Little Red Store launches second season with 'Great Fire' exhibit; Wauwatosa Historic Preservation Commission recognizes successful restoration

May 25, 2010

"The Great Fire", a Wauwatosa Historical Society exhibit of photos and facts that tell the story of the village area’s massive 1895 fire, is currently on display in the Little Red Store at 7720 Harwood.


This educational display is free and open to the public. It launches the visitor and community center’s second public season, while paying tribute to the Wauwatosa Fire Department and its new Underwood Avenue fire station which will be dedicated June 5 at 10:30 a.m.


The fire broke out in the village on July 10, 1895. In one day, it destroyed 13 wood-frame buildings and damaged many others in the eastern half of the business district. The Little Red Store, which was built in 1854, was spared from that late 19th century blaze, because it sat on the south bank of the Menomonee River.


The great village fire changed the face of Wauwatosa, along with the way city residents thought about public services and how they planned their community. After the fire, commercial buildings in the village were built of stone or brick and the fire department evolved.


Today, the Little Red Store stands as Wauwatosa’s oldest commercial building. Despite being named a Wauwatosa city landmark in 1978, a city historic building in 1998 and a Milwaukee County landmark in 2008 the structure suffered many years of neglect.


The WHS, in cooperation with the City of Wauwatosa, numerous organizations and hundreds of individual donors and volunteers, spearheaded a $286,000, multi-year effort to restore the Little Red Store. It reopened in May 2009 and welcomed more than 5,000 children and adults through its doors during its first visitor season.


The Wauwatosa Historic Preservation Commission recently presented WHS and the city with a certificate of merit and recognition for successful preservation of the Little Red Store.


During May, the Little Red Store is open Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Sundays, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.


Weekend hours expand to 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Sundays beginning June 5 and continuing through Oct. 31.


WHS volunteer docents will also be on hand Tuesdays, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. from June 15 through Sept. 2 to welcome the public to the Little Red Store.


The Wauwatosa Historical Society is a qualified, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization established in 1977 to preserve and disseminate materials related to the history of Wauwatosa, Wis. Headquartered at the Kneeland-Walker House and Victorian Gardens, the WHS has more than 800 individual and business members.


The society provides and actively supports community preservation through archival storage and research, artifact displays, educational programs and special events.


The WHS also manages the Little Red Store, Wauwatosa’s oldest surviving commercial building, under special lease agreement with the city. Located in the heart of the historic village area, the Little Red Store now serves as a visitors’ welcome center and community meeting site.


For more information, call 414-774-8672 or visit

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