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.
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.
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."
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.