Enhancing the River and improving water quality. The Milwaukee River watershed is part of the Milwaukee Basin encompassing roughly 860 square miles of land in Southeast Wisconsin. The Basin discharges into Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for over 1 million people. As part of the Riverwalk project, riverbank stabilization in Veterans Memorial Park will improve water quality for the Milwaukee River watershed by reducing riverbank erosion, toxins, and nutrients. The native vegetation intercepts runoff and subsurface water pollutants and serves as a growing surface for microorganisms. These microorganisms break down certain pollutants thereby reducing their harmful effects.
Healthy river, healthy people.
The Riverwalk project not only helps improve water quality in the watershed, it also makes the riverbank easier to access and more appealing for a number of recreational activities including walking, jogging, fishing, and boating.
Heart of Grafton: Powered by the River
The timeless draw of the River. Humans have always been drawn to water for sustenance and transportation; Grafton is no exception. Native Americans knew this area as part of an important regional trail and a seat of council. In the 1600s European explorers began to navigate the River and trade with the area's Menomonee and Sac
(Sauk) populations. The River's unmatched water power eventually attracted European settlers who built a dam in 1842 to power a saw mill, a flour mill and a woolen mill. They named their community Hamburg, a community that included the area around the Milwaukee River that is now Grafton; in 1856 Hamburg was renamed Grafton.
Reshaping the economy. In 1870 the railroad arrived in Grafton, signaling a shift from agriculture toward manufacturing. This rail line followed the Milwaukee River valley north to Green Bay. A competing rail line was also laid five miles to the east, making the ownership history and eventual fates of these lines into a tale with as many twists and turns as the river they paralleled.
From electric rail to interurban trail. The 30-mile Ozaukee Interurban Trail crosses the River and follows a route based on the Interurban electric railway that connected Ozaukee County to the Cities of Milwaukee and Sheboygan beginning in 1905. The line ran until 1951, with stops in Brown Deer, Thiensville, Cedarburg, Grafton, Port Washington, Belgium, Cedar Grove, and Oostburg.
Layers of geologic and industrial history. One of Grafton's early industries grew out of the vast dolomite and limestone deposits that were exposed over time by the carving action of the Milwaukee River. From the 1840s through the 1920s Grafton produced lime for whitewashing
buildings, conditioning soil, treating leather, and making plaster and mortar. The rock was mined and heated on site in huge kilns to extract the lime. Three of five kilns are restored and can be visited today downriver in Lime Kiln Park.
Wellspring of blues and jazz. In the early 1900s the Wisconsin Chair Co. opened along the River at Falls Road, at what is now Chair Factory Park. The company diversified by making phonograph cabinets for subsidiary Paramount Records. From 1917 to 1932 they also recorded and pressed promotional 78 rpm discs, becoming a primary source of early recordings by the African American artists who would help shape our country's blues, jazz, and rock music.
Veterans Memorial Park
The Old Mill Pond. This area along the old mill pond was originally known as Mill Pond Park, a feature of the river formed by the construction of the dam that powered the mills downstream. The quiet water here forms smooth ice in the winter that has been enjoyed as a skating rink by Grafton children for decades.
Veterans Memorial dedication. In 1992 Mill Pond Park was renamed Veterans Memorial Park to honor the Grafton veterans who served in the country's military conflicts. The memorial features a 75mm Pack Howitzer, a World War II-era gun originally designed to be broken down and carried across difficult terrain by pack animals. Once used in training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the piece was installed in the Park in the 1950s.
Basketball court dedication. The Park's basketball court was refurbished in 2012 and dedicated by friends to Josh Davis-Joiner, a Grafton High School youth who died during a practice doing what he loved: playing basketball.
The Village thanks you!
The Village thanks the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Fund for Lake Michigan for partnering with the Village on this recreation and natural resource restoration project.
The Village also thanks Meijer for generously funding this informational kiosk which enhances Veterans Memorial Park and the Riverwalk.