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The history of brewing in Watertown goes back almost to the very beginnings of the city's history. In 1846, an Englishman named William Anson arrived here and opened an ale brewery and began to produce a poor product which was described by his contemporaries as tasting like "weak coffee". Unsuccessful in his venture, he nevertheless opened the door for other brewers, starting in 1847 with the arrival of Johann Jacob Hoeffner.
The businessmen and prominent citizens of Watertown, in an attempt to escape the noise and dirt of the business district, chose to locate their homes in the southern part of Watertown, thus creating the forerunner of the suburb. Clyman Street was chosen in large part for its quiet, meadow-like atmosphere. As late as the 1870s, parts of it were quite rustic, but by the turn of the last century this area had been cleaned and freshened and "made respectable" for Watertown's prominent citizens.
In 1841, John and Luther Cole, brothers who had come to Watertown from Vermont in 1837, opened up the very first retail store on what is now our Main Street. At that time, this was a wilderness containing a muddy wagon path lined with the occasional sinkhole, a stretch of Rock River that had to be forged since no bridge yet spanned the banks and a few scattered log dwellings.
Since the dawn of time, man has been painting signs on structures. Be it an ancient pictograph or an ad for cigarettes, the mural, especially the advertising mural, has been with us for centuries. Our early pioneers recognized this when they began to settle in Watertown in the 1830s and 1840s. They used the sides of buildings and trees as spots to post signs and broadsides. Photos were taken in the nineteenth and early twentieth century and show the city decorated with posters and largely painted advertisements on almost every available building along Main Street.
The Washington Street area has long been seen as one of Watertown’s most picturesque spots, known for its beautiful and stately homes. Most of the houses built here were owned by businessmen who had factories located along the Rock River, such as the Lewis and Quentmeyer families. They merely had to walk out their doors and travel a block away and they were at work.
The Richards Hill Historic District was once part of a 104-acre farm belonging to pioneer settler John Richards, who arrived in what is today Watertown in 1837. In 1845 he purchased the land to build a home for his wife and by 1854 finished what was, for that time, the most elaborate home in south-central Wisconsin. Today his home is Watertown’s public museum, the Octagon House. It is comprised of five stories, 57 rooms (including halls and closets), and rudimentary forms of air conditioning and running water. A diverse array of architectural styles makes up the area, ranging from bungalows to Tudor Revival and Federal styles. Interestingly enough, there are several houses located in this area that were kit built in the 1910s and 1920s.
Watertown, WI has always been a city that has held Christian values to be an important part of the lives of its citizens. Since the first traveling Methodist circuit rider came through the fledgling hamlet in 1837 to the present, Watertown has always been a church-centered community. On weekends, church bells can be heard from the various churches, calling the faithful to worship.
There has always been a fascination with the darker side of man’s nature, what makes people murder, tales of haunting, strange occurrences, etc. So it should come as no surprise that here in Watertown, Wisconsin, we have had more than our fair share of murders, hauntings, and strange occurrences. This tour attempts to direct visitors to some sites of Watertown’s darker aspects.
The Watertown park system is made up of over 22 parks covering more than 300 acres. In the Watertown park system, you will find a wide variety of recreational activities for both the most active and passive recreational interests.