The first European inhabitants in De Pere, Wisconsin arrived in 1671, being French monks. It became the French Empire’s western most settlement in North America. Known as Rapides Des Pere by the men of the cloth, it served as a Jesuit Mission, attempting to convert Native Americans to the Christian Faith.
Today, De Pere is a rather common middle class town with a well known Roman Catholic College of Liberal Arts, known as St Norbert’s, and a plethora of neighborhoods and business denoted for their historic significance. I visited a few last week, giving myself what may not be so much a travel bit, but more a reference for those in town wanting to learn about a few historical spots.
The oldest standing building in De Pere dates back to 1837, I know, with a history like De Pere’s one would anticipate an older building. It is known as white pillars and served the city as both an office building of the city’s largest employer and a bank. At one point, the bank printed its own money in the midst of a financial crisis.
Today it serves as a very small Museum. The exhibits are confined to one room and are rather Random. From Civil war swords and coats to the crown of the 1973 Miss America, who was born and raised in De Pere, there is a variety of interesting features. It’s great for spending a bit of time and costs nothing.
The Fox River Hydraulic company served the town by supplying the consistent power of the river to businesses, as it was the aforementioned ‘largest employer in De Pere’. There is a Lock and Dam historic district near downtown and along the fox river, paying homage to the progression, or evolution, of the dams and locks of the fox river. It, of course, was once where the Fox River Hydraulic Company made their bread and butter. Complete with a 1912 lock house and a lock, along with the dam, the district makes for an interesting and scenic stroll in town.
Another place worth a mention is the Union hotel. It was built after several hotels had burned in the middle of town. The new hotel has been hosting guests since 1883 without interruption. A third floor was added in 1903. A restaurant also satisfies visitors of this historically unique business.
There are many other old buildings in De Pere. Of note, is this double block building known as the Stecker and falk double block. It houses local businesses to this day, as the original two establishments were a meat market and liquor store. This was a very trendy structure for the year 1888 in which it was built, showing off Victorian influences .
Lastly, maybe not near as old, but of historical and architectural significance, is what used to be the Library in downtown. It was of Tudor design and was opened in 1937, part of the attempt by the government to provide jobs during the great depression.
There you go! These are a few places in De Pere to check out if you feel like a stroll. All are relatively close to each other and are worth a glance