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The wheels of progress may be turning in Wauwatosa, but a treasured piece of the past is being saved. The beginning phases of a 180-unit apartment complex called The Reef will be built near the historic Schoonmaker Reef. Developer and CEO of Wangard Partners, Stewart Wangard, is determined to preserve history.

“This is one of the most historical sites of it’s type in the United States,” he said.

Right now the Reef is closed to the public. It’s located between North 64th and North 66th Streets in Wauwatosa. Paleontologists and scientists from all over the world have studied at the location.

“Our Schoonmaker Reef is a hidden treasure that most people don’t know about,” said Mayor of Wauwatosa, Kathy Ehley. “Yet, on a national level, those in archaeology say it’s a pleasure to come study in this area.”

“Years ago over 4 tons of fossils were removed from this area and shipped to Harvard,” Wangard said. “One of the things discovered was a 7 foot long giant fossil that looked like a giant squid. Imagine that!”The Schoonmaker Reef is 425 million-years-old and was discovered in 1844. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

Developing the area meant cleaning up contamination and the cooperation of state and local governments.

“This is part of the comitment with the city of Wauwatosa,” Ehley said. “We’re putting a decorative fence around the project site and it will be available to scientists and students.”

With the new plans, a former eyesore becomes a jewel. And, a piece of the Wauwatosa’s ancient past will be available for generations to come.

View the entire Positively Milwaukee video by Carole Meekins, of Today’s WTMJ 4.

Reef Perspective