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Curling clubhouse, fossil reef making history

April 6, 2011

The Historic Preservation Commission has its sights on designating the Muellner Building and Schoonmaker Reef as the city's next landmarks.

The Muellner Building serves as the Hart Park Senior Center and clubhouse for the Wauwatosa Curling Club. However, it started as a Works Progress Administration project as part of the country's New Deal in the 1930s.

"It was found eligible for the National Register of Historic Places - but it was never listed - as part of the environmental compliance process that obtained federal funds to construct the senior center back in the late 1990s," said Brian Faltinson, commission chairman.

The building has played an important part in Wauwatosa recreation and may be the first indoor ice rink in the Milwaukee area, he said.

As for the Schoonmaker Reef, it's listed as a National Historic Landmark for its archeological significance. Faltinson likens the list to a hall of fame that features the finest historic resources.

The 425-million-year-old fossil reef north of State Street between 64th and 66th streets has been studied by geologists to make connections between ancient reef and the reefs growing on the sea floor today. The reef is on private property and is not accessible to the public.

A landmark must be nominated and voted on by the commission, followed by the full council, a process that can take several months.

The commission has authority to seek local designation. With grants from the state, the group is pursuing a listing on the National Register for the Wauwatosa Avenue Historic District. However, the commission has no plans to go after new grants at this time, he said.

The commission has also received interest in a local historic district designation from residents living on Rockway Place. The next step would be to evaluate how many homeowners are on board with that pursuit, he said.

Similarly, there may be interest by property owners in the Village to recognize historic buildings. The Robertson hardware store building already has received local historic designation and there are likely more that would qualify. The commission works on designating new sites at owners' requests, Faltinson said.

"The village has a rich history and some outstanding buildings that represent Wauwatosa's past," he said.

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