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Wauwatosa, Wisconsin
Wauwatosa along the banksof the Menomonee River
Wauwatosa along the banks
of the Menomonee River
Nickname(s): 
Tosa
Location of Wauwatosa in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.
Location of Wauwatosa in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.
Country  United States
State  Wisconsin
County Milwaukee
Area
 • City 13.23 sq mi (34.27 km2)
 • Land 13.23 sq mi (34.26 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.01 km2)  0%
Elevation
673 ft (205 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • City 48,387
 • Density 3,637.86/sq mi (1,404.54/km2)
 • Metro
1,753,355 (Milwaukee)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Area code(s) 414
FIPS code 55-84675
GNIS feature ID 1576335

Wauwatosa ( known informally as Tosa; originally Wau-wau-too-sa or Hart's Mill) is a city in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 48,387 at the 2020 census. Wauwatosa is located immediately west of Milwaukee, and is a part of the Milwaukee metropolitan area. It is named after the Potawatomi Chief Wauwataesie and the Potawatomi word for firefly.

History

The lush Menomonee Valley of the Wauwatosa area provided a key overland gateway between the rich glacial farmland of southeastern Wisconsin and the Port of Milwaukee. In 1835, Charles Hart became the first Euro-American to settle here, followed that year by 17 other families. The following year a United States Road was built from Milwaukee through Wauwatosa, eventually reaching Madison. Charles Hart built a mill in 1845 on the Menomonee River which gave the settlement its original name of "Hart's Mill." The mill was torn down in 1914.

The Town of Wau-wau-too-sa was created by act of the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature on April 30, 1840. As of the 1840 census, the population of the Town of Wau-wau-too-sa or Wauwatosa was 342. The town government was organized in 1842. The town's borders originally extended from the present-day Greenfield Avenue in the south to Hampton Avenue in the north, and from 27th Street in the east to the Waukesha County line in the west, encompassing sections of present-day Milwaukee, West Milwaukee and West Allis, plus the southern part of former North Milwaukee, which was wholly annexed into the city of Milwaukee in 1927. Most of the town was farmland through the remainder of the 19th century.

WI-Wauwatosa-1892
Wauwatosa in 1892

In 1849 the Watertown Plank Road was constructed through Wauwatosa, mainly following the old Madison territorial road. In 1851 Wisconsin's first railroad (later The Milwaukee Road) established Wauwatosa as its western terminus. The Village of Wauwatosa was incorporated from the central part of the Town of Wauwatosa in 1892, and was rechartered as the City of Wauwatosa on May 27, 1897.

Wauwatosavillage1
Robertson Ace Hardware Building; one of the original buildings in Wauwatosa

On November 25, 1952, the City of Wauwatosa more than doubled its size by annexing 8.5 square miles (22 km²) of land west of the Menomonee River, the entire remaining portion of the Town of Wauwatosa, which became the home to several large cold storage and regional food distribution terminals. Industrial plants owned by firms including Harley-Davidson and Briggs & Stratton were also constructed.

In the past 40 years, western Wauwatosa has become an edge city with an important commercial and retail district built up along Milwaukee's beltline Highway 100 and anchored by the Mayfair Mall.

Wauwatosa received some national attention in 1992 when the Wauwatosa Common Council, threatened with a lawsuit, decided to remove a Christian cross from the City's seal adopted in 1957. The cross was replaced with the text, "In God We Trust." The seal itself was designed by 9-year old Suzanne Vallier as an entry in a contest among Wauwatosa schoolchildren. The quadrants of the logo's shield represent, from top left going clockwise; an arrowhead representing the Indians who were the original inhabitants of the city, the mill representing Hart's Mill which was the original name of the city, the cross representing the "city of churches", and the symbol used on street signs representing the "city of homes."

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.25 square miles (34.32 km2), all land.

Eastern Wauwatosa is also known for its homes and residential streets, at one time just a short streetcar ride away from downtown Milwaukee. Prior to the arrival of Dutch elm disease, many of Wauwatosa's older residential streets had large gothic colonnades of American Elm trees. In Wauwatosa, the Menomonee Valley made it easier to quarry portions of the Niagara Escarpment, which provided the necessary materials for sturdy, cream-colored bricks and stout, limestone foundations used in many homes and public buildings throughout the region.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 2,842
1910 3,346 17.7%
1920 5,818 73.9%
1930 21,194 264.3%
1940 27,769 31.0%
1950 33,324 20.0%
1960 56,923 70.8%
1970 58,676 3.1%
1980 51,310 −12.6%
1990 49,484 −3.6%
2000 47,271 −4.5%
2010 46,396 −1.9%
2020 48,387 4.3%
Note: Town of Wauwatosa annexed
by City of Wauwatosa in 1952–54.

As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $54,519, and the median income for a family was $68,030. Males had a median income of $46,721 versus $35,289 for females. The per capita income for the city was $28,834. About 2.3% of families and 3.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.9% of those under age 18 and 5.5% of those age 65 or over.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 46,396 people, 20,435 households, and 11,969 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,501.6 inhabitants per square mile (1,352.0/km2). There were 21,520 housing units at an average density of 1,624.2 per square mile (627.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 89.6% White, 4.5% African American, 0.3% Native American, 2.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.6% from other races, and 2.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.1% of the population.

There were 20,435 households, of which 27.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.2% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.2% had a male householder with no wife present, and 41.4% were non-families. 34.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.92.

The median age in the city was 39.8 years. 21.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 5.8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 28.9% were from 25 to 44; 26.7% were from 45 to 64; and 16.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 46.6% male and 53.4% female.

Points of interest

Annunciation Church Apr09
Church of the Annunciation in Wauwatosa, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Wauwatosa contains Milwaukee County's Regional Medical Center, which includes the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, and Froedtert Hospital, one of two level-one trauma centers in the state. Other points of interest are the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; and the Memorial Center, built in 1957, which contains the public library, an auditorium, and the city hall. The Washington Highlands Historic District, a residential neighborhood designed in 1916 by renowned city planner Werner Hegemann, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, as was the Kneeland-Walker House. Other buildings on the list include Wauwatosa's oldest house, the Lowell Damon House; the Thomas B. Hart House; and the Wauwatosa Woman's Club Clubhouse.

Education

Wauwatosa is served by the Wauwatosa School District:

  • High Schools: Wauwatosa West, Wauwatosa East
  • Middle Schools: Whitman, Longfellow
  • Elementary Schools: Eisenhower, Jefferson, Lincoln, Madison, McKinley, Roosevelt, Underwood, Washington, Wilson
  • Additional school-district services are provided to juvenile residents of the Milwaukee County Grounds—at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee County's Children and Adolescent Services Center—through the River Hills School on the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex grounds. County juveniles in secure detention receive educational services through the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center School within the Milwaukee County Children's Court building

Catholic elementary schools in the city include Wauwatosa Catholic, St. Bernard, St. Joseph, St. Jude and Christ King. Lutheran Schools include Our Redeemer and St. John's.

Notable people

  • Matt Adamczyk, American businessman and politician
  • Antler, poet
  • Carole Barrowman, Author and Professor
  • William Bast, screenwriter
  • Henry S. Berninger, Wisconsin politician and businessman
  • Bill Berry, musician
  • Fabian Bruskewitz, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lincoln
  • Milton F. Burmaster, Wisconsin politician and lawyer
  • Matthew Busche, cyclist
  • Glenn R. Davis, U.S. Representative
  • Fisk Holbrook Day, physician and geologist
  • Nancy Dickerson, Peabody Award-winning journalist
  • Sarah E. Dickson, was elected first woman Presbyterian elder here
  • Anton Falch, professional baseball player
  • Charles Fingado, Wisconsin politician
  • Charles Thompson Fisher, Wisconsin politician and farmer
  • James L. Foley, Jr., Wisconsin politician and farmer
  • Albert Fowler, mayor of Rockford, Illinois
  • Eric E. Hagedorn, Wisconsin politician and electrical engineer
  • Devin Harris, professional basketball player of the NBA
  • Judson G. Hart, Wisconsin farmer and politician
  • Stephen F. Hayes, author and political commentator
  • Julius P. Heil, Wisconsin governor
  • Michael W. Hoover, presiding judge of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals
  • Mike Huwiler, Olympic athlete, MLS player
  • Michael G. Kirby, Wisconsin politician
  • Greg Koch, guitarist
  • Christian A. Koenitzer, Wisconsin politician
  • Mike Krol, musician
  • Joseph H. Loveland, Vermont politician
  • William Martz, chess International Master
  • Joseph McBride, author, film historian
  • Ed McCully, Christian missionary killed during Operation Auca
  • John Morgridge, former CEO and Chairman of the Board of Cisco Systems
  • Walter Nortman, Wisconsin politician
  • Charles B. Perry, Wisconsin politician
  • Roger Ream, educator
  • John E. Reilly, Jr., Wisconsin politician and judge
  • Peggy Rosenzweig, Wisconsin politician
  • Brad Rowe, actor
  • Jeremy Scahill. investigative journalist, author, and director
  • Richard Schickel, film critic and author
  • William A. Schroeder, Wisconsin politician and lawyer
  • Steve Sisolak, Governor of Nevada
  • Tony Smith, retired NBA player
  • Jerry Smith, professional basketball player
  • Andrew Stadler, professional soccer player
  • Thomas A. Steitz, Nobel Prize-winning chemist
  • Michael Torke, Composer and musician, New York, NY
  • Spencer Tracy, Hollywood actor
  • Frederick D. Underwood, president of the Erie Railroad
  • Scott Walker, 45th Governor of Wisconsin
  • Grace Weber, singer and songwriter
  • David J. Wineland, Nobel Prize-winning physicist
  • George Wylie, Wisconsin farmer and politician
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