Columbus, Wisconsin
Amtrak Station, Columbus, Wisconsin
Amtrak Station, Columbus, Wisconsin
  • List of intercity bus stops in Wisconsin


Columbus is served by US 151. Columbus is almost halfway on the US 151 freeway/expressway between Madison and Fond du Lac. There are 3 exits on the freeway that serve Columbus. The exits are Wis 73/Business US 151 Park Ave (Exit 115), Wis 16/Wis 60 James St (Exit 118) and Wis 73/Business US 151 Ludington St (Exit 120). Columbus is also served by 4 state highways.

Historic buildings

The Whitney Building Columbus Wisconsin
Whitney Building at night



Columbus Wisconsin Redbud Tree small
Columbus redbud tree

The Redbud Festival occurs in May around Mother's Day. Each year the community crowns a prince and princess during the budding of the "Columbus Wisconsin Strain" of the redbud tree (cercis canadensis). The festival includes brats, music, and trees in full bloom.

Movie set

Downtown Columbus was used to film several scenes for the 2009 Johnny Depp movie Public Enemies.


  • Sanborn fire insurance maps: 1885 1892 1898 1904 1915


Columbus Wisconsin Middle School
Columbus Middle School

Columbus is served by the Columbus School District, which operates an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school:

  • Columbus Elementary School (K-2)
  • Columbus Intermediate School (3-5)
  • Columbus Middle School (6-8)
  • Columbus High School (9-12)

Other schools in Columbus:

  • St. Jerome Catholic School, Roman Catholic, grades K-8
  • Zion Lutheran School, WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod), grades K-8
  • Wisconsin Academy, Seventh Day Adventist, grades 9-12

Notable people

  • Michael Adams, Wisconsin state representative and businessman
  • Charles L. Dering, Wisconsin State Senator
  • Francis Fagan, Navy Cross recipient
  • Harmon J. Fisk, Wisconsin state representative
  • William M. Griswold, Wisconsin state senator
  • Joshua James Guppey, Union Army general
  • William Jones, Wisconsin state representative
  • Frank Lange, major league baseball player
  • James T. Lewis, governor of Wisconsin
  • Lewis Ludington, founded the city
  • Heather Miller, Olympic athlete
  • Peter Morris, major league baseball player
  • Bob Poser, major league baseball player
  • Frederick J. Stare, nutritionist
  • Samuel R. Webster, Wisconsin state representative
  • Russel R. Weisensel, Wisconsin state representative
  • E. W. Ziebarth, radio broadcaster

See also

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