The Wisconsin State Fish Hatchery opened in Delafield in 1907. Riding the wave of a national conservation movement that had begun in the 1870s, the Wisconsin Fisheries Commission wanted to ensure the availability of freshwater fish.

Water from nearby Lake Nagawicka was piped into the building, where staff propagated walleye in jars and 4-feet-deep concrete tanks. Black bass were raised in six ponds spread over an adjacent 40 acres. When the fish grew to an appropriate size, they were released into rivers and lakes around the state.

Delafield was selected because of its proximity to the electric railway station, and several residents and St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy donated the land. John T.W. Jennings, the state architect at the time, designed the building, which cost $8,330 to construct.

The program saw as many as 32,650,000 walleye and 235,000 bass hatched in a single year, but by 1953, fish rearing had stopped. The building was used for research and public education until 1978. In 1980, the building and grounds were sold to the City of Delafield for $1, and it was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.

During the 1990s, the Downtown Delafield Business Association (DDBA) founded a nonprofit organization to benefit the Fish Hatchery and oversaw its restoration. Now named the Chentis-Krueger Community Senior Center, the building’s distinctive architecture and fieldstone make it a downtown landmark. The building hosts fitness classes, meetings, private parties, and community events year-round.

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