Local residents will again have an opportunity to feed their appetite for history and preservation at the Wauwatosa Historical Society's annual Tour of Homes on Oct. 1. This year's edition will be held in the Washington Highlands neighborhood.
This year's tour — called "Highlands @ 100" in honor of the 100th anniversary of the neighborhood's design by renowned German city planner Werner Hegemann — will feature six homes, including some built in the 1920s and 1930s as well as a mid-century modern ranch built in the 1950s.
Each year since 1989, the Wauwatosa Historical Society has hosted a one-day event that celebrates the preservation of Wauwatosa homes in neighborhoods throughout the community. Attendees get a tour through the residences and receive researched information about their history.
The Wauwatosa community largely values and is intrigued by historic preservation, said Chris Vogel, president of the historical society's executive board. Organizers are hoping for about 800 event-goers this year. In past years, the event has drawn as many as 1,000 people.
"I think there’s a lot of interest in historic preservation in Wauwatosa," Vogel said. "People like to see these old homes. The homes that are on the tour are generally beautifully decorated as well. I suspect people like to see what has been done to these houses and get ideas for their own homes."
Homes on the tour
Vogel said the tour is not necessarily designed to be a tour that shows off design skills, although all of the featured homes are certainly beautiful inside.
The tour moves from area to area in Wauwatosa, but 2016 marks the third year the tour is centered in the Washington Highlands neighborhood. It's easy to find homeowners who want to featured on the tour in the Highlands because there's such an atmosphere of friendliness and socializing, Vogel said.
Two of this year's featured homes are situated on Alta Vista Avenue and four are on Washington Circle, including the Tudor Revival home that belongs to Mary Newton and Jim Sanger at 6548 Washington Circle. The home was built in 1929 and the couple moved in during the late 1970s, where they raised four children. The couple chose the home for its proximity to their workplaces — Sanger a surgeon and Newton was working as an attorney at the time — and walk-ability to things like a pharmacy, grocery store and pocket parks.
Plus, the family enjoyed the neighborhood's arrangement, which featured roads and properties that followed the natural contouring of the land, following a garden city design.
"We're by far the people who have lived here the longest," said Newton, who has studied the history of her home.
Although the home has undergone some remodeling (the kitchen and dining area was expanded and bathrooms have been reworked), Newton and Sanger have worked to preserve much of the home's character and history. For example, when remodeling the home's bathrooms, Newton contacted an artist in Oregon to design tube-lined accent tiles for the updated rooms — a style that was popular in the 1920s and 1930s, when the home was built, she said.
Newton's favorite room — and one that many of her visitors favor, too — is the den, located just off the entryway. The room boasts a cozy atmosphere and is one of the few spots in the home that has remained untouched since its original construction.
Vogel said an area has already been chosen for next year's Tour of Homes; Warren Avenue will again be featured — 20 years after making its debut on the tour in 1997.
"We’re really lucky to have the great housing stock that we do in Wauwatosa," Vogel said.
How to attend
Advanced tickets can be purchased for $17 until Sept. 30 at Wisconsin Garden & Pet, 8524 W. North Ave., or the Little Read Book Store, 7603 W. State St. Tickets are available online at wauwatosahistoricalsociety.org until 3 p.m. Sept. 29. Day of tour tickets are $20, $17 for Wauwatosa Historical Society members.
Advance tickets for members are $14 and are only available for purchase online or at the Kneeland-Walker House, 7406 Hillcrest Drive.