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Claremont Service

9/30/2009 3:15:00 PM
About Ripon
A brief history of Ripon, from The Ripon Guide
What is Ripon's future?

Ripon continues to build on its proud history and current success. 

An already vibrant downtown filled with Italianate-style buildings is receiving an infusion of private capital to fortify its architectural integrity while improving the central business district’s retail and hospitality offerings. This effort is due to the multi-million dollar investment of a private partnership that believes in downtown Ripon’s potential to be a premiere destination for day trippers, conventioneers, vacationers and college visitors. Local volunteers’ efforts to revitalize downtown the past two decades have reaped great rewards, including $14 million in public and private investment that has boosted property values more than 75 percent since the early 1990s. 

In addition, downtown, the Gothic Mill Pond area and Ripon College neighborhoods were subjects of a strategic plan containing more than 100 ideas for improvement. It has been embraced by the Ripon Common Council, Plan Commission, Ripon Main Street, Ripon Area Chamber of Commerce and other economic-development groups who believe “good” is never “good enough” when talking about their downtown. 

Last year, a group of Ripon citizens completed a project with the Ripon School District and Ripon College to turn the city’s major athletic field into one of the few in the state to enjoy the benefits of artificial turf. Because athletes from the public schools and college share the field, it typically had been overused, creating divots and larger patches of dead grass. An ad-hoc group of volunteers solicited community members and businesses to raise about $350,000 that, pooled with $250,000 from the college and $162,000 from the school district, led to a new, safe playing surface installed last summer. 

Ripon’s health-care climate is being broadened with the opening of a 12,000-square-foot Aurora Clinic on Ripon’s west side, a new clinic built five miles west of Ripon by Ripon Medical Center and Community Health Network,  and ThedaCare’s new west-side clinic, completed in summer 2008.

Additionally, Ripon Medical Center has committed to building a sparkling new facility in the city’s new Business Park, ensuring the city will have access to top-notch critical-care aid for years to come.

And it will accommodate growth, which certainly is continuing. The Business Park was created last year after the city of Ripon added an additional 58 acres of prime developable land — some on a railroad spur and some with highway frontage — for industry and commercial businesses just east of the existing, 129-acre industrial park. 

Housing for new residents also is keeping pace with industrial and downtown development, as Ripon currently has two major subdivisions and several smaller ones being developed on its south and west sides.  Ample-sized lots, near Ripon’s schools or hugging some of its highest hills, await people who seek a “pro-active, entrepreneurial community” that, according to Lori McEathron, former executive director of the Ripon Community Development Corp., “has the economic wherewithal to support continued growth.”

To make sense of Ripon today, one must first understand the community’s 165-year-old history.
It’s a story of adventurers, visionaries and entrepreneurs undeterred by economic, political or climatic adversity.  

Ripon’s roots date back to 1844, when about 20 people moved up here from the Kenosha area, seeking to form a utopian community. Their village of Ceresco grew to 200. Among the common buildings they constructed were a communal “long house” and post office that exist today near Ceresco Park. 

Just east of Ceresco, settlers formed a second village. It was named “Ripon” after the ancestral home of founder John Scott Horner, who grew up in the English city of Ripon, Yorkshire. A rivalry between Ceresco and Ripon resulted in 1851 with Ripon prevailing and, during that same year, forming a college on top of a hill to attract “responsible” settlers to the area. Today, Ripon College is a distinguished private liberal arts college. 

Three years later, more than 50 citizens gathered on a cold, windy evening in the local one-room schoolhouse, entering as anti-slavery Whigs, Free Soilers and Democrats and emerging as the first Republicans in the nation. 

Ripon grew quickly and attracted a large German and Polish population during the second half of the 19th century. Most of its settlers came from New England, New York and Pennsylvania.
Today, growth is slower but still steady, with the 20-person village of Ceresco now enjoying a population of about 7,600.

Related Links:
• City of Ripon
• Ripon Main Street
• Ripon Area Chamber of Commerce

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