|City of Janesville|
Downtown Janesville looking south on Main Street (2004)
|Nickname(s): "Wisconsin's Park Place"
Location in Rock County and the state of Wisconsin.
|• City manager||Eric Levitt|
|• Total||34.45 sq mi (89.23 km2)|
|• Land||33.86 sq mi (87.70 km2)|
|• Water||0.59 sq mi (1.53 km2)|
|• Estimate (2012)||63,588|
|• Density||1,877.6/sq mi (724.9/km2)|
|• Demonym||Janesvillians; "Jane's Villains"|
|Time zone||Central (UTC−6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC−5)|
Janesville is a city in southern Wisconsin, United States. It is the county seat of Rock County and the principal municipality of the Janesville, Wisconsin Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 63,575.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Government
- 5 Economy
- 6 Transportation
- 7 Media
- 8 Education
- 9 Hedberg Public Library
- 10 Parks and recreation
- 11 Religion
- 12 Sports
- 13 Notable people
- 14 See also
- 15 References
- 16 External links
The Janesville area was home to many Native American tribes before the settlement of people from the East. With the Indian Removal Act of 1830 many Native American peoples were uprooted and forced out of their homelands to make room for the American settlers, with many Native peoples, including the Ho-Chunk and Potawatomi, being forced onto reservations.
Land surveys in the 1830s encouraged pioneers to settle in the area among the abundance of fertile farmland and woodlands. Many of these early settlers established farms and began cultivating wheat and other grains.
A key settler was Henry Janes, a native of Virginia who was a self-proclaimed woodsman and early city planner. Janes came to the area in the early 1830s and initially wanted to name the budding village “Blackhawk" after the famous Sauk leader Chief Black Hawk, but was turned down by Post Office officials. After some discussion it was settled that the town would be named after Janes himself and thus in 1835, Janesville was founded.
As the population grew in the Janesville area, several new industries began cropping up along the Rock River including flour and lumber mills. The first dam was built in 1844.
Some of the key settlers in the Janesville hailed from the burned-over district of western New York State, an area marked by its abundance of Christian revival and awakening groups during the mid-19th century. These groups were also active in abolitionist and women’s rights movements.
Of these settlers was William Tallman who hailed from Rome, New York. Tallman came to the area in 1850 and bought up large tracts of land in hopes of inspiring his fellow New Yorkers to settle in the fertile Rock County. Tallman established himself as one of the most influential and affluent members of the budding Janesville populace. He was impassioned by the call for abolition and became a supporter of the Republican Party. One of the crowning moments in Tallman’s life was when he convinced the up-and-coming Illinois Republican Abraham Lincoln to speak in Janesville in 1859. The Tallman house is now a historical landmark and now best known as “The place where Abraham Lincoln slept”.
Janesville was very active during the Civil War. Local farms sold grains to the Union army, and Rock County was one of the counties in Wisconsin with the highest number of men enlisted.
After the Civil War, Janesville’s agriculture continued to surge and a greater demand for new farming technology led to the development of several foundries and farm machine manufacturers in the area. Among these were the Janesville Machine Company and the Rock River Iron Works. With the boom in the farm service sector and establishment of a rail system, Janesville soon began to ship goods to and from prominent eastern cities, including New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. After decades of rigorous grain farming, the soil quality around Janesville began to degrade. The farmers responded to this issue by planting tobacco which became one of the most profitable and prolific crops grown in Wisconsin during the late 19th century.
Another development during the mid-19th century was the establishment of a women’s rights movement in Janesville. The movement was founded in the 1850s and was continued after the Civil War. One of the key focuses of the group during the 1870s was the Temperance movement.
One of the key developments in Janesville’s history was the establishment of a General Motors plant in 1919. The plant was initially established to produce Samson tractors, a company acquired by GM co-founder William C. Durant. Durant was encouraged by Joseph Craig, the president of Janesville Machine to build a plant to produce the Samson tractors in Janesville, to which Durant agreed. In the years following World War I the demand for tractors plummeted and the plant shifted its focus to the production of automobiles.
One of the most prominent turn of the century figures in Janesville was George Parker who developed new pen technologies and styles and eventually established the Parker Pen Company. His developments included the “lucky curve” ink feed system, and the “trench pen” a pen commissioned by the U.S. Army for use in World War I. Parker designed and established a headquarters and factory in downtown Janesville. The Parker Pen company was handed down to George’s son Ken who developed the revolutionary “Parker 51” in the 1940s. A Parker pen was used by Dwight Eisenhower to sign Germany’s Armistice agreement to end World War II in Europe, and subsequently General Douglas MacArthur used his 20 year old Parker Duofold in the signing of Japan’s surrender at the end of the War in the Pacific. The Parker Pen Company was one of the top employers in the area for over 70 years. The company was eventually sold off in a leveraged buyout in the 1980s.
Another important figure in Janesville's history was John Nolen, who was hired by the city in 1919. Nolen was a city planner who saw the Rock River as a focal point for community and park development. His park planning established Janesville as the “City of Parks”.
A tree that once stood in downtown Courthouse Park was the site of a lynch mob that hanged a convicted murderer in 1859. The location of a cross burning in 1992 is now "Peace Park" with a playground and a peace pole, said to be the world's tallest at 52 feet.
National Register of Historic Places
Twenty percent of Wisconsin's buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places are located in Janesville. The 1857 Lincoln-Tallman House, which models the Italian Villa-style architecture, is one of 34 sites on the Register. Abraham Lincoln slept there for two nights. The Columbus Circle neighborhood became Janesville's tenth historic district in 2005. The former Janesville Public Library, a Carnegie library built in 1902, was designed by J.T.W. Jennings. The Courthouse Hill Historic District was added in 1986. In 1976, the Lappin-Hayes Block, once the site of the cabin belonging to Henry Janes, was added. The Lovejoy and Merrill-Nowlan Houses, the residences of two Janesville Mayors, including Allen P. Lovejoy, were added in 1980. The Frances Willard Schoolhouse, partially built by Josiah Willard and named after his daughter, Frances, was added in 1977.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 34.45 square miles (89.23 km2), of which 33.86 square miles (87.70 km2) is land and 0.59 square miles (1.53 km2) is water. The city is divided by the Rock River.
As of the census of 2010, there were 63,575 residents, 25,828 occupied housing units, and 16,718 families in the city. The population density was 1,877.6 people per square mile (834.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 91.7% White, 2.6% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 1.3% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 2.0% from other races, and 2.1% from two or more races. 5.4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Of the 25,828 households, 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living in them, 46.6% were married couples living together, 12.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.3% were non-families. 28.2% of all households were made up of individuals, with 10.6% individuals aged 65 years or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 2.95.
In the city, the population was spread out with 21.8% under the age of 18, and 13.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37.1 years.
Janesville is represented by Neal Kedzie (R) and Tim Cullen (D) in the Wisconsin State Senate, and Amy Loudenbeck (R) and Debra Kolste (D) in the Wisconsin State Assembly. Paul Ryan (R) represents the city in the United States House of Representatives, and Ron Johnson (R) and Tammy Baldwin (D) in the United States Senate.
Businesses headquartered in Janesville include Blain's Farm and Fleet, a three-state retail chain; Woodman's Food Market, a regional supermarket chain that built its first store in Janesville; Swing'n'Slide, a maker of wood-and-plastic playground equipment; Hufcor (formerly Hough Shade Company), a manufacturer of room dividers that markets internationally; and Gray's Brewing, maker of boutique beers and soft drinks.
From 1919 until 2008, Janesville was the site of the Janesville GM Assembly Plant. Begun in 1919, when GM bought the Janesville Machine Company and merged it with the Samson Tractor Company, the Janesville plant was the oldest General Motors plant in North America prior to its closing. It assembled light-duty trucks and sport utility vehicles, which declined in popularity as gasoline prices increased. The plant closed in December, 2008. Production of General Motors sport-utility vehicles ended on December 23 and the remaining medium-duty Isuzu assembly line ended operations on April 23, 2009.
The Parker Pen Company was founded in Janesville. At one time its factory was the largest writing instrument plant in the world. The company later purchased Manpower, Inc., but eventually sold the pen business to Gillette and no longer operates in Janesville. It is now owned by the Sanford division of Newell Rubbermaid. The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company was founded in Janesville in 1857 but moved to Milwaukee two years later.
The Janesville Mall redeveloped in the late 1990s, and in 1998 Pine Tree Plaza opened. In November 2006, a Walmart Supercenter and a Sam's Club opened after a period of controversy. The site of the former Janesville Oasis, known for Bessie, a large fiberglass cow at its entrance, began redevelopment in 2007; the anchor tenant is a Super Menards. Bessie the cow was spared by popular demand.
As of 2012, the largest employers in the city were:
- Mercy Health System
- Janesville School District
- Rock County
- City of Janesville
- W. W. Grainger
- Seneca Foods
- Wal-Mart/Sam's Club
- J. P. Cullen and Sons
- SSI Technologies
- Prent Corporation
Janesville operates a bus system, the Janesville Transit System (JTS), which also connects with neighboring Beloit and Milton. Van Galder Bus Company (a Coach USA company), based in Janesville, operates a regional bus service between Madison and downtown Chicago, Chicago O'Hare Airport, and Midway Airport.
The Janesville Gazette, owned by Bliss Communications, is one of two daily newspapers in Rock County, Wisconsin (the Beloit Daily News is the other), and serves a regional market stretching into Walworth County. Delavan-based Community Shoppers, Inc. publishes the bi-weekly Janesville Messenger.
Janesville has two television stations licensed to the city: CW affiliate WBUW (Channel 57), which has its offices and transmitter in Madison and serves all of south-central Wisconsin, and WDNW-LD (Channel 45), a low-power translator station of the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Many radio stations also serve Janesville.
The Janesville School District has twelve elementary schools, three middle schools, two high schools and five charter schools. The Janesville Academy for International Studies, a charter high school that focuses on teaching global perspectives, and the Guide Language Center, which offers over 10 foreign languages, are both located downtown. TAGOS Leadership Academy is a project-based charter school that is located in Arrow Park. In addition, there are a number of parochial schools in the city.
The Wisconsin School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has been located in Janesville since 1850. A two-year community college, the University of Wisconsin–Rock County, located on the southwest side of Janesville, is part of the University of Wisconsin System. A two-year technical college, Blackhawk Technical College, is located midway between Janesville and Beloit; Blackhawk also offers degree programs through Upper Iowa University.
Hedberg Public Library
The library began in 1865 as a privately supported reading room for the Young Men's Library Association. After a referendum passed in 1884, it became a public library that was housed in rented quarters. In 1903, a new building was constructed with $30,000 from Andrew Carnegie and other donors. The city also agreed to appropriate $3,000 for library operations. The library then moved to its first official home across from the Rock County Court House on Main Street. When it outgrew these quarters in the early 1960s, a new library was built in 1968 at 316 S. Main Street.
Just 20 years later, the library began planning for expanded space. With $4.6 million donated by Don and Gerry Hedberg, local philanthropists, as well as city and other donated monies, an expanded and completely renovated library was opened in 1996. Janesville's public library was then renamed Hedberg Public Library in honor of its largest contributors.
Parks and recreation
Janesville is known as "Wisconsin's Park Place". Its 2,590-acre (10.5 km2) park system includes 64 improved parks, as well as boat launches, golf courses, and nature trails. This is one of the highest acreages per capita in Wisconsin.
Janesville has a public, internationally themed botanical garden, Rotary Gardens, that was created from an abandoned sand pit.
Traxler Park is home to the Rock Aqua Jays, a water ski team that has been U.S. national champion 17 times. The team originated and regularly hosts the National Show Ski championships, and was the host of the first ever World Water Ski Show championship, with teams competing from Australia, Belgium, Canada and China. Traxler Park is also the site of the city's annual Fourth of July festivities.
Other major parks include Riverside Park, a recreational park along the Rock River including a golf course and a segment of the Ice Age Trail; Rockport Park, largely undeveloped, including the municipal swimming pool and Peace Park; Monterey Park, including the Big Rock, an early natural landmark signaling a good ford of the Rock River (and the namesake of the county, but not the river), as well as a sports stadium used by the school system; Lustig Park, used for a disc golf course; and Palmer Park, which includes a 9-hole golf course and CAMDEN Playground (an accessible play area, considered the largest accessible/integrated playground in the world and the most accessible/integrated playground). Most of the hiking and biking trails in the city are connected to the Ice Age Trail, which will eventually connect to the west with the Sugar River State Trail, north to Milton and Fort Atkinson and east to the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
Janesville also has a nearly 500-acre greenbelt system to provide areas for surface water runoff and habitat for a diversity of plants and animals.
There are four Roman Catholic parishes in Janesville, all part of the Diocese of Madison. The oldest is St. Patrick's, established in a log chapel in 1844 when there were only six Catholic families in Janesville. St. Patrick's present church was built of cream colored brick in 1863 and is located at 315 Cherry Street. Located on a hill near the center of town, the architecturally prominent Nativity of Mary church (St. Mary's) was organized in 1876 by German immigrants who wanted a parish of their own. The present red brick structure was completed in 1902. The remaining two Janesville parishes include St. John Vianney, located on East Racine Street, and St. William on the near west side.
The city is also home to many other Christian churches including Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, Baptist, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and others. The Seventh Day Baptist General Conference has its offices in Janesville; the denomination's nearest church is in nearby Milton. All Saints Anglican Catholic Church a part of the continuing Anglican movement, is located in a historic church near downtown that was built by German Lutherans in the 1880s.
In fall 2009, Janesville became home to the Janesville Jets, an expansion team in the North American Hockey League, with games played at the Janesville Ice Arena. The Janesville Cubs, a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Chicago Cubs, was based in Janesville from 1941 to 1942 and 1946 to 1953. They were called the Bears in 1946.
- David Adamany, president of Temple University 2000-2006
- C. S. Amsden, President pro tempore of the South Dakota Senate and Speaker pro tempore of the South Dakota House of Representatives
- William A. Barstow, Governor of Wisconsin, Union Army general
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- James Bintliff, Union Army general
- Redwald Bleasdale, Distinguished Service Cross recipient
- Victor Bleasdale, Navy Cross and Distinguished Service Cross recipient
- Frank Bliss, MLB player
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- James H. Budd, California governor, 1895–1899
- Stephen Bolles, congressman, 1939–1941
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- Zebulon P. Burdick, Wisconsin State Senator
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- Peter P. Carr, Wisconsin State Senator
- John B. Cassoday, Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
- John Henry Comstock, entomologist
- Harmon Sweatland Conger, U.S. Representative from New York
- James E. Croft, Medal of Honor recipient, Civil War
- Tommy Cronin, NFL player
- Tim Cullen, majority leader of the Wisconsin Senate from 1981 to 1987
- Moxie Dalton, NFL player
- Tim Davis (1943–1988), co-founder of The Steve Miller Band
- Gerald L. Endl, Medal of Honor recipient, World War II
- Russ Feingold, former U.S. Senator, 1993–2011
- Clayton Fisher, Navy Cross recipient
- Jim Fitzgerald, former owner of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Golden State Warriors
- Dan Fitzsimons, screenwriter
- Gloria Foster, actress
- Stan Fox, race car driver, eight-time starter at the Indianapolis 500
- Tucker Fredricks, 2006, 2010 Olympic speedskater
- Theodore W. Goldin, Medal of Honor recipient, Indian Wars
- Lavinia Goodell, first woman licensed to practice law in Wisconsin
- William Goodell, abolitionist
- Alexander Graham, Wisconsin businessman and state legislator
- Gilbert N. Haugen, U.S. Representative from Iowa
- Fred Hayner. baseball player
- Ken Hendricks, Forbes 400 businessman
- Larry Hough, Olympic medalist
- Lawrence A. Hough, president of Sallie Mae 1990-1997
- Carrie Jacobs Bond, songwriter, born in Janesville in 1862
- Paul Janus, NFL player
- John Johnson, Medal of Honor recipient, Civil War
- James H. Knowlton, Wisconsin State Assemblyman
- Debra Kolste, Wisconsin State Assemblyman
- Tad Kubler, guitarist for The Hold Steady
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- Walter Lees, early aviator
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- Allen P. Lovejoy, Wisconsin State Senator
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- Tom Morrissey, professional baseball player
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- Henry Palmer, Union Army general
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- James Pond, Medal of Honor recipient, Civil War
- Manilla Powers, singer, Vaudeville performer, musical theater comedian
- Steve Preston, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (2008–2009)
- Joe Riggert, MLB player
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- Michael J. Sheridan, former speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly
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- Ithamar C. Sloan, congressman from Wisconsin
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- E. Ray Stevens, Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
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- James Sutherland, Wisconsin State Senator
- Howard Teasdale, Wisconsin State Senator
- Alexander McDonald Thomson, former Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly
- Sarah Turner, journalist
- Charles L. Valentine, Wisconsin State Assemblyman
- Tom Welling, actor, Smallville (lived in Janesville briefly during childhood)
- John Meek Whitehead, Wisconsin State Senate
- Edward V. Whiton, Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
- Ella Wheeler Wilcox, poet
- Frances Willard, educator and activist (raised and first taught here)
- Charles G. Williams, U.S. Representative
- Daniel Hale Williams, African-American surgeon and heart surgery pioneer, raised and first employed here
- George H. Williston, Wisconsin territorial and state legislator
- Claron A. Windus, Medal of Honor recipient, Indian Wars
- Wayne W. Wood, Wisconsin State Assemblyman
- Edwin E. Woodman, Wisconsin State Senator
- John Zirbel, French horn player
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- City of Janesville website
- Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
- Forward Janesville
- School District of Janesville
- Hedberg Public Library
- Rotary Gardens
- Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra
- Rock County Historical Society
- Rock County Genealogical Society
- Janesville's Past: A digital resource of Hedberg Public Library and the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center
- Janesville's History photo gallery
- Wisconsin Hometown Stories: Janesville Documentary produced by Wisconsin Public Television
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