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Experience Our Historic Charm  

 

There's a distinct European feel in the heart of the Village of Wauwatosa, brought here by the first European settlers in the mid 1800s. Pedestrian-friendly stores and restaurants with seasonal outdoor dining are reminiscent of some of the great villages of Europe.

The nearby Menomonee River and redevelopement in Hart Park remind us all why people settled here and how the Village has evolved into a destination to explore, shop, wine and dine.

Uncover the history of the Village of Wauwatosa for yourself with a self-guided walking tour. The walking brochure developed by the Wauwatosa Historical Society is available for $1.00 in these Village stores:

The Little Read Book, 7603 W. State Street, 414-774-2665
Underwood Gallery, 1430 Underwood Avenue, 414-476-1225
Magpie, 7613 Harwood Avenue, 414-771-8021

Pick up a free Village of Wauwatosa Shopping Guide in these stores or find them throughout the Village.

Click here to see a listing of the more than 120 businesses in the Village of Wauwatosa.

 
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  A Short History of the Village of Wauwatosa  
 

Can you image a few thousand people gathered in this location at one time? Look closely. This is the place where an annual festival called TosaFest takes place every fall. You are looking northeast up Harwood Avenue with State Street bisecting it from left to right. Thie Little Read Store is on the left side of this 1870 picture. This building, situated alongside the railroad tracks since it was built in 1854, is one of the oldest surviving structures in Wauwatosa.

The white building just beyond Harwood and State was the Wauwatosa House, an inn for weary stagecoach travelers. Across the street, to the right, stood the Dearsley Tavern. Below that, on the Menomonee River, is Wesson's Wagon Shop, near the site where The Chancery Restaurant stands today.

The Village of Wauwatosa in 1870
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The Village of Wauwatosa in 1870
Photo copyright Village of Wauwatosa*

 
 

Here is a photo of the current Bartolotta Ristorante, located on the corner of Harwood Avenue and State Street as it appeared in 1905. At that time it was a saloon that had been built by the Pabst Brewing Company and featured a "Blue Ribbon Buffet." If you compare it to the previous picture of the Village of Wauwatosa, you will see that it was built on the same site as the earlier Dearsley Tavern. The tavern was destroyed in 1895 by a devastating fire that leveled many of the Village businesses.

Pabst Saloon in 1905
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Pabst Saloon in 1905
From the Wauwatosa Historical Society Collections*

 
 

Never to be caught unprepared again, the Village of Wauwatosa organized a fire department and built a station in this building in 1898, at 1430 Underwood Avenue. The Village soon became incorporated as a city in 1897 and immediately passed an ordinance that required all future business structures to be built of brick or stone so that the growing business district would never again suffer such a stinging setback.

The first firehouse in the Village of Wauwatosa in 1898
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The First Firehouse in the Village of Wauwatosa in 1898
From the Milwaukee Historical Society Collections*

 
 

Charles Hart was a man of vision who seized opportunity. He ventured into the wild forest of the Menomonee River Valley in 1835 from New York with a handful of settlers and built two booming businesses that fueled the growth of the Wauwatosa community. Hart owned a sawmill that turned a forest into lumber and homes, and a grist mill that fed the inhabitants of those new homes. Charles Hart was one of the first businessmen to acknowledge and fill the needs of this fledgling community. That was his legacy.

 

 

Additional information about the City of Wauwatosa and the Village from the early 1800's to the present can be obtained from the Wauwatosa Historical Society, 7406 Hillcrest Drive, 414-774-8672 (just north of the Village via Wauwatosa Avenue).

 

 

*Reproduction or duplication of these photos without the consent of
the Wauwatosa or Milwaukee Historical Societies is strictly prohibited.

Charles Hart
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Charles Hart, Early Wauwatosa Settler
From the Wauwatosa Historical Society Collections*

 


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