Tosa's Changing Landscape

Published on: 1/31/2011

My pal NewGuy knows that I enjoy history and technology - so he sent me a link to a new web-based service that some of you might want to take a couple of hours to explore. take a big chunk of your valuable day to explore.

It's called the Wisconsin Historic Aerial Image Finder.

I used this tool to locate imagery taken of our farm on June 13, 1938.  That was back in the days of no running water, a two hole privy and before rural electrification.  My mom and dad were teenagers and I wasn't even a twinkle in someone's eye.  It wasn't even a tree farm then - it was a family-supporting operation with maybe a dozen or - so dairy cattle.

What is fascinating to me was that many of the geographic features that appear in modern day aerial imagery existed more than 70 years ago.  This includes creeks and other water features, woodlots, buildings, drainage ditches and many of the roads. Agricultural fields were smaller back then.  Which makes perfect sense as draft animals were still in use.

A modern-day aerial photo reveals features that are recent arrivals.  Like the pond we excavated.  Newer buildings, larger fields, bigger woodlots, the quarry a mile or so to the west.  And a new four lane state highway,

I thought I might use the tool to see how Tosa's landscape has been altered over the years.

Here you see a recent aerial view of a potion of Wauwatosa and Milwaukee.  Beginning in the upper left-hand corner and traveling south by east - prominent features include Currie, Bluemound and Hanson golf courses.  There is Mayfair Mall and Mount Mary College.  The parkway is there along with Hartung Quarry.  The Burleigh Triangle sticks out like a sore thumb.  The freeway along with all of the familiar streets are there.  Everything is nicely laid-out, almost universally developed with a modicum of green space basically confined to the water corridors and golf courses.

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Here is a view of the same area taken July 26, 1937.

Look at all of the green space.

I can locate the golf courses, Mount Mary, the parkway and the quarry.

My parent's house and the house Jill grew up in hadn't been built yet.  Christ King Parish isn't there.  I can locate Wauwatosa Cemetery - but City Hall and Longfellow Middle School are nowhere to be seen. 

Two forty acre farm fields (top to bottom) constitute the footprint of a future Mayfair Mall.  The Burleigh Triangle is the wide-open spaces.   And the Zoo Freeway wasn't even on the drawing board.

There are some things to be learned about how we've progressed over the years.  Farms were converted to neighborhoods and commercial buildings.  Families were raised, children educated, businesses prospered and failed.  Ancient buildings were demolished to make way for new which are old buildings today.  Change is obvious yet some things remained unchanged. 

I wonder how things will look 20, 50 or 70 years from now?

Will the golf courses still be there?  Or the parkway?  Will the mall have become a blighted property and Burleigh Triangle a gem?  Will some other mode of transportation make the freeway obsolete?  

When you see how much change has occurred in 70 years it's easy to imagine the amount of change that can occur in 70 more years.  Add to the mix that change nowadays seems to increase exponentially. 

I'm going to take some time and utilize this web-based tool to examine the area I grew-up on the northwest side of Milwaukee.  And the State Street community where I presently reside.  I'll probably take a close look at the County Grounds to see what I can find and contrast that with the huge changes that have occurred there.  

This post is going to cost me two adult beverages so I hope you have some fun learning about our ever-evolving landscape.