A short history of West Bend

An ideal location along the bank of the Milwaukee River led to the founding of West Bend. Surveyors in the 1840s identified the location as a perfect half-way stop on the road between Milwaukee and Fond du lac. So why is West Bend called West Bend? It’s located on a bend of the Milwaukee River, on the west side.

The river powered mills that helped the community grow and in 1873 the railroad arrived, fueling the community’s’ growth and in 1845 West Bend officially incorporated as a community.

West Bend has been home to some iconic American brands. West Bend Aluminum Company (later West Bend Company) made cookware from 1911 to 2003. Home cooks are still able to buy new West Bend pots and pans—Regal Ware continues to manufacture cookware in West Bend.

West Bend is also home to Gehl Company, a manufacturer of compact construction and agriculture equipment with roots that date to 1859, when a settler named Louis Lucas opened a blacksmith shop in West Bend.

West Bend Mutual Insurance Company is another local company woven into the history of the city. The company formed in 1894 in the wake of two devastating fires. Local businesspeople sought a more affordable insurance solution to protect the community. The effort grew to a company that a would offer insurance products to people in 11 states.

To learn more about West Bend, visit these museums:

Tower Heritage Center

Old Sheriff’s Residence and Jail

St. Agnes Historic Convent and School

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