Main Street Historic District

Roughly along S. and N. Main Sts. from W. Union to Granite Sts., Waupaca, Wisconsin

Busy main street area in downtown Waupaca


Looking South

Although the terrain along Main Street is flat, a steep hill and a small park at the northern end allows this overview shot.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in July 2016




The Main Street Historic District is made up of almost four blocks of Main Street and runs into several side streets of downtown Waupaca, a small city in central Wisconsin. Waupaca sits in a largely rural area of Wisconsin that is filled with lakes that have attracted tourists for over 100 years. In fact, Waupaca is just east of the large Chain O' Lakes, a series of connected lakes about five miles in length. Waupaca County and its neighboring counties have similar features; that is, large rural areas interspersed with small cities and villages and the many lakes that have attracted tourists and permanent residents. Agriculture has historically been important in the area, and today, many farmers grow cash crops such as cucumbers, potatoes and Christmas trees. Overall, the region's economy is divided up'between specialty agriculture, industry, services, and tourism.

The historic buildings in the Main Street Historic District are a cohesive group of primarily later nineteenth and early twentieth century commercial buildings that share party walls, for the most part. The buildings are almost all two stories in height and constructed of primarily locallyproduced red brick. The architectural styles of the buildings are harmonious. The most decorative buildings have Italianate and Queen Anne details, but the vast majority of buildings in the district have a simple Commercial Vernacular or Twentieth Century Commercial style. This results in a district that has a visual continuity throughout.

Although the entire city of Waupaca has a topography that is irregular and dramatic, with hills and rock outcroppings creating picturesque views, the topography of the Main Street Historic District is flat. It remains generally flat to the south and west, but to the north, there is a dramatic hill and rock outcropping where Main Street comes to an end. To the east, the land drops sharply to a park that runs along the Waupaca River. These physical barriers help define the size and shape of the district.

Main Street is a wide, urban street that supports two lanes of traffic with angle parking on both sides of the street. The side streets of the district are also standard sized city streets that have room for parallel parking on both sides of the street. The streets are improved with concrete curbs, gutters, and wide sidewalks that extend from the street to the buildings. Period-style fixtures light Main Street and trees that have been planted in the sidewalks along Main Street provide the only landscaping in the district. But, on the south end of the east side of the district, there is a small park that sits in front of the modern city hall and library building. Although not officially in the district, this park is an important landscape element of the city's downtown. It is also historically important as the site of the old county courthouse.

Adapted from the National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form prepared for the Waupaca Historic Preservation Commission with the support of the City of Waupaca for submission to the National Park Service. Document prepared by Carol Lohry Cartwright, August 30, 2001. A link to the document is listed below in the "Sources" category.

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on April 12, 2002
Reference number
Architectural styles
Victorian: Italianate; Victorian: Queen Anne
Areas of significance
Architecture; Commerce
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic functions
Specialty store; Financial institution; Meeting hall
Current functions
Specialty store; Business
Periods of significance
1850-1874; 1875-1899; 1900-1924; 1925-1949; 1950-1974
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 43
Non-contributing buildings: 5


Brick (42,466)
District (10,592)
Italianate (5,120)
Limestone (8,194)
Private owner (54,402)
Queen Anne (5,137)
Stone (26,168)
Victorian (19,703)
Waupaca County, Wisconsin (33)
Waupaca, Wisconsin (14)
William Waters (36)
Wisconsin (2,627)

Update Log 

  • August 4, 2016: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated status, added description and added photos