Can you imagine 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. The 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.
Here is a photo of the current Ristorante Bartolotta, 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.
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 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 the growing business district would never again suffer such a fiery setback.
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 is his legacy.
Additional information about the City of Wauwatosa and the Village from the early 1800s 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.