Williams Bay is one of three municipalities on Geneva Lake. It was named for Captain Israel Williams of Massachusetts, a War of 1812 infantry captain who, with several of his sons, settled in the area in 1835. Much of the surrounding area was settled in the early 19th century by surveyors plotting roadways from the East. It was a vacation spot for wealthy Chicagoans displaced by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
It is probably best known internationally for being home to the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory, which houses the world's largest refracting (lens) telescope, the great 40-inch. Construction of the Observatory began in 1895 and the 40-inch saw first light in May 1897. The Observatory's first Director was George Ellery Hale, who went on to establish Mount Wilson Observatory in Southern California.
Officials and students of Chicago-based George Williams College frequently met just west of the town of Williams Bay and later established a camp in the village on the shores of Geneva Lake. George Williams College folded in 1985 and is now part of Aurora University, which today maintains the campus.
Williams Bay is located at (42.574208, -88.543690).
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2010, there were 2,564 people, 1,061 households, and 706 families residing in the village. The population density was 915.7 inhabitants per square mile (353.6/km2). There were 1,985 housing units at an average density of 708.9 per square mile (273.7/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 94.3% White, 0.6% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 3.0% from other races, and 0.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.5% of the population.
There were 1,061 households of which 29.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.9% were married couples living together, 8.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.8% had a male householder with no wife present, and 33.5% were non-families. 28.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.87.
The median age in the village was 43.5 years. 22.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.3% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 22.9% were from 25 to 44; 30.1% were from 45 to 64; and 17.9% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the village was 48.2% male and 51.8% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,415 people, 993 households, and 639 families residing in the village. The population density was 912.6 people per square mile (351.9/km²). There were 1,772 housing units at an average density of 669.6 per square mile (258.2/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 98.18% White, 0.50% African American, 0.08% Native American, 0.33% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.70% from other races, and 0.17% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.73% of the population.
There were 993 households out of which 29.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.1% were married couples living together, 6.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.6% were non-families. 30.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.96.
In the village, the population was spread out with 24.4% under the age of 18, 5.0% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 24.6% from 45 to 64, and 19.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 91.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.3 males.
The median income for a household in the village was $50,450, and the median income for a family was $60,573. Males had a median income of $45,750 versus $24,875 for females. The per capita income for the village was $26,231. About 5.3% of families and 7.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.4% of those under age 18 and 7.8% of those age 65 or over.
No public transportation presently serves Williams Bay, but until the 1960s, it was the terminus of the Chicago and North Western Railway. The line also had stops in Como, Lake Geneva, Genoa City, Richmond, and McHenry, Illinois. Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy now stands on the site of the former railroad station and yards.
The public schools include Williams Bay Elementary and Williams Bay High School. One private school, Faith Christian School, serves students in grades K-12.
George Williams College of Aurora University is located along the lake.
Williams Bay has a lake-side nature conservancy, Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy, along with a beach and a public boat launching facility.
Williams Bay is home to the Yerkes Observatory. The Observatory was designed by architect Henry Ives Cobb, the Greco-Roman facade to the Observatory has much intricate stonework and carvings. The Observatory runs public tours of the interior, including the 40-inch refractor, each Saturday morning. The Belfry Theater, Wisconsin's first summer stock theater, was an active seasonal repertory company from the 1930s through the 1970s, and its buildings still stand at highways 50 and 67.