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Trip Planner USA  /  Wisconsin  /  Williams Bay

Williams Bay

4.7
Observatories · Theaters · Beaches
Williams Bay is a village in Walworth County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 2,564 at the 2010 census.HistoryWilliams 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.
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