Wisconsin's rich history spreads across the state, a living quilt
of time, land, values and beliefs that forms the collective
memory of who we are and where we came from. Each generation
adds a piece, so the fabric of our time is interwoven
with the past, connecting us to those who came before
and enriching our lives with greater understanding
and appreciation of the depth of our shared history.
Historic properties are tangible connections to our
past, places where the past is alive in the present.
They allow us to touch the lives and stories of historic
people and visit the special places that contribute
to Wisconsin's unique character.
The Wisconsin History Explorer uses the properties documented through
the National Register of Historic Places program to
tell stories about Wisconsin people and communities.
These stories are drawn from more than 2,000 National
Register listings, allowing history enthusiasts to
explore the amazing historical legacy of our state.
Short historical segments link to informative summaries
of the history of individual historic properties.
List of Stories
National Historic Landmarks
Wisconsin's most important historic sites and buildings tell stories about the leading achievements of our state. From prehistoric times to the present, events in Wisconsin have helped shape the history of America. The National Park Service recognizes properties that illuminate our shared heritage by designating them as National Historic Landmarks. Explore Wisconsin's National Historic Landmarks and learn about our state's historic contributions.
Many of the neighborhoods that we think of today as the center
of our cities were developed as early suburbs. Tour some of
Wisconsin's most historic neighborhoods and learn about the
historical forces that have shaped where our homes are, and
the places where we live. See some of Wisconsin's most unique,
interesting and beautiful old neighborhoods and find out how
Hit the Road: Early Road Development
Roundabout routes, mud-clogged, rutted roads and poor bridges
made traveling in early Wisconsin both hazardous and uncomfortable.
Explore the beginnings of Wisconsin's transportation network
and see how Wisconsin's earliest trails and overland routes
evolved into a network of roads and highways. Hitch up
your wagon and blaze the trail of early Wisconsin transportation
Hit the Road: Later Road Development
During the 20th century, Wisconsin undertook ambitious
programs of road improvements, bridge repairs, and state
trunk and interstate highway construction to provide fast,
efficient and a relatively safe means of travel. The
popularity of the automobile is responsible for the sophisticated
network of interstate, state and county highways that
connect communities across Wisconsin and the country.
Buckle up and enjoy the trip.
Are We There Yet? Fill 'er Up
The gas station, also called the filling or service station,
developed in the early 20th century to serve the growing
number of car owners. As pioneers of the commercial strip,
stations were on the forefront of roadside commerce. Over
time the gas station evolved from a modest shed into a
full-scale service station and eventually the modern convenience
station. Fill up your tank and join us on a road trip
to visit many distinctive Wisconsin stations.
Are We There Yet? Sweet Dreams
Wisconsin's earliest travelers on the military road and early
trails needed a place to stop and rest along the route.
As road networks developed, the stagecoach inns and lodging
houses that served travelers were replaced by automobile
camps and cabin courts geared toward the automobile traveler.
These, in turn, were replaced by motels and modern hotel
chains. Rest your heels and relax with some of Wisconsin's
Are We There Yet? Buildings with Taste
Dining out in 19th-century Wisconsin was primarily an
experience for the wealthy and the traveler. Before the 1920s,
the automobile tourist had few dining options, especially
places that were appropriate for women and children. The
exponential growth of automobile travel in the 1920s
led to the creation of roadside food stands, followed by
drive-ins, fast food restaurants and family restaurants.
Picture Perfect: Wisconsin's Historic Theaters
Wisconsin's performing arts are as old as the state itself. Learn about the historical forces that moved us from the
19th-century opera house to the movie palace and beyond. Visit some of Wisconsin's most unique, interesting and beautiful
old theaters, and learn their history.