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Mequon, Wisconsin
Mequon City Hall, listed on the National Register of Historic Places
Mequon City Hall, listed on the National Register of Historic Places
Official seal of Mequon, Wisconsin
Seal
Location of Mequon in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin.
Location of Mequon in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin.
Mequon, Wisconsin is located in Wisconsin
Mequon, Wisconsin
Mequon, Wisconsin
Location in Wisconsin
Country United States
State Wisconsin
County Ozaukee
Settled 1830s
Incorporated 1957; 65 years ago (1957)
Government
 • Type Mayor-council
Area
 • Total 46.96 sq mi (121.63 km2)
 • Land 46.28 sq mi (119.87 km2)
 • Water 0.68 sq mi (1.76 km2)
Elevation
669 ft (204 m)
Population
 (2010)
 • Total 23,132
 • Estimate 
(2019)
24,382
 • Density 526.81/sq mi (203.41/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP code
53092 and 53097
Area code(s) 262
FIPS code 55-51150
GNIS feature ID 1569354

Mequon is the largest city in Ozaukee County, in the U.S. state of Wisconsin, and the third-largest city in Wisconsin by land area. Located on Lake Michigan's western shore with significant commercial developments along Interstate 43, the community is a suburb in the Milwaukee metropolitan area. Despite being an incorporated city, approximately half of Mequon's land is undeveloped and agriculture plays a significant role in the local economy. At the time of the 2010 census the population was 23,132.

When the first white settlers arrived in the 1830s, the Mequon area was inhabited by the Menominee, Potawatomi, and Sauk people. In the 1840s, German immigrants settled in the community, building farms and hydropowered mills along the Milwaukee River. Much of the community remained rural, while Thiensville developed as a market town along the local railway, providing services to the farmers. Thiensville incorporated as a village in 1910. Mequon remained rural in the early 20th century but experienced significant population growth during the suburbanization that followed World War II. The community incorporated as a city in 1957 to avoid annexation by the City of Milwaukee. The City of Mequon completely surrounds Thiensville, leading some residents to call Thiensville "Mequon's donut hole." The two municipalities have a close relationship, with a shared chamber of commerce, library, and school district.

Lutheranism has played a significant role in Mequon since the community's early years. Some of the first German settlers were Old Lutherans who founded the Freistadt community – now a neighborhood in western Mequon – in 1839 and went on to form the first Lutheran congregation in Wisconsin. In the 21st century, there are more Lutheran churches in Mequon than churches of any other single denomination. Additionally, Mequon is home to two private Lutheran post-secondary institutions: Concordia University Wisconsin and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. In addition to having other Christian denominations, Mequon is the northernmost of Milwaukee's suburbs to have a sizable Jewish community.

History

The area was originally inhabited by Native Americans; by the early 19th century, the Potawatomi occupied land west of the Milwaukee River, while the Menominee lived between the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan. European trappers, explorers and traders used the Milwaukee River through the middle of what is now Mequon as a means of transportation. The name "Mequon" is thought to have come from the Native-American word "Emikwaan" or "Miguan," meaning ladle, referring to the shape of the river in the area. The spelling was probably influenced by the French in the area at the time.

Between 1834 and 1836, a surveyor named Brink, along with his assistant Mr. Follett, surveyed the land to create the Town of Mequon. Around this time, settlers came from New York and England, soon followed by German and Irish immigrants. In 1839, a group of immigrants from Saxony settled near the Milwaukee River. In the same year, twenty families from Pomerania founded Freistadt (German: Free city) in the western part of the Town of Mequon. The first Lutheran church in Wisconsin was built by these families in 1840.

John Weston served as the first postmaster of the Town of Mequon, having settled in present-day Thiensville in 1837. He later sold his holdings to John Henry Thien. Thien, a wealthy immigrant from Saxony, had traveled north from Milwaukee and settled along the Milwaukee River, where his family built a dam and grist mill. Thien hosted the first town meeting for the Town of Mequon in 1846. The area around his estate, one square mile in the middle of the Town of Mequon, was later incorporated as the village of Thiensville in 1910. The Town of Mequon was incorporated as a city in 1957.

Geography

Mequon is located at 43°13′27″N 87°57′36″W / 43.22417°N 87.96000°W / 43.22417; -87.96000 (43.224243, −87.960094), about 15 miles (24 km) north of Milwaukee, lying along the western shore of Lake Michigan. It is part of the Milwaukee metropolitan area. Though much of the population lives in residential areas, approximately half of the land within the city's boundaries is undeveloped or farmed.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 48.77 square miles (126.31 km2), of which, 46.28 square miles (119.86 km2) is land and 2.49 square miles (6.45 km2) is water. As of 2005, Mequon was the third-largest city in terms of land area in the state of Wisconsin.

Freistadt

Freistadt is a neighborhood of the city of Mequon. The community's name means "free city" in German. Originally in the Town of Mequon, the area was added to the City of Mequon through annexation.

The community was founded in October 1839 by 20 German families who immigrated to the United States to escape religious persecution. The community was home to the first Lutheran church in Wisconsin. In 1845, the synod, later known as the Lutheran Synod of Buffalo, was organized here. (Through mergers the Buffalo Synod became a part of the American Lutheran Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). The church in Freistadt became a part of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod in 1848.

Climate

Mequon experiences four distinct seasons, with variation in precipitation and temperature being very wide. The overall climate of the city is moderated by nearby Lake Michigan, which causes temperatures to be cooler in summer and especially spring, and which keeps overnight temperatures warmer in winter. In March and April, the temperature in Mequon can be 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (5 to 8 degrees Celsius) cooler than temperatures in towns just 15 miles (25 kilometers) further from the lake. In December and January, the effect is reversed, with temperatures in inland towns falling much lower.

In Mequon, the warmest month of the year is July, when the high temperature averages 81 °F (27 °C), with low temperatures of approximately 59 °F (15 °C). June and July are the wettest months of the year, with the majority of rain falling in short-lived thunderstorms. January is the coldest month in Mequon, with average high temperatures averaging only 27 °F (-3 °C), and lows averaging 11 °F (-12 °C). February is the driest month, with almost all precipitation falling in the form of snow. In an average winter, 47.0 in (1.3m) of snow falls. The city's proximity to Lake Michigan often increases the snow received by the city. Most of the city's snowfall comes from systems such as Alberta clippers and Panhandle hooks.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Mequon was 105 °F (41 °C) on July 24, 1935, and again on July 17, 1995. The coldest temperature ever recorded in the city was -40 °F (-40 °C), on January 17, 1982, also known as Cold Sunday.

Climate data for Mequon, Wisconsin
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 27
(-2.8)
31
(-0.6)
42
(5.6)
55
(12.8)
66
(18.9)
76
(24.4)
81
(27.2)
79
(26.1)
72
(22.2)
59
(15)
45
(7.2)
31
(-0.6)
55.3
(12.96)
Average low °F (°C) 11
(-11.7)
14
(-10)
24
(-4.4)
35
(1.7)
44
(6.7)
54
(12.2)
59
(15)
57
(13.9)
49
(9.4)
38
(3.3)
28
(-2.2)
16
(-8.9)
35.8
(2.08)
Precipitation inches (mm) 1.60
(40.6)
1.50
(38.1)
1.90
(48.3)
3.66
(93)
3.66
(93)
4.11
(104.4)
4.06
(103.1)
4.11
(104.4)
3.52
(89.4)
2.65
(67.3)
2.47
(62.7)
1.72
(43.7)
34.96
(888)
Source: The Weather Channel

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1940 3,068
1950 4,065 32.5%
1960 8,543 110.2%
1970 15,150 77.3%
1980 16,193 6.9%
1990 18,885 16.6%
2000 21,823 15.6%
2010 23,132 6.0%
2019 (est.) 24,382 5.4%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 23,132 people, 8,598 households, and 6,561 families residing in the city. The population density was 499.8 inhabitants per square mile (193.0/km2). There were 9,145 housing units at an average density of 197.6 per square mile (76.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 92.0% White, 2.8% African American, 0.1% Native American, 3.6% Asian, 0.3% from other races, and 1.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.0% of the population.

There were 8,598 households, of which 32.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 68.9% were married couples living together, 5.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 2.4% had a male householder with no wife present, and 23.7% were non-families. 20.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 2.97.

The median age in the city was 45.9 years. 23.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 9.2% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 16.2% were from 25 to 44; 34.1% were from 45 to 64; and 17.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.6% male and 51.4% female.

U.S. Census Bureau estimated the median income for a household in the city in 2009–2011 to be $106,647, and the median income for a family to be $124,422. The per capita income for the city estimated at $64,530. About 1.2% of families and 3.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.2% of those under age 18 and 3.4% of those age 65 or over. During the same period, the median household value for Mequon was estimated at $357,200.

Parks and recreation

Jonathan Clark House Mequon WI May-09
Mequon is home to ten National Register-listed historic places, including the Jonathan Clark House.

Mequon contains more than two dozen parks and hundreds of acres of community parks and nature preserves operated by the city, and some operated by the county. The Ozaukee Interurban Trail runs for 5.85 miles (9.41 km) south to north through the city. The Mequon-Thiensville Recreation Department conducts classes and programs for children and adults.

John Reichert Farmhouse May09
The John Reichert Farmhouse, built in 1885.

City parks

  • Garrison's Glen: 22 acres (8.9 ha). Neighborhood park on Pioneer Road near the Milwaukee River. Contains walking trail and canoe launch.
  • Grasslyn Nature Preserve: 15 acres (6.1 ha). Nature preserve in the southeast of the city. Contains a walking trail and prairie area.
  • Highland Woods: 85 acres (34 ha). Nature preserve on Green Bay Road north of Thiensville. Contains a walking trail and forest.
  • Katherine Kearney Carpenter Park: 35 acres (14 ha). Dog walking park in southeastern Mequon. Contains walking trail.
  • Lemke Park: 41 acres (17 ha). Neighborhood park in southwestern Mequon. Contains playground, picnic tables, archery range, soccer fields, volleyball court, baseball diamond.
  • Lilly Lane Nature Preserve: 12 acres (4.9 ha). Nature preserve in southern Mequon. Contains walking trail.
  • Little Menomonee Site: 20 acres (8.1 ha). Nature preserve in western Mequon, along the Little Menomonee River
  • Mequon Community Park: 16 acres (6.5 ha). Community park just south of Thiensville. Contains swimming pool, baseball diamond, picnic area, playground, and access to the Ozaukee Interurban Trail.
Isham Day House Mequon WI May09
The Isham Day House, built in 1839, is now a museum and city park.
  • Mequon Nature Preserve: 408 acres (165 ha). Nature preserve in southwestern Mequon. Contains walking trails, education centers, woodland, and observation tower.
  • Prinz Site: 10 acres (4.0 ha). Nature preserve north of Thiensville.
  • River Barn Park: 37 acres (15 ha). Community park in southern Mequon along the Milwaukee River. Contains baseball, soccer, and football fields and a playground.
  • River Forest Nature Preserve: 62 acres (25 ha). Nature preserve in central Mequon along the Milwaukee River. Contains walking trail.
  • Riverview Park: 20 acres (8.1 ha). Neighborhood park in central Mequon along the Milwaukee River. Contains bridge, canoe launch, playground, walking trail, and baseball diamond.
  • Rotary Park: 75 acres (30 ha). Community park in northern Mequon. Contains basketball court, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, fishing ponds, and walking paths. Also contains Pukaite Woods which contains a handicapped accessible nature trail.
O'Brien-Peuschel Farmstead Mequon WI May-09
The O'Brien-Peuschel Farmstead, is a National Historic registered site in northwest Mequon.
  • Scout Park: 12 acres (4.9 ha). Nature preserve in eastern Mequon along the Milwaukee River. Contains a walking trail and river access.
  • Settlers Park: 1.2 acres (0.49 ha). Historical park just south of Thiensville along the Milwaukee River. Contains a historic building and walking trail.
  • Shoreland Nature Preserve: 19 acres (7.7 ha). Nature preserve in northeastern Mequon along the Milwaukee River. Contains walking trials.
  • Swan Road Prairie: 20 acres (8.1 ha). Nature preserve in southwestern Mequon.
  • Trinity Creek Wetland Habitat: 35 acres (14 ha). Wetland park in southern Mequon. Contains walking trails and educational facility.
  • Villa Grove Park: 5 acres (2.0 ha). Community park east of Thiensville along Milwaukee River. Contains picnic tables and boat launch.
  • Willow Bay Nature Preserve: 22 acres (8.9 ha). Nature preserve in northeastern Mequon along the Milwaukee River.

Ozaukee County parks

  • Mee-Kwon Park: County park in northern Mequon. Contains public golf course, sledding hill and fishing pond.
  • Virmond Park: 63 acres (25 ha). County park in eastern Mequon on Lake Michigan. Contains volleyball and tennis courts, baseball diamond, soccer field, picnic area.

Recognition

In 2005, CNN's Money magazine listed Mequon 19th among its 100 Best Small Cities in the United States, ranked jointly with Thiensville, a village surrounded by Mequon.

Economy

O'Brien-Peuschel Farmstead Mequon WI May-09
Located in rural northwest Mequon, the O'Brien-Peuschel Farmstead was settled in 1846 and has extant buildings dating to as early as 1850. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Frank Vocke Octagonal Barn
Farmers in eastern Mequon built octagonal barns, believing the shape to be better suited to the winds coming off nearby Lake Michigan. The 1891 Frank Vocke barn is a surviving example of these once-common barns.
CUW Pharmacy School
Concordia University Wisconsin's School of Pharmacy in Mequon.

Mequon's economy was primarily agricultural. Some farmsteads from as early as the 1840s and 1850s still stand in the community and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The first major businesses were hydropowered mills on the Milwaukee River and other businesses that served local farmers, many of which concentrated in Thiensville.

Beginning in the 1920s, the Nieman and Fromm families began fur farming silver foxes in Mequon. Several companies, including Fromm Bros., Nieman & Co.; Federal Silver Fox Farms, Inc.; Ozaukee Fur Farms Co.; Herbert A. Nieman & Co.; and Cedarburg Fox Farms, Inc. all began operating in Mequon and southern Cedarburg in the 1920s. In 1928, 6600 of the 8841 pelts sold by the New York Auction Co. came from the Fromm and Nieman operations in Wisconsin for a record-breaking sum of $1,021,000. In 1929, the Nieman and Fromm operations broke their own record with auction sales of $1,331,679, making them a leader in the national fur industry. By 1937, the farms were selling 30,000 pelts per year. After World War II, changing consumer tastes caused the farms to begin breeding mink in addition to silver fox. Fur sales declined later in the 20th century, and the Mequon farms sold their last pelts in 1985.

The mid-to-late 20th century saw diversification in Mequon's economy. Retail stores opened to serve the increasingly suburban community, and manufacturers opened plants. In 1983, Concordia University Wisconsin moved from its campus in Milwaukee to a newly acquired campus in Mequon. In 1994, St. Mary's Hospital Ozaukee opened. As of 2015, the two institutions—both located in close proximity to Interstate 43—were among the largest employers in Ozaukee County. Despite the growth of new industries, half of Mequon's land remains undeveloped and agriculture continues to play a significant role in the local economy.

Largest Employers in Mequon, 2015
Rank Employer Industry Employees
1 Concordia University Wisconsin Higher education 500+
2 Rockwell Automation Industrial Automation 500+
3 Ascension Columbia St. Mary's Hospital Ozaukee Health care 500+
4 Mequon-Thiensville School District Primary and secondary education 250-499
5 Dentaquest LLC Health insurance 250-499
6 Telsmith Inc. Construction machinery manufacturing 250-499
7 Roundy's Grocery (retail) 100-249
8 Hayes Performance Systems Disc brake manufacturing 100-249
9 Aurora Health Care Health care 100-249
10 Newcastle Place Retirement community 100-249

Education

Mequon's public schools are operated by the Mequon-Thiensville School District, except for six square miles (16 km2) in the far northwestern part of Mequon that are served by the Cedarburg School District. The district has three elementary schools, serving grades kindergarten through fifth grade: Donges Bay Elementary, Oriole Lane Elementary, and Wilson Elementary. Each elementary school serves a different neighborhoods of the city. Similarly, the district has two middle schools, each serving students grades six through eight in different areas of the city: Lake Shore Middle School and Steffen Middle School. Homestead High School serves all students grades nine through twelve. In 2009, Homestead was ranked by BusinessWeek magazine as the state's top high school. The school's mascot is a Highlander.

The district also serves the Village of Thiensville. The district is governed by a seven-member elected school board, which meets on the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. on the campus of Lake Shore Middle School. The district also has a superintendent. Matthew Joynt, the current superintendent, has held the position since 2017.

The city also has parochial schools that serve students from kindergarten through eight grade, including Christ Alone Lutheran School, Lumen Christi Catholic School, and Trinity Lutheran School.

Milwaukee Area Technical College has a satellite campus in Mequon, offering over 20 two-year associate degrees, as well as a variety of technical diplomas and certificates. The Mequon campus can serve as a stepping stone to a bachelor's degree, with some students completing two years of basic education before transferring to a four-year college or university.

Concordia University Wisconsin is a private, co-educational university in eastern Mequon that is part of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod's nine-member Concordia University System. The university has a student body of more than 7,000 with over 70 undergraduate majors and minors and 17 graduate programs, including degree programs in CUW's School of Pharmacy, one of only three such schools in the State of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary is also located in Mequon. An all-men's post-secondary theological school with a student body of approximately 125, the seminary trains pastors for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Transportation

Interstate 43 runs north-south through the City of Mequon with exits 85 and 89 providing access to the municipality.

Mequon has limited public transit compared with larger cities. Ozaukee County and the Milwaukee County Transit System run the Route 143 commuter bus, also known as the "Ozaukee County Express," to Milwaukee via Interstate 43. The bus stops at five locations along Port Washington Road in Mequon, Monday through Friday with limited hours corresponding to peak commute times. Ozaukee County Transit Services' Shared Ride Taxi is the public transit option for traveling to sites not directly accessible from the interstate. The taxis operate seven days a week and make connections to Washington County Transit and Milwaukee County Routes 12, 49 and 42u.

Electric railway review (1906) (14738418376)
The Milwaukee Interurban Line built a bridge over the Milwaukee Road tracks in northern Mequon near Cedarburg Road, circa 1906. The bridge has been demolished, but some of the concrete footings remain along the Ozaukee Interurban Trail.

Unlike some nearby cities and villages, the City of Mequon has large areas of rural and undeveloped land without sidewalks for pedestrian traffic. However, the Ozaukee Interurban Trail for pedestrian and bicycle use runs north-south through the city and connects Mequon to the neighboring community of Cedarburg in the north and Brown Deer in the south, where the trail connects to Milwaukee County's Oak Leaf Trail. The Ozaukee Interurban Trail continues north to Oostburg in Sheboygan County. The trail was formerly an interurban passenger rail line that ran from Milwaukee to Sheboygan. The train was in operation from 1907 to 1948, when it fell into disuse following World War II. The old rail line was converted into the present recreational trail in the 1990s.

The Wisconsin Central Ltd. railroad, a subsidiary of the Canadian National Railway, operates a freight rail line parallel to the Ozaukee Interurban Trail. The Union Pacific Railroad runs parallel to Interstate 43 in the city. Mequon currently does not have passenger train service.

Notable people

Hank Aaron 1960
Hank Aaron (1934-2021) lived in Mequon while he played for the Milwaukee Braves.
John Ridley in Nov 2013
John Ridley (b. 1965) grew up in Mequon and won an Academy Award for writing 12 Years a Slave.
  • Hank Aaron, Major League Baseball player
  • Ronald D. Asmus, U.S. diplomat
  • Arthur J. Balzer, politician
  • Anders Bjork, National Hockey League player
  • H. H. Bonniwell, politician
  • Fred J. Busse, politician
  • Mike Dunleavy, Jr., professional basketball player
  • Bob Gannon, politician
  • Ben Gardner, National Football League player
  • Peter Goldberg, business executive
  • Jack Harbaugh, professional football player and coach
  • Shelby Harris, Nation Football League player
  • Edward H. Janssen, politician
  • Coby Karl, professional basketball player
  • Louis G. Kieker, politician
  • Carl Kiekhaefer, entrepreneur and NASCAR team owner
  • Margaret S. Lewis, politician
  • Steven D. Loucks, politician
  • Balthasar H. Meyer, economist
  • William F. Opitz, politician
  • Willy Porter, musician
  • John Ridley, screenwriter, director and actor
  • Tom Segura, comedian
  • Thomas F. Timlin, politician
  • William H. Timlin, jurist
  • Adolphus Zimmermann, politician

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