Location in Wisconsin
Ashland (the United States)
|• Mayor||Debra Lewis|
|• City Council|
|• Total||13.60 sq mi (35.22 km2)|
|• Land||13.35 sq mi (34.56 km2)|
|• Water||0.26 sq mi (0.66 km2)|
|Elevation||671 ft (205 m)|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||580/sq mi (220/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−6 (CST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−5 (CDT)|
|Area codes||715 & 534|
|GNIS feature ID||1560982|
Ashland is a city in Ashland and Bayfield counties in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. It is the county seat of Ashland County. The city is a port on Lake Superior, near the head of Chequamegon Bay. The population was 7,908 at the 2020 census, all of whom resided in the Ashland County portion of the city. The unpopulated Bayfield County portion is in the city's southwest, bordered by the easternmost part of the Town of Eileen.
The junction of U.S. Route 2 and Wisconsin Highway 13 is located at this city. It is the home of Northland College, Northwood Technical College, and the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute.
Eight Native American nations have lived on Chequamegon Bay. Later settlers included European explorers, missionaries and fur traders, and more recently, Yankees from the eastern United States who platted and developed the lands, railroaders, shippers, loggers, entrepreneurs, and other settlers. Four flags have flown over the area around Ashland from colonial to contemporary times: Spanish, French, English and American.
The area was part of the United States' Northwest Territory. This region was divided into four successive territories for administration before becoming part of the state of Wisconsin: Indiana Territory, Michigan Territory, Illinois Territory, and Wisconsin Territory.
About the time Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World in the late 15th century, the Ojibwe people came to the land they called Sha-ga-waun-il-ong. This term has been translated numerous ways: "lowlands", the "needle", "the region of shallow water", and where "there are large extended breakers". Each is descriptive and suitably accurate. The Ojibwe stayed on Chequamegon Point for nearly a century before leaving. They settled first on Madeline Island and then moved to the Sault Ste. Marie region.
French fur traders Pierre d'Esprit, le Sieur Radisson and Medard Chouart, le Sieur des Groseillers were the first Europeans of record to visit Chequamegon Bay. They arrived in 1659 and built what has been called the first European dwelling place in what is now Wisconsin. A historical marker noting this is located at Maslowski Beach on U.S. Route 2 on the west end of Ashland. The monument was erected in 1929 by the Old Settlers Club.
The Ojibwe heartily welcomed the Frenchmen. Five years later, Father Claude-Jean Allouez arrived. A Jesuit missionary, he brought the first word of Christianity to Wisconsin's shores. Allouez built a chapel not far from the stockade erected by Radisson and Groseillier; he worked and lived at the Bay until 1669.
In 1854, Ohioans Asaph Whittlesey and George Kilborn set out from La Pointe to explore the head of Chequamegon Bay. Whittlesey built a 10 ft (3.0 m) × 14 ft (4.3 m) cabin in Ashland. His wife, Lucy, and daughter, Eugenia, joined him in August and prepared to winter in their new home. Signs of settlement soon began to take place. The first community dance was held at their house. The Reverend L.H. Wheeler preached the first sermon on the first Independence Day that was observed there. This village was the location of the first post office and polling place for county offices. Sunday school was also conducted on the premises.
The Milwaukee, Lakeshore and Western Railroad platted the city in 1885, as railroad construction moved westward. Local landowner Martin Beaser named the settlement Ashland after Kentucky statesman Henry Clay’s residence. Previous names for the area included Bay City, Saint Mark (for Saint Mark's Basilica), and Whittlesey, the latter in honor of initial postmaster Adolph Whittlesey.
In the nineteenth century, immigrants to the area included many individuals and families from Germany and northern Europe, as shown by the numerous Lutheran churches in town. Some were initially attracted to agriculture or jobs in the mining industry.
During the last year of World War I, from March–October 1918, six recorded incidents of vigilantism took place in the Ashland area, committed against men of German descent, who were suspected of pro-German sympathies.
In Ashland mobs of masked men abducted individuals at night from their homes, driving each to secluded areas where the men were tarred and feathered. A group identifying as the Knights of Liberty claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying in a letter to a local paper, "We have no purpose to do injustice to any man, but we do feel that any treasonable and seditious acts, or utterances, demand prompt punishment. These cases must not be allowed to run indefinitely, without anything being done. We want action and we want it now."
Governor Emanuel Philipp expressed his indignation over these incidents, as well as reports of local ethnic Germans receiving threatening letters. He directed state Attorney General Spencer Haven to launch an inquiry. His investigator found the local citizenry uncooperative, including John C. Chapple, editor of the Ashland Daily Press and campaign manager for Roy P. Wilcox, a Republican candidate for governor proclaiming his own patriotism. The inquiry found the community generally satisfied with the treatment of the first victims. Haven expressed frustration at the local court, which refused to adjourn to allow the securing of evidence, and at the district attorney, who dismissed the first two cases for lack of said evidence. Haven threatened to send a company of the state guard to maintain law and order in the area. Ultimately no one was convicted for any of the attacks. Two months after the world war ended, newspapers reported that the local Knights of Liberty had disbanded. The Milwaukee Journal reported that more than 800 men in Ashland County belonged to the order.
The harbor of Ashland was dominated by the massive Wisconsin Central Railway (later Soo Line) ore dock, built in 1916 to load iron ore mined in the area into freighters bound for industrial ports in the Midwest, such as Ashtabula, Ohio, where steel was produced. The last of what had once been many such docks, the concrete structure is 80 feet (24 m) high and 75 feet (23 m) wide. In 1925 the dock was extended to 1,800 feet (550 m); it was last used to ship ore in 1965.
In 2007 the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation named it one of the "10 most endangered historic buildings in Wisconsin", a list intended to stir preservation efforts. The main concrete structure and trestle had slowly deteriorated since the early 1970s because of lack of maintenance and the effects of the environment. A structural inspection completed in 2006 and 2007 concluded that the ore dock had become structurally unsafe and was an imminent safety hazard. On May 14, 2009, the Ashland Planning Commission granted Canadian National Railway approval for demolition of the dock. All material on the ore dock was removed, down to the concrete base. This was completed in 2013.
The base of the ore dock remains. The city took ownership of it from Canadian National Railway in May 2014. It is working with a consultant group to design a redevelopment plan for the base of the dock.
Ashland is located along the south shore of Chequamegon Bay. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.70 square miles (35.48 km2), of which 13.42 square miles (34.76 km2) is land and 0.28 square miles (0.73 km2) is water.
Ashland has a humid continental climate (Koppen: Dfb) with four distinct seasons and notably cold winters. Due to the city's proximity to Lake Superior, it sometimes has lake effect snow storms, with high amounts of snow recorded.
|Climate data for Ashland, Wisconsin (John F. Kennedy Memorial Airport), 1991–2020 normals, extremes 1893–present|
|Record high °F (°C)||58
|Average high °F (°C)||22.3
|Daily mean °F (°C)||14.0
|Average low °F (°C)||5.8
|Record low °F (°C)||−41
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||0.64
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||6.7||6.2||7.8||10.0||12.1||12.9||12.9||13.9||12.7||11.3||8.9||7.9||123.3|
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2020, the population was 7,908. The population density was 591.7 inhabitants per square mile (228.5/km2). There were 3,860 housing units at an average density of 288.8 per square mile (111.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 80.5% White, 10.0% Native American, 1.0% Black or African American, 0.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.4% from other races, and 7.2% from two or more races. Ethnically, the population was 2.8% Hispanic or Latino of any race.
As of the census of 2010, there were 8,216 people, 3,516 households, and 1,942 families residing in the city. The population density was 612.2 inhabitants per square mile (236.4/km2). There were 3,864 housing units at an average density of 287.9 per square mile (111.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 87.0% White, 0.5% African American, 7.5% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 0.5% from other races, and 4.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.1% of the population.
There were 3,516 households, of which 26.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.7% were married couples living together, 12.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 44.8% were non-families. 36.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.17 and the average family size was 2.81.
The median age in the city was 38.6 years. 21% of residents were under the age of 18; 13% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.1% were from 25 to 44; 26.7% were from 45 to 64; and 16.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.2% male and 51.8% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 8,620 people, 3,513 households, and 2,027 families residing in the city. The population density was 643.3 people per square mile (248.4/km2). There were 3,777 housing units at an average density of 108.8 persons/km2 (281.9 persons/sq mi). The racial makeup of the city was 90.17% White, 0.32% African American, 6.30% Native American, 0.49% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.43% from other races, and 2.23% from two or more races. 1.37% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 3,513 households, out of which 28.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.5% were married couples living together, 11.7% have a woman whose husband does not live with her, and 42.3% were non-families. 35.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.91.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 22.2% under the age of 18, 15.4% from 18 to 24, 24.7% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,853, and the median income for a family was $40,549. Males had a median income of $30,122 versus $20,926 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,330. About 7.5% of families and 12.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.9% of those under the age of 18 and 10.0% ages 65 or older.:)
Ashland has a mayor-council form of government. The mayor is elected at-large. In 2014, Debra Lewis was the first woman elected as mayor. The city's 11 wards are each represented by an elected alderperson (or councilor), elected from single-member districts. City council meetings are held on the second and last Tuesday of the month. Meetings are open to the public, although on occasion the Council may meet in closed session. One of the recent members, Wahsayah Whitebird, was one of only two members of the Communist Party USA in elected office during his tenure.
Ashland City Hall is housed in the city's first post office, built by the federal government in 1893. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the "Old Ashland Post Office". The County Courthouse is also located in the city.
In the Wisconsin State Legislature, Ashland is located in the 74th Assembly District, and the 25th Senate District, represented by Assembly Representative Beth Meyers and State Senator Janet Bewley.
In the United States House of Representatives, Ashland is part of Wisconsin's 7th congressional district. The seat is currently held by Tom Tiffany (R).
A few of the largest manufacturers in the community include:
Many small businesses also make up a large portion of the local economy. Tourism is an important part of the area's commerce. The summer season attracts tourists for activities on the Great Lakes.
Stations serving Ashland come from the Duluth market:
The two major highways in the city are U.S. Highway 2 and Wisconsin Highway 13.
The city is one of the northern termini in Wisconsin for the Canadian National Railway (CN), parent company of the former Wisconsin Central Ltd. It took over the former Soo Line tracks in 1987. However, after flooding in 2016 caused substantial damage to bridges south of town, CN discontinued service to Ashland (trains now reach only as far north as Morse).
Airports certified for commercial carrier operations near Ashland:
Other public use airports near Ashland:
Local transportation is provided by the non-profit Bay Area Rural Transit (BART) system, which has bus stops throughout the community. Headquartered in Ashland's Industrial Park, BART also provides transportation to and from other communities in the Chequamegon Bay region, including Washburn, and Bayfield.
Northern Towns Transport is a regional car service and shuttle provider, connecting Ashland and the Chequamegon Bay area with downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport; as well as the Twin Ports of Superior, Wisconsin / Duluth, Minnesota and Duluth International Airport.
The region is served by the Chequamegon Bay Arts Council, a non-profit organization promoting the arts in northern Wisconsin.
The Ashland Chamber Music Society is a volunteer organization that provides a venue for local and regional musicians to perform chamber music in the Ashland area.
The Bay Area Film Society is a group of film enthusiasts who sponsor the screening of classic films.
The Chequamegon Symphony Orchestra (CSO) provides orchestral concerts to the residents of northern Wisconsin.
Natural places in the vicinity include Lake Superior, the Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge, and the nearby Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.