WELCOME! The Clark House Museum located in the Village of Pewaukee recalls Asa Clark, the first white settler in Pewaukee. Current exhibits, pictures, and artifacts portray a way of life in the early 1900's in the Village and Town (now the City) of Pewaukee. We are an all volunteer society and enjoy learning and sharing the history of Pewaukee. We invite you to spend an hour or two touring the Clark House Museum and the Steele Family Exhibit Building (located behind the museum), there's something of interest for everyone!
The roots of the Pewaukee Area Historical Society can be traced to 1976, when a dedicated group of area citizens sought to commemorate the U.S. Bicentennial and to celebrate the history of Pewaukee. They organized a temporary museum, with the hall of Pewaukee’s Christ Lutheran Church serving as the site. There were over 900 visitors and it was evident that a permanent museum would be a welcome addition to the community.
In November of 1976, a group of volunteers voted to form the Pewaukee Area Historical Society. The following year, it was incorporated as a nonprofit educational and charitable organization responsible for researching the history of the Pewaukee area, collecting, preserving and exhibiting historical archives and artifacts. The slogan was “Reverence for the past and eye to the future."
The museum was soon moved to a former garage on Oakton Avenue in the village. Its collections grew and the museum rapidly outgrew its quarters. It did not have far to look for a new location. The former Mosley Clark Stagecoach Inn, at the corner of East Wisconsin and Prospect Avenue was available. It had remained in the Clark family; the last of the family to live in the house was Mosely Clark’s grand daughter, Marietta Clark Larson, and her husband Charles. When she died in 1984, Charles continued to live in the home. When Charles Larson died in 1992, the Historical Society purchased the house from the Larson estate and a vote of the membership named it the Clark House Museum. Since there had been many alterations over the years, the decision was made to renovate it for museum use, rather than restore it. Renovations were made possible by the support of interested citizens and a generous bequest from the estate of Robert J. Shaw, great grandson of Alexander Caldwell, an early Pewaukee merchant.
The Pewaukee Area Historical Society is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3). All donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
In 1836, Deacon Asa Clark left Lunenburg, Vermont for the western frontier. He traveled by horseback with a neighbor. They arrived in Milwaukee, where Clark formed a partnership with the firm of Childs and Wheelock for the purpose of building a mill at Snail Lake, now Pewaukee Lake. It was 1837 when Clark arrived in the area. When the site was selected and business agreements drawn up, Clark returned to Vermont where he sold his farm and returned to this area.
The Clark House, currently the Clark House Museum, was built under the supervision of Mosely Clark, a son of Asa Clark. Building began in 1844. The structure featured a double-gabled front, and L-shaped porch. It became known as Lilac Rest, for the profusion of lilacs which bloomed around it.
With its location on the Watertown Plank Road, it was ideally suited as an inn. Thus it became Pewaukee’s first hotel, with the Clarks providing shelter for weary travelers.
Advertised by its first manager, Theodore Sheldon as offering “good beds and good food,” it offered hospitality to travelers on the Watertown Plank Road which went past its door. Guests were fed home-produced food from Clark Mills, produce, meat, and dairy products from the nearby family farm. Rope beds had straw mattresses. When the hotel was crowded with overnight travelers, guests could find shelter in the barn across the plank road, where animals and provisions were kept.
When other hotels were built, it was home to Mosely Clark and his wife Sarah Hardman Clark and their family. The Clark House remained in the Clark family from the time it was built until 1992 when it was purchased by the Historical Society.
From the 1840's on, the Pewaukee area grew as more and more settlers were attracted to the terrain and fertile soil. It became a farming community. In addition, the lake has always played a prominent role in its history. The clear spring lake which later became known as Pewaukee Lake was ideal for ice for commercial use in the days prior to electrical refrigeration. Ice harvesting was one of the major industries of Pewaukee. Major ice houses included those of meat packers, Armour and Plankinton. Pewaukee became one of the major suppliers of ice to Southeastern Wisconsin.
Waukesha Beach was a popular summer recreation area, from its beginnings in 1894 until it closed in 1949. It included roller coasters, a fun house, roller skating, a dance pavilion, souvenir stands and refreshments.
Performers appearing at Waukesha Beach included the Andrews Sisters and Ted Mack, who later achieved fame with his Original Amateur Hour, which began on radio and later moved to television.
A popular fishing destination, the 2,493 acre spring lake has an abundance of Musky, Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass, Small mouth Bass, Pan fish and Walleye. It remains popular for lake sports and recreation as well as beautiful lake sunsets. With the attraction of the lake, Pewaukee became known for its lake cottages and fine resorts.
The Pewaukee area is situated on the Niagara escarpment that stretches from Niagara Falls, New York to Eastern Wisconsin. The lime and stone industry in Pewaukee was begun by Solomon Bolles, who came to the area in 1844. While much of the stone went into local construction, it was also used in Milwaukee and Chicago road construction. Following the disastrous Chicago fire of 1871, Pewaukee limestone was sent to the city for use in rebuilding the city.
Pewaukee Lake remains popular for lake sports including Ice Boating, and Sail Boating.