Kenosha is a city and the county seat of Kenosha County in the State of Wisconsin in United States. With a population of 99,738 as of November 2011, Kenosha is the fourth-largest city in Wisconsin. Kenosha is also the fourth-largest city on the western shore of Lake Michigan, following Chicago, Milwaukee, and Green Bay. Kenosha lies on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, south of Milwaukee and 50 miles north of Chicago. Kenosha is part of the U.S. Census Bureau's Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is heavily tied to both the Milwaukee metropolitan area and the Chicago metropolitan area.
Pre-Clovis culture settlements were discovered in the greater Kenosha area in the late 20th century. These prehistoric settlements date approximately to the era of the Wisconsin glaciation. Paleo Indians first settled in the area at least 13,500 years ago.
The early name by the Ojibwa Indians is reported as Masu-kinoja. This describes the place of spawning trout as "Trout (Pike) come all at same time". There were thousands of fish entering the rivers from Lake Michigan. Harvesting these fish provided food for the coming months. There is also a town of Masu-kegan in Michigan.
The first white settlers were part of the Western Emigration Company. They arrived in the early 1830s from Hannibal and Troy, New York, led by John Bullen, Jr., who sought to purchase enough land for a town. Thwarted in Milwaukee and Racine, the group arrived at Pike Creek on 6 June 1835, building log and later frame homes. The first school and churches followed by 1835, with platting completed in 1836. As more settlers arrived and the first post office was established, the community was first known as Pike in 1836. In the ensuing years the area became an important Great Lakes shipping port, and the village was once again renamed, this time to Southport. (This is still the name of a southeast-side neighborhood, park, and elementary school, as well as several businesses).
In 1850, another change brought the growing city (and later Kenosha County) its current title, an Anglicized version of the early name Kinoje. Kenoshans often refer affectionately to their city as "K-Town" and "Keno" (the latter adopted by some local businesses).
Between 1902 and 1988, Kenosha produced millions of automobiles and trucks under marques such as Jeffery, Rambler, Nash, Hudson, LaFayette, and American Motors Corporation (AMC). A prototype steam car was built in Kenosha by the Sullivan-Becker engineering firm in 1900. Two years later the Thomas B. Jeffery Company, builders of the Sterling bicycle, began production of the Rambler runabout. In 1902 Rambler and Oldsmobile were the first cars to employ mass-production techniques. The 1902 Rambler was also the first automobile to incorporate a steering wheel, rather than use the then-common tiller-controlled steering. In 1916 Jeffery was purchased by auto executive Charles W. Nash and became Nash Motors. In May 1954, Nash acquired Detroit-based Hudson and the new firm was named American Motors Corporation. A west side park and an elementary school are named for Charles W. Nash.
In partnership with French automaker Renault, AMC manufactured several models in Kenosha in the early 1980s, including the Alliance, which won the 1983 “Car of The Year” award from Motor Trend magazine. Two decades earlier, AMC's 1963 Rambler Classic had also received the award. In 1987 Renault sold its controlling interest in AMC to Chrysler Corporation, which had already contracted with AMC for the production of its M-body mid-sized cars at the Kenosha plant. The AMC Lakefront plant (1960–88), a smaller facility, was demolished in 1990 (a chimney-demolition ceremony that June drew 10,000 spectators) and was redeveloped into upscale HarborPark, with its rambling lakeside condominiums, large recreational marina, water park and promenades, artworks, sculptures, fountains (including the 2007 Christopher Columbus fountain), the Kenosha Public Museum, which opened in 2000, and the Civil War Museum, which opened in 2008, all connected by the Kenosha Electric Railway streetcar system.
From the start of the 20th century through the 1930s, many Italian, Irish, Polish and German immigrants, many of them skilled craftsmen, made their way to the city and contributed to the city's construction, culture, architecture, music and literature.
Kenosha has 21 locations and three districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places including the Library Park, Third Avenue, and the Civic Center historic districts. The city has a Kenosha Landmarks Commission, and among the many local city-designated landmarks are the 1929 YMCA at 711 59th Place, the Manor House at 6536 Third Avenue, the John McCaffary House at 5732 13th Court, the St. Matthew Episcopal Church at 5900 Seventh Avenue, the Washington Park Clubhouse at 2205 Washington Road, and the Justin Weed House at 3509 Washington Road.
In June 1993, the city installed reproductions of the historic Sheridan LeGrande street lights that were specially designed for Kenosha by Westinghouse Electric in 1928; these can be seen on Sixth Avenue between 54th and 59th Streets. A classic two-mile (3 km) downtown electric streetcar system was opened on June 17, 2000.