The Village and surrounding area provides great opportunity for recreational activities such as boating, swimming, cycling, auto racing, camping, hiking, golfing, ice skating, skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, fishing, etc. We also have a wide range of businesses in the Village including, award-winning resorts and restaurants, taverns, a gas station, banks, a laundromat, builders, a car wash, cheese and metal manufacturing facilities, a wine shop, a framing, gift and apparel shop, and a golf course. We offer much to the resident and visitor alike.
History of Elkhart Lake
Reputedly named after an Indian legend, the Village of Elkhart Lake lies in northwestern Sheboygan County. The earliest settlement of Elkhart Lake occurred in 1847 when J.L. Moore purchased considerable acreage to use as farmland. He was followed by Peter Sharpe who later purchased 80 acres which became known as Sharpe’s Hotel. This was the start of Elkhart Lake as a tourist destination. By 1857 the population warranted its own post office.
When the Milwaukee and Northern Railroad pushed northward, William Schwartz influenced the railroad officials to route the tracks through what is now the Village of Elkhart Lake. The track was laid in 1872 and created opportunities for businesses and resorts in the Village. As the population continued to grow, William Schwartz laid out the original plat of the Village in 1875. He named the streets Maple, Pine, Spring, West, Lake, and East. In 1894 a group of businessmen felt the need for the area to incorporate into a Village. They petitioned the Sheboygan Circuit Court for incorporation and on September 17, 1894 incorporation of an area of 595 acres to be known as the Village of Elkhart Lake was approved. The first Village President was T. C. Sharpe.
Over the next 100 years the population grew from 392 to 1028. The Village celebrated its 100 birthday in 1994. During this first 100 years, the Village had a variety of hotels and resorts, including Sharpe’s Resort, Schwarz Resort Hotel/Barefoot Bay Resort, Pine Point Resort, Osthoff Resort Hotel/Camp Harand, Siebken’s Resort, and Fleck’s Resort/Camp Brosius. Currently the Village is home to three resorts: Osthoff Resort, Siebken’s Resort, and Victorian Village Resort.
Along with the railroad and resorts came gambling. Slot machines were everywhere in Elkhart Lake during the summer months. By the 1920’s gambling in Elkhart Lake was so out in the open that an undercover reporter from Milwaukee stated that never had “games of chance been operated more openly or with less regard for the anti-gambling laws.” Raids on gambling continued to be a nuisance during the 1930’s and 40’s in Elkhart Lake, but didn’t put a stop to gambling until the State banned gambling in 1945.
The Village has a rich history in racing, but not just auto racing. The Village had a horse racing track that started on November 6, 1898 when Matheus Gottfried purchased “Elkhart Hill” and all the land surrounding it from William Schwartz. The horse racing lasted for about 15 years, when the land was sold to William Brieske and John Feldmann who platted subdivisions on the land due to the growth in population of Elkhart Lake.
Road racing began in the Village in the 1950’s. In 1950, ’51, & ’52 the Sports Car Club of America and the Elkhart Lake Chamber of Commerce got together and sponsored road races. The course was 3.35 miles in 1950 and grew to 6.5 miles in 1952. The race in 1952 was the last allowed on the streets, as state law banned racing on public roads. Although open road racing ended in 1952, a four-mile track now known as Road America opened in 1955 just a little southeast of the original race circuit. The Historic Race Circuits of Elkhart Lake formed to help preserve the old historic race circuit. It was listed on the Wisconsin Register of Historic Places in September 2005 and the National Register of Historic Places in February of 2006.
The historic train depot located in the heart of downtown has a museum of the history of the Village. The depot is open during the summer months and is operated by the Village Historical Society.
The Village celebrated its centennial from June 28th through July 3rd, 1994. The Village was 120 years old in 2014. The Village is now made up of a scattering of business and tourism related activities.