Whitefish Bay Historical Society

Website for the historical society of the Village of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.


The Village of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin today is a vibrant community of 14,000 people located about five miles north of downtown Milwaukee on bluffs above Lake Michigan. It is primarily residential, with a retail strip located on Silver Spring Drive. Over one hundred years ago, however, the village was much different.  It was a mostly rural farming community in which its residents cultivated and sold produce to meet the needs of the growing City of Milwaukee.  Over time, these rural families also set up a commercial enterprise, fishing the waters of the Bay.  The fish they predominantly caught was the whitefish - hence the name of the Community.

Eventually, the Bay also became a leisure destination for Milwaukeeans seeking to escape from the noise, heat and smoke of the City's downtown.  In the 1880s, Captain Frederick Pabst of brewery fame decided that Whitefish Bay would be an ideal location for a grand beer garden, hotel and amusement park. Land was acquired in the area that is today Lake Drive just North of Henry Clay Street. Lake steamers, such as the "Bloomer Girl," made regular trips from the City to Pabst's dock below the bluff, where a series of switchback paths led up to the resort. The resort consisted of a hotel (the "Bellevue"), a restaurant, band-shell and other amusements, and enough beer to satisfy the thirsts of all excursionists. Above: A view of the Bellevue at the Pabst Whitefish Bay Resort, surrounded by the outside grounds.  

Later on, a Ferris wheel was added, to be eventually replaced by a merry-go-round. The park operated until about 1914.  Above: The Staff of the Pabst Whitefish Bay resort pose in front of the establishment's banner.

Above: A View of the Ferris Wheel on the north end of the Resort. 

In addition to Lake steamers, visitors to the resort could take the Milwaukee & Whitefish Bay Railway to the Village.  Known as the "Dummy Line", the line was eventually electrified and absorbed into the electric street railway system. 

There was also a heavy railway route that passed through Whitefish Bay -- the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railroad, which was eventually purchased by the Chicago & North Western Railway. Click here for more historical information on roads and railroads.

As visitors traveled to the Pabst and other resorts, they soon recognized the attraction of living in the area.  Nestled close enough to the City to allow an easy commute to work, yet far enough away to provide an attractive and safe community atmosphere, Whitefish Bay quickly became a desirable location for families to ‘put down roots’ -- the ‘Gold Coast’ village north of Milwaukee.

Today, stately homes exist alongside early farm houses.  Interesting shops are located in the Village's vibrant Silver Spring commercial district.  The community is also served with excellent schools along with numerous churches, clubs and organizations -- all making it an attractive place to live.

We believe the history of the Village and its early inhabitants helps to provide Whitefish Bay residents with a strong sense of community.  Please enjoy exploring our history!


If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Webmaster.




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