Kenosha, Wisconsin

Kenosha is a city in Wisconsin that sits along the waterfront of Lake Michigan. It has a population of around 100,000 people and covers an area of roughly 73.5 square kilometers. Kenosha is the fourth-largest city in Wisconsin in terms of population. 

Kenosha is mainly a commuter town due to its proximity to the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor and has residential areas of both blue and white-collar workers. The city also contains three higher education institutes. They are the University of Wisconsin–Parkside, Carthage College, and Gateway Technical College, and their presence means there is a high percentage of students in the area.

Brief History Of Kenosha

The Potawatomi people are believed to be among the first settlers in the area. The name Kenosha is derived from Kenozia, a Potawatomi word meaning "place of the pike." Similarly, the early Ojibwa name for the region was thought to have been Masu-kinoja which means "trout (pike) come all at once." Both names take after the trout spawning in the region where thousands of fish would swim into the river from Lake Michigan to spawn. 

Kenosha
Bowfin Ruin in the Kenosha Park.

The first European settlers came to the area in the 1830s as part of the Western Emigration Company. They settled at Pike Creek in 1835, establishing log houses and a church and schoolhouse the following year. The settlement was known simply as Pike Creek in the early years but became Southport in 1837. Southport is still the neighborhood's name in that part of what is now the city of Kenosha (so named in 1850). The 1850s saw the settlement becoming an important trading post, which continued until roughly 1902 to 1988 when the primary industry in the area became car manufacturing. 

The historic library building of Kenosha.
The historic library building of Kenosha. Editorial credit: Logan Bush / Shutterstock.com

Today, historic districts continue to pay tribute to the history which formed the city. The four historical districts in Kenosha are Library Park Historic District, Third Avenue Historic District, Civic Center Historic District, and Pearl Street Historic District all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with 21 other more specific locations within the city. City designated landmarks include the 1929 YMCA, the Manor House, the John McCaffary House, the St. Matthew Episcopal Church, the Washington Park Clubhouse, and the Justin Weed House.

Attractions In Kenosha

Southport Light Station view in Kenosha Town of Wisconsin
A beach in Kenosha by Lake Michigan.

Aside from the historic districts, Kenosha has a number of attractions. Some of the most popular include the Kenosha Public Museum, the 2006 Dinosaur Discovery Museum in association with Carthage College and the Smithsonian, and the Kenosha Civil War Museum. There is also a Kenosha History Center on Simmon Island and the Maritime Museum.

The Kenosha Public Museum was completed in 2001 and features a woolly mammoth skeleton that was found in the region in 1992. The skeleton is particularly significant as it seems to indicate the presence of early Americans some 100 years prior to their previous presence, as indicated by markings in the mammoth's tusks which were thought to be from hunting tools. 

The 1866 Kenosha Light Station is affiliated with the Kenosha History Center, and it tells the story of Kenosha through the ages. There is also the 1906 Kenosha North Pier Light, another lighthouse to the east.

Southport Light Station view in Kenosha Town of Wisconsin
Southport Light Station view in Kenosha.

The Civil War Museum opened in 2008 and has an exhibit known as "The Fiery Trial," a 1,400 m2 exhibit offering an interactive experience of the role of six Midwestern states, including Wisconsin, before, during, and after the American Civil War.

Music and art are also popular, and the city hosts festivals throughout the year, including the Peanut Butter and Jam Concert Series, Lincoln Park Live!, and HarborPark Jazz. Other festivals in the city include the Outta Sight Kite Flight kite festival, the Taste of Wisconsin, the Pike River Rendezvous, the Kenosha Classic Cruise-In Car Show, Celebrate America, Food Folks & Spokes, Cheese-A-Palooza, and the Border War Beer Fest. Since 2017, Kenosha has also hosted Tribute Island, a midwest tribute band three-day event located on Simmons Island. 

Parks And Beaches

Swings in front of Lake Michigan at Eichelman Park
Swings in front of Lake Michigan at Eichelman Park in Kenosha. Editorial credit: Samantha R Swain / Shutterstock.com

Kenosha's positioning on Lake Michigan means it has 13 kilometers of shoreline. Beaches include Simmons Island Park and Beaches, Alford Park and Beach, Eichelman Park and Beach, Pennoyer Park and Beach, and Southport Park and Beach. There are a total of 74 different municipal parks in Kenosha makinging up just over 3 km2 of parkland. Washington Park includes the oldest operating velodrome in the country, and track cycling is popular here. Library Park contains a statue of Abraham Lincoln as well as a veterans-memorial statue titled "Winged Victory." There is also The Washington Park Golf Course, established in 1922, which houses an historical English cottage dating back to 1937. 

Kenosha In The News

Kenosha
Curn and damaged used vehicle lot destroyed by rioters protesting for jacob blake. Editorial credit: Aaron of L.A. Photography / Shutterstock.com

Kenosha made nationwide news in August of 2020 after a police shooting that involved 29-year black male Jacob Blake. The victim was fired seven times and shot in the back. The violent and racial nature of the incident sparked mass coverage and controversy, as the victim did have a warrant out for his arrest but did not appear to be in any violent manner when shot. The nature of the shooting led to protests, civil unrest, and eventually riots. Peaceful demonstrations took place throughout the city, but devolved into looting, rioting, and even arson cases so much so that the government declared a state of emergency. The emergency brought in the National Guard, including some 2,000 members. During one of the subsequent protests, a more controversial shooting occurred, and two protestors were fatally shot by a 17 year old armed civilian named Kyle Rittenhouse. More than $50 million worth of damage occurred across Kenosha, negatively impacting at least 100 different businesses. 

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