Seat of Kenosha County, Wisconsin, the Port of Kenosha lies just north of the border with Illinois at the mouth of the Pike River. The Port of Kenosha is part of the Lake Michigan and Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway waterway system. The Port of Kenosha is about 30 nautical miles (48 kilometers or 30 miles) south-southeast of the Port of Milwaukee and about 60 nautical miles (102 kilometers or 63 miles) north-northwest of the Port of Chicago. The 2010 US Census reported a population of 99.2 thousand in the city and almost 870 thousand in the Lake County-Kenosha County metropolitan area.
The early Port of Kenosha was an important shipping center. Today, it home to a diverse manufacturing community that produces tools, musical instruments, automobile engines, metal products, and apparel. Food processing is also important to the Port of Kenosha economy. The Port of Kenosha's Harmony Hall is home to the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Singing in America.
In the late 20th Century, prehistoric settlements from the pre-Clovis culture were discovered in the Port of Kenosha area, suggesting that humans have inhabited the area for as much as 80 thousand years. Modern indigenous people settle the area as long ago as 13.5 thousand years.
Before Europeans came to the Port of Kenosha area, it was inhabited by the Potawatomi people, part of the Council of Three Fires alliance that also included the Ottawa and Ojibwe tribes. The Potawatomi fought for both the British and United States during Tecumseh's War, the War of 1812, and the Peoria War, their allegiance shifting depending on the politics of the day.
In the late 1820s when the US was creating reservations, the removal of the Potawatomi began when treaties ceded most Potawatomi lands to the States of Wisconsin and Michigan. Over time, European settlement further encroached on their lands, and the reservations shrank.
The 1833 Treaty of Chicago started the forced removal of the Potawatomi west of the Mississippi River, although many either stayed in their homeland or fled to Canada. Several active bands of the Potawatomi Nation live in the United States and Canada today.
When white settlers arrived, there were thousands of fish in Wisconsin's rivers entering from Lake Michigan. The first settlers coming to the Port of Kenosha were part of the Western Emigration Company who purchased land for a town in the early 1830s. The settlers came to Pike Creek in 1835, building log and frame homes and calling their new town Pike. The Port of Kenosha soon became a busy Great Lakes shipping port, and it was renamed Southport (which is a neighborhood in the modern Port of Kenosha). The city adopted the name Kenosha, a form of the Chippewa word "Kinoje" for pike or pickerel, in 1850.
From the beginning of the 20th Century until the 1930s, skilled craftsmen from Italy, Ireland, Poland, and Germany immigrated to the Port of Kenosha. These immigrants made significant contributions to the Port of Kenosha's architecture, literature, music, and culture.
For much of the 20th Century, the Port of Kenosha produced millions of trucks and cars under brands like Hudson, Rambler, Nash, LaFayette, and American Motors Corporation (AMC). In 1900, engineering firm Sullivan-Becker built a prototype steam car. In 1902, the makers of the Sterling bicycle, Thomas B. Jeffery Company, started making the Rambler.
In 1902, the first mass-production techniques were used to make Ramblers and Oldsmobiles. That year, the steering wheel replaced the more common tiller-controls in the Rambler. In 1916, Nash Motors was born in the Port of Kenosha when they bought the Jeffery company. In 1954 when Nash bought Hudson (based in Detroit), American Motors Corporation was formed in the Port of Kenosha.
In the early 1980s, AMC partnered with France's Renault to produce several models that included the Alliance, Motor Trend's 1983 Car of the Year. Chrysler Corporation later contracted with AMC to produce its mid-sized M-body cars at their plant in the Port of Kenosha.
In 1990, the AMC Lakefront plant in the Port of Kenosha was demolished and then redeveloped as HarborPark, an upscale community with the Kenosha Electric Railway streetcar system that connected lakeside condos, a big marina, a water park, promenades, fountains, sculptures, and several attractions.
The Port of Kenosha has many locations on the National Register of Historic Places including three historic districts: Third Avenue, Library Park, and the Civic Center. In 1993, the city installed reproductions of historic street lights that were designed for the Port of Kenosha by Westinghouse Electric in 1928. The three-kilometer (two-mile) downtown electric streetcar system started operating in 2000.
Long a center for manufacturing, the modern Port of Kenosha is a bedroom community housing residents that work in Milwaukee and Chicago thanks to ample transportation options. The county reports that 49% of the Port of Kenosha workforce commutes outside the county to work.
In 2009, the Milken Institute ranked the Port of Kenosha among the top 50 national high-tech economies. Personal incomes were rising, in contrast to other southeastern Wisconsin communities. In 2010, home sales in the Port of Kenosha area exceeded those for the Nation.
Most of the residents of the Port of Kenosha are white collar workers. The biggest employer in the Port of Kenosha is the education system, and Abbot Laboratories is the biggest private-sector employer. Tourism is a growing sector of the Port of Kenosha economy, supporting over five thousand jobs, as residents of Milwaukee and Chicago visit for short vacations.