Nestled halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee, Kenosha, Wisconsin is a historic quaint community and the fourth largest city on the shores of Lake Michigan. Kenosha is bordered by the lake to the east and is bordered by the Town of Somers to the north, Bristol to the west and the village of Pleasant Prairie to the south.
Easily accessible by major highways and Union Pacific's Metra system, 90 minutes from Chicago, Kenosha continues to see population growth of 10 percent every five years; in fact since 1940 Kenosha has seen its population grow by more than 150 percent. In spite of the recent real estate downturn, sales of homes continue to be well-above the national average, with the average median sale price down less than 5 percent in the past year, as opposed to Chicago and Milwaukee where the median prices have dropped by more than 10 percent in the same period. Kenosha has a rich and vibrant history that illustrates the rich tapestry of American history. Though overshadowed by Chicago to the south and Milwaukee to the north, Kenosha boasts a thriving cultural scene as well as a vibrant economy.
From Fisheries to Automobiles
Prehistoric settlements unearthed by archeologists in the 20th century date back to the era of Wisconsin glaciation and show that the area was populated by Paleo-indians as far back as 13,500 years ago. The early name of the are by the Ojibwa Indians is reported as Masu-kinoja. This describes the place of spawning trout. There were thousands of fish entering the rivers from Lake Michigan during spawning season. Harvesting these fish provided food for the coming months.
In the 1830's, the first white settlers came as part of the Western Emigration Company. These settlers came primarily from Hannibal and Troy, New York, led by John Bullen, Jr. who sought land to purchase for a town. Originally, Bullen had sought to buy land in Milwaukee and Racine but was unable. Bullen found the land he was searching for along the Pike Creek in 1835. The settlement was first named Pike. In the mid 19th century, when the area had become a thriving port on Lake Michigan it was renamed Southport. (The lovely park on the southeast side of town is still named Southport, so is the elementary school, as well as several businesses.) In 1850 the residents decided to name the town Kenosha, as well as the county. The name is an anglicized version of the Native-American name for the town, Kinoja. Kenoshans refer to their town affectionately as “K-Town” and Keno.
In the 1900s, Kenosha grew rapidly as mass emigration from Europe continued. Irish, Italian, Polish and German immigrants settled in Kenosha due to the abundance of manufacturing jobs. (Particularly jobs in what would then have been considered high-tech industries.) Many of these immigrants were skilled craftsmen who left their indelible imprint on Kenosha's architecture, culture and history.