Wisconsin Is Home to an Abandoned Town Most People Don’t Know About

Wisconsin boasts a rich historical and natural landscape, yet harbors a concealed narrative of the past, including an overlooked abandoned town with its own forgotten tales.

The Ascent and Decline of Ulao

Established in the mid-1800s by the visionary entrepreneur William F. Opitz, Ulao thrived on the potential of Lake Michigan and the logging industry. With the assistance of two land surveyors, Opitz meticulously planned the town’s streets and plots, transforming Ulao into a significant port in Ozaukee County. The town flourished, featuring a hotel, general store, post office, school, church, and various businesses, along with a railroad station linking it to Milwaukee and Chicago.

Ulao prospered for several decades, attracting immigrants from Germany, Ireland, and beyond. Renowned for its lumber, fish, and cheese production, the town also boasted a vibrant social scene with dances, picnics, fairs, and other attractions drawing visitors from neighboring towns.

However, Ulao’s success proved transient. By the late 1800s, the logging industry waned, the railroad bypassed Ulao in favor of Port Washington, and the receding lake rendered the harbor unsuitable for large ships. As residents sought better opportunities elsewhere, the town’s population dwindled. By the early 1900s, Ulao was nearly deserted.

The Residue of Ulao

Today, Ulao stands as a ghost town, a mere echo of its former grandeur. The sole remaining structure is the general store, repurposed as a private residence in the 1930s. Other town buildings have succumbed to collapse, fire, or demolition. The cemetery, once the resting place for early settlers, now lies neglected and overgrown. The town’s name faintly adorns a weathered sign along Highway 32.

Ulao represents one of Wisconsin’s many abandoned locales, providing a poignant glimpse into the state’s history. It narrates a tale of hope and despair, prosperity and decline, life, and death—a place often overlooked, but perhaps deserving of wider recognition.

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