The Village of Menomonee Falls is a growing, northwestern suburb of Milwaukee located in Waukesha County, Wisconsin, United States. It is located at the meeting point of three counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Washington. As of the 2000 census, Menomonee Falls was the third largest growing community in SE Wisconsin with a population jump from 26,840 in 1990 to 32,647 in 2000. The estimated population in 2005 was 34,125. The official location of Menomonee Falls is 43.15° N latitude and 88.11° W longitude, at an elevation of 853 feet (260 m) above sea level. While close to urban centers (located 15 minutes from downtown Milwaukee) Menomonee Falls, “Wisconsin’s Largest Village”, has developed an maintained its own unique, small town character. There are 2,500 acres (10 km2) of parks and protected wilderness (like the 830-acre (3.4 km2) Tamarak Swamp) that help to contribute to the country-like atmosphere of the community.
Also unique to Menomonee Falls is the Old Falls Village Historical Park and Museum. The museum invites visitors to step back in time and take a glimpse at what life was like during the mid-1800s to early 1900s. There are a variety of historic homes and buildings, such as a schoolhouse, a railroad depot, log cabin, and the centerpiece of the museum, the Miller-Davidson House which is original to the museum site. Built in 1858, it is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. The house was originally built by farmer John Fehlandit, who sold the house in 1940 to Emma Davidson, widow of Walter Davidson of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company. Every year the Old Falls Village hosts a variety of special events – among them an Ice Cream Festival, a Civil War Encampment, and the Old Haunted Village for Halloween.
Menomonee Falls is one of the few communities in the Milwaukee area to boast an actual “downtown” with several 100 year old buildings fronting its two main streets, Appleton Avenue and Main Street, called the Village Centre. The Village Centre holds many events such as farmer’s markets in the summer, free summertime concerts, Christmas, Memorial Day, and Independence Day Parades as well as an annual Easter Egg Hunt. Menomonee Falls is also one of the few communities in the area to claim its own symphony orchestra (The Menomonee Falls Symphony Orchestra) and its own community theatre group (The Falls Patio Players).
Menomonee (pronounced Mahna-Mahnee) Falls is named for the Menomonee River which cuts diagonally through the northeastern portion of the Village. The Menomonee River is named for the Menomonee (sometimes spelled Menominee) Indians that originally inhabited the area. Menomonee is a Potawatomi word (another local Indian tribe) which means “good seed”, which described the once abundant wild rice that grew in the marshlands along the shores of the river. The river, etching through the limestone, makes a drop, or “fall” of 50 feet (15 m) in a half mile, highlighted by a waterfall, which is where the community gets its name. The Lepper Dam and Mill Pond Plaza located along Main Street are often mistaken for “The Falls”. But the actual waterfall that the town is named after is located in the center of Lime Kiln Park, by the historic lime kilns. The village’s main arterial highway, Appleton Avenue, was also originally an Indian path before the arrival of the first European settlers.
The area’s first “non-native” settler is believed to have been Hollingsworth S. Smith. The pioneers that followed him were attracted by the water power available from the river. This natural source of water along with rich soil and abundant forests to provide lumber for building homes made the area attractive as a settlement. The area was originally known as the Town of Menomonee in the late 1830s, but was later split into several smaller communities such as Lannon, Butler, and Fussville. Fussville was later annexed by the Village of Menomonee Falls in the 1950s.
Officially incorporated in 1892, Menomonee Falls had previously been know as Nehsville, named after settler Patrick Nehs who harnessed to power of the river with a limestone kiln and quarry in what is now Lime Kiln Park. Lime deposits in eastern Wisconsin played an important role in the development of communities in the area. It was used to whitewash buildings, condition the soil, treat animal hides and leather, and for plaster and mortar.
An important geographical feature of the area is the sub-continental divide. In fact, it runs right thru through the middle of Menomonee Falls as well as several other Milwaukee suburbs. The sub-continental divide separates the Mississippi River drainage basin from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River drainage basin. On the eastern side of the divide, water flows into the Menomonee River watershed which leads to Lake Michigan on its way to the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Lawrence River. On the Western side of the divide, the water flows into the Fox River watershed on it’s way to the Mississippi River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.
As a Village, Menomonee Falls has a governing body consisting of a Board President and a six member Board of Trustees.