ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin







Judy Quam, a guide and former manager of the Octagon House Museum,

joins volunteers in an annual spring cleaning effort at the local landmark. 

For several days each April, workers prepare the historic home for the upcoming tourism season. 

The former home of John and Eliza Richards was built in 1854.




Octagon House Museum opens May 1st

so mark your calendar to visit us this year.

╰☆╮GREAT DEAL: Become a member of our society now

and receive two tickets for free tour of

Octagon House and grounds on the day of your choosing.


Celebrate your wedding, anniversary, corporate picnic,

or other special event at the Octagon House Museum

E-mail  for inquiries.




April 29:  The Interurban Trolley

On Monday, April 29, at 7 p.m., the society will hold its annual meeting followed by a presentation on the historic Interurban Trolley that once ran between Watertown and Milwaukee.  Watertown resident Charles Damaske, author and historian of the Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company, will share vintage photos of the rail cars and extensive information about the formation and history of the line, focusing on the segment between Watertown and Oconomowoc.  Damaske is the president of the Milwaukee Electric Railway & Transit Historical Society established in 1983 and editor of the magazine, Live Wires.  His extensive photo and slide collection covers the trolley line from its early horsecar days to the abandonment of streetcars in 1958.


Following Damaske’s presentation, an update will be provided on recent successful efforts to transform the former trolley line right-of-way into a multi-use recreational trail.  The presentation will take place at the Watertown Senior & Community Center, 514 S. First St.  It is free and open to the public.


May 4:  Opening for the 2019 season

Opening of the Octagon House Museum for its 81st tour season.


May 19:  Dedication of new Watertown History Center

On Sunday, May 19, the society will host an open house and dedication of its new Watertown History Center – a beautiful new building constructed this past winter at the Octagon House Museum to welcome guests and to better preserve and showcase the society’s extensive collection of historical artifacts and Watertown memorabilia.  The construction of the new history center was made possible through a gift provided by Kenneth Riedl, Watertown historian and member of the society’s Board of Directors.


The spacious, light-filled new structure features an expanded visitor center with gift shop, handicap accessible restrooms, and a venue for hosting events such as wedding and baby showers and small business meetings.


The open house will run from 1-3 p.m. with the dedication and ribbon cutting starting at 1:15 p.m.  Cake and lemonade will be served and the Octagon House will be open for touring.


For more information, please call the Octagon House at 920-261-2796 or email .


August 18:  Annual 1st Brigade Band Concert & Ice Cream Social 

On the grounds of the Octagon House


             Video clip  


Enjoy ice cream and homemade cake while listening to the 1st Brigade Band on the grounds of the Octagon House Museum.  The band MAKES HISTORY LIVE by presenting period brass band music, performed on antique instruments.  Attired in uniforms and gowns, the Band’s musicians, color guard, and costumed ladies take you back to the 1860’s; to that turbulent era known as the Civil War.  A nostalgic portrayal of the atmosphere of days gone by is generated by a unique form of showmanship that blends the sights and sounds of the period with historical anecdotes.


Concert is free  /  Plate of cake & ice cream:  $5.00.


For more information, call 902-261-2796


September 7:  Octagon House Antiques & Art Show (5th annual)

On the grounds of the Octagon House



Quality antiques and vintage collectibles will be featured alongside custom artwork and unique crafts designed by local artisans at the fifth annual Octagon House Antiques & Art Show set for Saturday, Sept. 7 on the grounds of the historic Octagon House Museum, 919 Charles St., Watertown.


The rain or shine event will run from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Highlights of the day will include a silent auction filled with quality antique and vintage items, guided tours of the Octagon House Museum at a discounted rate of $5 per person, a presentation on the historical homes of Watertown at 10:30 a.m., and seasonal produce and decorations will be for sale.


A $5 cover charge to enter the museum grounds is requested of adults 18 and older to help support museum operations, and lunch will be sold onsite.


The historical society is seeking donations of quality antique or vintage items in good condition to be sold during the silent auction. Past donations have included antique furniture such as rocking chairs and Victorian parlor tables, Watertown memorabilia, dishware, vintage clocks, frames, and artwork. Space also remains available for antiques dealers and artists to reserve vendor stalls. All donations to the historical society — whether an item or monetary — are tax deductible.


To donate an antique or vintage item to the silent auction or to register as a vendor, call Melissa Lampe at 920-248-0616 or email melissa.lampe@charter. net. Questions may also be directed to Scott Robertson at 920-285-3775 or scottrobertson413@ Vendor registration forms may also be found on the society’s website at www.


The Octagon House Museum is owned and operated by the Watertown Historical Society. Completed in 1854, the five-story solid brick Octagon House was built by pioneer settler John Richards and was the largest single- family residence built in Wisconsin prior to the Civil War. The museum grounds are also home to the First Kindergarten in America, a restored pioneer-era barn, a miniature model of the Octagon House and the new Watertown History Center which houses the museum gift shop and rotating local historical displays.


September 20:  Historical Society to host talk on Civil War

Friday, Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the new Watertown History Center on the grounds of the Octagon House Museum, 919 Charles St.



The Watertown Historical Society will welcome war historian Dale Reich to present “The Greatest Myths, Realities and Heroes of the American Civil War,” on Friday, Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the new Watertown History Center on the grounds of the Octagon House Museum, 919 Charles St.


This presentation is open to the public and seating is limited to 45 attendees.  There is a $5 cost to attend the presentation with all proceeds benefitting the Watertown Historical Society.  Tickets will be sold at the door the night of the event starting at 5:30 p.m.


Reich, of Watertown, is a distinguished Vietnam Veteran who later earned his Bachelor of Journalism degree and Master’s degrees in history and teaching from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.  An author of 13 books, Reich is also a playwright and an avid runner.  He regularly speaks on topics related to wartime history at area nursing homes and to civic and social groups interested in such topics.


Reich’s presentation will provide an in-depth view of the leaders of the Civil War, namely the Lincolns, the Grants and the Lees.  He will also discuss the major turning points of the war and the Reconstruction.


For more information, contact the Octagon House Museum at 920-261-2796 or Jim Braughler at .


November 30 – December 1:  The Gift of the Magi”

Ticket info to follow.


Saturday November 30 and Sunday December 1.  from 11:00 to 3:00 each day. New performances every 30 minutes.


The annual Watertown Players Christmas show will be performed at the Octagon House Museum. This year’s show will be O. Henry’s classic tale, “The Gift of the Magi.”


The show is under the direction of Dale Van Holten and it will be performed Saturday November 30 and Sunday December 1.


The plot of the show revolves around the lives of Jim and Della Young, a newly-married couple who have little money.  Jim has one personal thing he holds in great esteem, a gold pocket watch.  Della has beautiful flowing hair.  Wanting to get each other gifts for Christmas, sacrifices the thing they hold most dearest.  Along the way Della encounters an eccentric dealer in hair goods and an even more eccentric jeweler.  It is a tale of personal sacrifice and the power of love, things that bear reminding, especially during the holiday season.


The show will be performed inside the famous eight-sided landmark, the Octagon House, from 11:00 to 3:00 each day, with new performances every 30 minutes throughout the days of the performances.


December 1:  Watertown History on Parade of Homes

The 26th annual Watertown Holiday Parade of Homes will take place Sunday, December 1, 2019, from 1-5 p.m., where the interiors of five beautiful Watertown-area homes, plus the new Watertown History Center, will be open for viewing.  The event also includes chances to win fabulous raffle prizes donated by local merchants.  Proceeds from the Holiday Parade of Homes benefit the Watertown Main Street Program's efforts to further beautify downtown Watertown, and Crossroads House, which provides transitional housing assistance to families in need.


Showcased in this year's event are the homes belonging to:


Peter and Joy Seibel . . . . . . . . . . . . .617 S. 12th St.

Daniel and Vicki Bartz. . . . . . . . . . . . 611 S. 5th Street

Pete and Dionne Kelm . . . . . . . . . . . 924 Labaree St.

Layna Steuerwald . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1605 River Drive

Gerry and Marianne Schroeder. . . . . N7451 Switzke Rd.

Watertown History Center. . . . . . . . . 919 Charles St.


Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door the day of the event.  Tickets purchased online will incur a small processing fee of $1.49.  Tickets may be purchased in person, without the processing fee, at Literatus & Co., Ace Hardware, and Piggy Wiggly.  Attendees may begin the tour at any of the five locations.  Attendees who purchase tickets online can check in at the front door of any of the tour locations to receive their hard-copy ticket for the event.  Online ticket sales end at Noon on Saturday, Nov. 30.


December 12:  The Gift of the Magi”


Traditional carols to be performed at Watertown History Center


The Watertown Historical Society will host a special presentation on traditional Christmas carols performed by local musicians Cliff Lueck and his granddaughter, Wilhelmina Zastrow, on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 starting at 7 p.m. at the Watertown History Center on the grounds of the Octagon House Museum, 919 Charles St.


Doors to the event will open at 6:30 p.m. with the concert starting at 7 p.m. Tickets will be sold at the door for $5 per person, with all funds benefiting the historical society.


The carols will be performed on vintage instruments from Lueck’s extensive collection, including an 1870s one-keyed flute upon which Zastrow will perform, with Lueck showcasing his Early Romantic guitar from 1860.


Following the musical performance, the historical society will show the heartwarming short film, Christmas on Grandfather’s Farm, that was filmed by the Watertown Curtain Club in 1958 at the Octagon House and at a farmhouse along Oconomowoc Avenue.


For more information regarding the historical society or the Dec. 12 presentation, call 920-261-2796 or email





The Octagon House Museum is located at 919 Charles Street, Watertown, Wisconsin.

Also on the grounds

America’s First Kindergarten, Pioneer Barn and Watertown History Center





12-3 pm, Sat & Sun (other by appointment)


June, July & August:

12-3 pm, Every day except Tuesdays (will be open of July 4th)



12-3 pm, Sat & Sun (other by appointment)



By appointment only


Tours are fully guided every hour on the hour in an air-conditioned museum.


For more information please call the Octagon House Museum at (920) 261-2796 or check the Events page of our website,






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History of Watertown, Wisconsin