Our History -
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Cambridge was established
in 1847 by settling
Scottish and Norwegian farmers. Within the first few years, a small village
began to take
shape with various
businesses opening up including: a grist mill, general
store, hotel, saloon, a cabinet shop, and a milliner all lining Main Street. One of the
hotels, a stage coach stop, still stands on Main Street today.
For more on the Norwegian settlement,
Koshkonong Prairie, click here.
By the 1860s, Cambridge
had grown to a population of 250 residents, mostly retired farmers and
shopkeepers. In addition to the stores listed above, the village also boasted a
blacksmith and repair shop, a hardware store a post office and a doctor’s
office. Many of the village’s young men enlisted to serve in the Civil War.
A statue in the Village Square today honors the veterans of that war.
Two prominent inventors came to be residents in Cambridge in the late
1880's. Ole Evenrude, inventor of the outboard motor, became a
resident at age 16 where he became a machine apprentice and by 1906 married
and had one son. In 1909 he founded Evenrude Motors in Milwaukee and
after his first patent was issued in 1911 started producing outboard motors.
Our second well know inventor was Arthur Davidson, one of the founding
members of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Arthur moved to Cambridge in 1888
where he finished out his childhood before inventing the first practical
motorcycle in 1903.
In 1890 a fire broke out
that destroyed much of the business district, as well as, some of the homes
on upper Main Street. However, by the 1910s Cambridge had rebuilt, including
a new school house which is currently listed on the Wisconsin Register of
Historical Places, and the population had grown to 700. The 1920s brought the automobile and it had
a profound impact on Cambridge, spurring its growth as a tourist town.
Vacationers particularly from Chicago, started coming to Cambridge and Lake
( click here to watch
1946 video courtesty of Gary Zibell)
So to promote Cambridge as a tourist attraction, the village
adopted the symbol of a blue and yellow umbrella, and dubbed itself the
“Umbrella City”. This symbol (based off umbrellas used at the beach on Lake
Ripley) is still used by the village in some of its promotions today.
The in the late 1980's and
1990's Cambridge became known has the "salt glaze pottery capital of the
world" and hometown talent Matt Kenseth, was rising to be a NASCAR Champion.
This time was also a
prosperous one for the Village and set the stage for what you see today with
shops and restaurants, a beautiful public beach on Lake Ripley, and a
wonderful 300 acre Cam Rock park system. Festivals, Bed & Breakfast
getaways, and the talent of local artisans bring vacationers to our small
The Village of Cambridge
was voted one of the "Top 100 Small Getaways in the Midwest" by Midwest
Magazine and "Best Small Town for Shopping" by readers of Today's Wisconsin
Woman Magazine during these years as well.
The twentieth century saw
a major change happen to its downtown district with two years of state road
construction and closer to hwy 12 & 18, our main street.
This had a profound impact on how the Village dealt with its revitalization
efforts and today we are on the road to great growth in the community with
nine new businesses opening within the last year.
As we look toward
the future an artist cooperative, historic preservation, community
development, new or improved festivals in addition to new recreational
opportunities by enhancing the Glacial Heritage Area Trail system, are all
in the works to continue our founders goals of a wonderful Village to live,
work and play.
For more on the history of
Cambridge please visit:
Historic School Museum
located in the 1906 school
house - self walking tour flyers available
213 South Street, Cambridge
1906 Historic School Museum open for summer tours May -
Wed. & Sat. from noon to 3pm
Koshkonong Prairie Historical Society
213 South Street Cambridge
You Tube video on Cambridge in 1946 by
here to watch - 11 minutes in length.
For over 150 years, the Koshkonong prairie of Wisconsin has been home to
both Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans. Koshkonong is considered by
historians to be the sixth Norwegian settlement founded in the United States
and the largest Norwegian settlement in America. In
1840, pioneers from Jefferson Prairie and Fox River moved to this area,
which is close to present-day Madison, Wisconsin. By 1850, over half of the
5,000 Norwegians in Wisconsin lived in the Koshkonong settlement. As more
Norwegian immigrants came to Wisconsin, Koshkonong became large enough so
that it was split into an East and a West church community. Over the years
Koshkonong became the parent of key settlements in Minnesota, Iowa, and
elsewhere in the Midwest.
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