is the county seat of Ozaukee County in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. The city is about 25 miles north of Milwaukee and 110 miles north of Chicago. In the 2000 census Port Washington had a population of 10,467 people. The ZIP code is 53074.
The area that became Port Washington was explored by French explorers in the late 17th century. In 1835, General Wooster Harrison became the town's first permanent settler, in what he originally named
. Harrison later renamed the town
. Harrison's wife, Rhoda, was the first white settler to be buried in the town when she died in 1837. Around 1843 the name was changed to
. The town of Port Washington was incorporated in January 1846 and included the surrounding areas of what is currently Fredonia, Saukville and Belgium until 1847. The City of Port Washington was incorporated with its present name in 1882.
With a natural harbor at the mouth of Sauk Creek, the city became a port on Lake Michigan. The city exported cord wood, wheat and rye flour, bricks, fish and hides, among other things.
In 1843 the first religious services were held by the Methodist Episcopal Church in private homes and the first Catholic Church services were held in a similar manner in 1847.
was the town's first newspaper, which was started in 1847 by Flavius J. Mills. The population reached 2,500 in 1853 and continued to increase with an influx of immigrants from Germany and Luxembourg between 1853 and 1865.
In 1870 the city saw major improvements in transportation. Not only was the railroad approved to extend through Ozaukee County, the harbor was drastically improved. The dredging that occurred resulted in the first man-made harbor in North America.
J. M. Bostwick was instrumental in the opening of the Wisconsin Chair Factory in September 1888, the success of which was vital for the town to flourish. The Gilson Manufacturing Company started making garden tractors and tractor lawn mowers in 1894 and soon became the second largest business, after the Wisconsin Chair Factory.
From 1910 through 1935 Port Washington was the home of Paramount Records and other associated record labels. In 1940 the population was 4,046; in 1950 4,754.
Of notable maritime commerce was the Port Washington power plant run by Wisconsin Electric Power Company, better known as We Energies. In 1943 the company reportedly stated that the Port Washington Plant was "the most efficient steam power plant in the world." The coal-fired plant received shipments of coal primarily by lake boat from its beginning of service in 1935 until 2004 when the coal-fired boilers were taken out of service. The plant has since been converted to generate electricity from natural gas. The conclusion of the receipt of coal also signaled the conclusion of Port Washington as a commercial port. The harbor is now used almost exclusively by recreational boaters.
Port Washington has the largest collection of pre-Civil War buildings in Wisconsin, several of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Port Washington Visitor Center is itself a historic building known as the "Pebble House". Additionally, the three-story brick courthouse was built in 1854 and originally served as jail, housing for the jailer, county offices and courtrooms.