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Historical / architectural resources survey, Village of Thiensville, Ozaukee County
([2003])

Chapter 6: commerce & industry,   pp. 21-24


Page 21

Historical and Architectural Resources Survey
Village of Thiensville                                                         Page 21
CHAPTER 6
COMMERCE & INDUSTRY
From its earliest days when it consisted largely of a mill, to its smattering of stores and inclusion
along the Green Bay Road and a railroad, Thiensville evolved as an agricultural support center. As
it grew, Thiensville emerged as a "village." This represents one of the four basic categories of trade
centers stemming from the so-called Central Place Theory, which German geographer Walter
Christaller developed during the 1930s. Briefly explained, the theory maintains that a large central
place "provides the hinterland with goods and services that are of high cost whereas low cost
necessities would be supplied by local markets in the hinterland." This division in trade function
reflects a hierarchy among central places, which is based upon specific business offerings in a
community. There are essentially eight levels, ranging from the lowest level of "Hamlet" to the
highest, referred to as "Metropolitan Wholesale Retail." These, in turn, can be roughly correlated
to the four familiar locality classifications of hamlet, village, town and city.42
As a village, Thiensville has historically represented the second lowest "rung" on the Central Place
ladder. According to the theory, a village typically can range from 115 to 1,415 residents and offers
more commercial sales and services than a hamlet. For instance, a village features at least ten
retail/service establishments. Aside from including the general store, tavern and gas station common
in a hamlet, a village must provide four other sales-oriented enterprises such as a car/farm implement
dealership, lumber yard, hardware store or feed mill. There are at least three service-oriented
businesses, ranging from a bank to a post office. Nevertheless, a village is an "incomplete trade
center," since professional services (including medical and dental) are not extensive, often limited
to villages with populations over six hundred. Other structures found in a village include churches
and schools, while a high school is almost standard. Rail service is likely evident. As one source
concluded, a village represents a "significant center for goods and services most frequently
demanded by rural people."43
In general, Thiensville historically has met most of the above criteria of a central place village.
Indeed, the village emerged around John Henry Thien' s mill and it soon became the most significant
settlement in the Town of Mequon. Several other businesses to include William Zimmermann's
general store 146 Green Bay Road (Photo Code 77/20) emerged around the mill in the 1840s and
1850s. Thien's mill and the other businesses served the growing number of farmers in the Town of
Mequon and travelers on the Green Bay Road. Little information regarding the commercial
42John E. Brush, "The Hierarchy of Central Places in Southwestern Wisconsin," Geographical Review 43
(1953):380, 386; "Central Place Theory in Australia," Website designated under Central Place Theory, MelbPage, ILM,
accessed 2 April 1998 (includes direct quotation): Ingolf Vogeler, et. al., Wisconsin: A Geography (Boulder, CO:
Westview Press, 1986), 157-59.
43Quote in Brush, "Hierarchy of Central Places, 385-86.


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