City of Pewaukee

Click the image to learn more. The building that was home to this Rexall Drug Store in 1937 still stands in Pewaukee today. It is currently home to a pet supply store.

The City of Pewaukee is located approximately seventeen miles west of Milwaukee in Waukesha County. It surrounds the independently governed Village of Pewaukee, which in 1876 voted to separate from the Town of Pewaukee (initially established by the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature in 1840).[1] Self-promoted as “The City in the Country,” the sprawling City of Pewaukee finally incorporated from what remained of the Town in 1999, following ten unsuccessful attempts.[2] Residents had begun lobbying to incorporate thirty-five years prior, in response to annexation efforts by the Village of Pewaukee and its southern neighbor, the City of Waukesha.[3] Although Pewaukee successfully voted on incorporation in 1984, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court invalidated the referendum in 1986 because the new “fourth-class” city did not border a “first-class” city.[4] The court based its ruling on Pewaukee’s use of the controversial 1955 Oak Creek Law, which precluded the City of Milwaukee from seizing land in neighboring towns.[5]

An increasingly urban municipality, Pewaukee experienced its highest levels of population and economic growth during the second half of the twentieth century. In this period, new home construction and subdivision expansion accelerated along the I-94 corridor and the city’s main thoroughfares of Capitol Drive and Pewaukee Road.[6] The development of open lands off I-94 in the 1970s and 1980s attracted computer technology, retail, and utility firms like Quad/Graphics (1971), Wisconsin Bell (1984), Roundy’s (1985), and Wisconsin Electric (1986).[7] In addition, the hydraulics controls and construction equipment manufacturer Husco International has employed hundreds of Pewaukee workers since the mid-1980s.[8] Although manufacturing continues to represent a large portion of total employment for the city’s residents, a majority has worked in service-sector occupationshealthcare, education, retail, and finance—since Pewaukee incorporated.[9] Nonetheless, such residential and commercial growth has reinforced Pewaukee’s reputation as a producer in Waukesha County’s industrial sector.

Throughout the 2000s, the Pewaukee Common Council and the Pewaukee Village Board continued a decades-long conversation about municipal consolidation. While they came close to combining in 2002, concerns raised by the City of Pewaukee over property tax increases prevented a full merger.[10] City of Pewaukee residents have long touted their community as a desirable place to live based on its low property tax assessments.[11]

As of 2013, the village and city shared some public services, including a Parks and Recreation Department, emergency medical services, a fire department, a library, and building inspection services.[12] The City of Pewaukee closed its police department in 2010 for budgetary reasons, opting to contract with the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department instead.[13]

As of 2010, more than 13,000 people lived in the growing City of Pewaukee, up from 11,783 in 2000, and the preceding Town’s populations of 9,339 in 1990 and 8,922 in 1980.[14] More than forty percent of Pewaukee residents were of German ancestry 2010, with significant numbers also claiming Irish, Polish, English, and Italian roots.[15] Communal worship has united the middle to upper middle-class population since the mid-nineteenth century and, in 2016, the City of Pewaukee featured twelve houses of worship, including Lutheran, Evangelical, Catholic, Methodist, Congregational, and Episcopal churches and a Hindu temple.[16]

Footnotes [+]

  1. ^ Wisconsin Historical Society, “Dictionary of Wisconsin History, Term: Pewaukee,” accessed August 4, 2013,
  2. ^ Sam Martino, “Town of Pewaukee Residents OK City Status on 11th Try,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 10, 1999, 1A.
  3. ^ Laurel Walker, “Pewaukee Merger Still Makes Sense, Still a Long Way Off,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 10, 1999, B1, and Sam Martino, “City Incorporation Irks Village Officials,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Waukesha, 2. The last Wisconsin town to incorporate as a city before Pewaukee was Muskego in 1964.
  4. ^ First-class cities in Wisconsin are defined by having a population of 150,000 or more. Milwaukee is the only first-class city in the state. Bill Hurley, “Pewaukee Loses Bid to Incorporate,” Milwaukee Sentinel, February 25, 1986, page 10, part 1, and Richard G. Feyrer, “Town of Pewaukee Becomes City, Many Changes Due,” Milwaukee Sentinel, April 5, 1984, part 1, page 1.
  5. ^ Maura Demet and Darryl Enriquez, “Pewaukee City Ruled Not a City,” Milwaukee Journal, February 1, 1985, 6.
  6. ^ “Home Boom Creating Spurt in Population,” The Milwaukee Journal, November 8, 1993, W1.
  7. ^ Laurel Walker, “Pewaukee Merger Still Makes a Lot of Sense, Still a Long Way Off,” Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, July 10, 1999, Waukesha, 1; Maura Demet, “Pewaukee to Get Bell Center,” Milwaukee Journal, October 26, 1984, 1; Maura Demet, “Pewaukee May See Merger, Annexations,” Milwaukee Journal, February 25, 1986, Waukesha, part 2; Demet, “Pewaukee Will Hear a Proposal for an Industrial Park,” Milwaukee Journal, June 13, 1985, Waukesha, part 2; “Our History,” Quad/Graphics website, accessed May 3, 2013.
  8. ^ Thomas Content, “Husco’s Investments Pay off with Contracts,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 17, 2004, 1D.
  9. ^Pewaukee, Wisconsin,” City-Data website, accessed August 6, 2013.
  10. ^ Dave Sheeley, “City Rebuffs Offer to Revive Pewaukee Merger Talks,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 15, 2005, 1.
  11. ^ Kay Nolan, “Pewaukee Cuts Taxes, Spending,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 21, 2006, 6B.
  12. ^ Jim Stevens, “Will State Law to Aid Merger Come Forth? Taxpayers Have Paid $48,000 for Proposed Bill,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 24, 2009, A3.
  13. ^ Mike Johnson, “Pewaukee Takes Steps toward Disbanding Police,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 15, 2009, B3.
  14. ^ “Home Boom Creating Spurt in Population,” Milwaukee Journal, November 8, 1993, W1; United States Census Bureau, “State & County Quick Facts: Pewaukee (city), Wisconsin,”, accessed July 30, 2013; and Richard Eggleston, “Sprawl Feared if Bill Lets Town of Pewaukee Become a City,” Milwaukee Journal, September 19, 1989, B1.
  15. ^Pewaukee, Wisconsin,” City-Data website, accessed August 6, 2013.
  16. ^ Pewaukee, Wisconsin, Resource Directory, last accessed February 29, 2016.

For Further Reading

Redfield, Lorraine C. A History of the Settlement and Progress of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, 1876-1976. Pewaukee: s.n., 1976.

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