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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014

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In Travel & Visitors Guide

Holy Hill offers wooded trails and sweeping vistas from the observation tower.

Washington County shimmers in autumn


The Milwaukee 7 was formed in September 2005 to create a regional, cooperative economic development platform for the seven counties of southeastern Wisconsin: Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Waukesha and Washington. In this OnMilwaukee.com series, Gregg Hoffmann profiles each of the counties and highlights their unique attractions and appeal.

As the autumn leaves turn colors, the beauty of Washington County becomes more evident than ever.

Blessed with the terrain of the Kettle Moraine, the county has retained the beauty of nature while strengthening its ties to the Milwaukee metro area. With the gentle rolling landscape carved by the glaciers and towered by the historical landmark of Holy Hill, Washington County provides an interesting atmosphere for family living, business, and industry.

Ancient glaciers, inland lakes and woodlands form the foundation for a variety of recreational activities. Hiking, hunting, boating, fishing, golfing, skiing, and snowmobiling are among the many outdoor activities for sport enthusiasts.

West Bend, the county seat, is a combination of small town living and a business hub, within easy access of the larger urban area.

Before the United States claimed the Wisconsin territory in 1833, the West Bend area was home to the Potawatomi and Menominee Indians. Settlers, attracted by the Milwaukee River and the advantages it afforded industry and farming, began to make their homes in the area, and a village was established in 1845. The village -- always a convenient midway stop between Milwaukee and Fond du Lac -- had 30 families by 1848, and public spaces and buildings were soon established.

The arrival of the railroad in 1873 spurred a period of rapid growth and expansion. Today's population of almost 130,000 reflects the solid community and economy forged by the county's founders. Washington County has well-known major manufacturing industries including: machine tooling, metal fabrication, printing, photo finishing, and trucking in well-developed business and corporate parks in Hartford, Germantown, Jackson, Slinger and West Bend.

By no means does manufacturing have a monopoly on Washington County business. The insurance, finance and pharmaceutical industries are well represented.

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