Historical Significance of Wausau's Washington Square

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

The corner of 3rd and Washington Streets in downtown Wausau is rich in historical significance.

Built in 1902 and 1903, what's now known as Washington Square was most known as Winkelman's Department Store. Owner Sam Winkelman opened the doors in 1911.

"That was really the center of all the commerce for this area, as he developed his department store," said Mark Craig, general manager of Compass Properties, the business that owns the square.

Back in 1936, the two story building was elevated to three stories in the middle of the depression. Craig says it shows how well the businessman was doing.

The building was the first in central Wisconsin to have air conditioning and an elevator.

The Winkelman family sold it to Johnson Hills in 1970. In 1983, 300 3rd Street was transformed into Washington Square.

Nestled in the square are boutiques, a coffee shop, restaurant and spa. The business district appears to be thriving.

"Keeping your downtown healthy and vibrant is a reflection on your overall community. So if we have a healthy downtown people view Wausau as a place of progress and growth and will continue to come and visit," Craig said.

What began as the heart of the city, remains. And it hasn't lost much of its original charm.

"The hardwood floors, the brick walls downstairs, a lot of the structure is still in tact from what Sam Winkelman did in 1936."

Washington Square is now considered part of the 3rd Street Lifestyle Center which includes Jefferson Street Inn, the visitor's bureau and several apartments.

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