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bert 'T'anzilo

l•' Ol~ E\\ ' ORD BY DH . GRl ~ (;()l~ Y E. THOH~ rrox






~be rt 'T'anzilo

H istory
Published by The History Press
C harleston, SC 29403

Copyright © 2012 by Robert Tanzilo

All rights rese1ved

Bollom right cover image courtesy or Yancy Marti Archives.

Some portions or this work were previously puhl.ishcd , sometim es in altered form, on, which reserves its rights.

The charts in the appendix are excerpted from Our Roofs Grow Deep, 2nd edition, 1836-
1967. © 1974 Milwaukee Board of School Directors. Certain p hotographs o r MPS schools
included in this work are owned by the Milwaukee Board or School Directors. Permission to
use this material was granted by the M ilwaukee Board or School Directors, which rese1ves
all righ ls in the material.

Please support public education by making a donation at Do o r by

volunteering your time at your local school.

First published 2012

Manufactured in the United States

ISBN 9 78. 1.60949. 780.4

Library of Congress CIP data applied fo r.

Notice: T he infor mation in this book is true and complete to the best o f our knowledge. It is
offered without guarantee on the part or the author or The H istory Press. The author and
The History Press disclaim all liability in con nection with the use or this book.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be rep1·oduced or transmitted in any form
whatsoever without prior written permission from the publisher excep t in the case of brief
quotations emboclied in critical articles and reviews.
For Mi: J ack Pepjm ef Brooklyn, New York, and to all qf lt£s fellow
public school teachers, because as love61as sclzoolhouses can be, bricks don't
make a school- teachers and their students do.

Foreword, by 01~ Gregory E. Thornton 9

Preface: What Schools Mean to U s 11
Acknowledgements 17

A Brief History of fil waukcc's Public Schools 19

Quiet Garfield Avenue School ls an Architectural T reasure 39
1891 Walke r's Poi nt School Salutes Albert K agel 45
Brown Street to Groppi High 49
Twins, Triplets and Even Q uadrup.le ts in Vintage
Milwaukee Schoolho uses 55
A Closer Look at ecskara 63
Traci ng the Decades a l M aryla nd Ave nue School 67
High Schools Carve a Sp ecial Place in Our M emories 79
Bay View Feared Closure of M ound Strccl School 103
Potter's Legacy Lives On at Gaenslcn School 111
Looking At, and Into, Trowbridge Strccl School 11 7
Architectural Gems " Ha unted" by Schoolhouse Echoes 12 1
U p in Smoke: T hree Buildings Lost to Fire 125
ew Uses for O ld Schools 13 1
The State of Milwaukee's Vimagc Schoolhouses 137
Lost l\l[ilwaukcc Schoolhouse Treasures 143
Ten Must-Sec M ilwaukee Schoolhouses 147

Appendix: :t-.1IPS C hans 153

About the Author 187

W ho doesn't love a schoolhouse? The re are images of an old school

that come to m ind for most of us- at least for those of us who grew
up in th e age when school build ings were solid things of brick and stone and
soaring panes of glass. I haYe spent the whole of my working life in such
school buildings. There is a great comfort for me in a shiny te rrazzo floor
and in the gleam of a n oak door that is wo rn from the touch of thousands of
tiny hands, as well as in the brass knob of a classroom door that is all bright
and shiny and ready to tell its sto ries, if only it could.
There is a different perspective that comes from being a t the helm of
a large p u blic clistrict with more tha n 160 school buildings in a variety of
styles, some built in the 1890s a nd a few erected in j ust the past ten years.
Each builcling is the selling of ma ny thousands of precious memories for the
child ren who attended th ere- child ren who are now grown and have moved
on. They still want to sec the old buildings in their old neighborhoods when
they come back to town. T hose of us in the ad m inistration o f public school
districts are as much the caretakers of structures as of stude nts.
Robert Ta nzilo clearly values the memories as much as he loves the
architectural cliscussion. H e explores the value of school buildings to the
fab ric of the city's neighborhoods with as much fascination as he explores
boiler rooms and attics in our most elde rl y structures. T his book relies
on early documentation of the physical footprint of M ilwa ukee Public
Schools (M PS) as p ublished in Our Roots Grow Deep, a district j ournal that,
unfortu nately, cap tures histo1y only up to 196 7. \Ve have been wa nting

more. ' Ve arc grateful fo r the additional effort in these pages to nail down
the past and present state of our M PS houses. They are integral to this
city's future, creating long-lasting images based in brick, stone and glass for
generations Lo come.

Gregory E. Thornton, EclD

Supcrim endenL, i\!Iilwaukcc Public Schools
June 20 12


WHAT ScttooLs MEAN To Us

rmving up, my brother a nd 1 we nl to our neighborhood schools. As

G fa r as I ca n tell, there was n'L much discussion. Brooklyn's PS 199 was
closesL to our home, and so we enrolled the re (or rather where District 21
enrolled us). We spc nl seven years in the circa 1920s, nat-roofed, red brick,
three-story, U-shaped school, the wings or which e ngulfed the schoolyard
and fo rmed it imo a capital "T," m ore or less. Every day for te n months a
year, for those seven years from age five to twelve, we were in the classrooms,
the hallways, the gym , the lunch room , the audi torium and the schoolyard
at PS 199.
ls it any surprise that we feel a connection lo our schools? H ere we learn
to read, write and create social bonds of all kinds. It is potentially the scene
of our fi rst crush (and Lhe second and Lhird). IL is where we .learn to create
ourselves, out of the shadow and Lhe close watch of our parents. It is where
someone other than our pare nts or a close li·icnd or relalive mentors us for
the first Lime. We walked to school every day, trudging through the snow and
shuffiing through Lhe autumn leaves on the sidewalk, re-creating the sound of
a train. PS 199 was as much a part o r us as our house, our block or our friends.
Ve learned in most of the classrooms a t some point across all those years.
' 1\le stopped in the office and were in the gym a nd the auclitorium every week,

as well as the lunchroom and the fenced-in yard, with its faded painted lines.
At th e same time, there were places at school we never visited. Those
doors on either side of the south wall of the gym? W here did they lead?
There were locker rooms up there, but we never used them . They were used

l<..ids mugging fo r the came ra al Brown Stree t School, Twentieth and Brown Streets, as an
addition to the 1898 buil ding is erected inJunc 1952.

for storage, and the one time I can remember going in there, I felt like an
archaeologist entering an Egyptian tomb. From one of my stations while
serving as a door monito r 1 cou ld see through the small pane of glass in
the door leading to the bomb sheller beneath a uditorium stage, but I never
entered that mys terious space. We had climbed the caged-in staircases all the
way up to the third floor by the time we reached the sixth grade, but in all
those years, we never got to descend the same stairways to the locked doors
of the basement. If you we re lucky, you caught a glimpse while the j a nitor
had the door open, perhaps moving his cleaning equipment in or out. vVhat
on earth was dovvn there, and why didn' t they wa nt us to see it? Even at
that young age, I had already stu mbled on the mystique and the emotional
strength of schools.
In his 1989 article "Cathedral of C ultu re: The Schoolhouse in American
Educational Thought and Practice Since 1820," published in Hist01y ef
Education OJl.arter61, 'William W. Cutler III wro te:

The schoolhouse il' .rynonymous with edul'ation and a reminder to all ef an

imj1ortant time in their lives .. .More than 150yean ago reformers and educato1s


in tJze Unit,ed States began to claim that !he sdzoolhouse wasji.mdamental Lo

the education of the)!Oung, One of the most prominent school refom1l'1:Y q/ the
nineteenth centu'I)~ Henry Barnard, insisted that the "sc/zool/wuse should be a
temple, consecrated in prqyer lo Llze physica4 intellectual and moral cultui·e of
every child." His sentiments were lzardf)1unique.

Perhaps oddly, perhaps not, I feel more ent11ralled by schools now tha t I
don't attend them. Ask my mom and she'll tc.11yo u that I wasn't all that eager
to go to PS 199 for at least a few years, despite the fact that I liked most of
my teachers, had a fair number of fri ends and, as you can see, have a lot of
fond memories of school. But for my entire adult life, schools have had an
allure for me. Excepl Lhat l don't think I'd make a good teacher, I'd consider
that attractio n Lo be a sign th at I'm being called to th e profession.
\IVhen my own kids sta rted school in l\/Iilwaukcc, I was immediately
tra nsported bac k in time. Although their school is much older than my
elementary school, a nd though they look nothing alike, the scent is the same.
I think it's the shell ac on the creaky ha rdwood fl oors- as shiny on Lhe firsl
day of school as a freshly p olished pair of patent leather shoes.
The effect was to fall in love immedia tely. I had a gla ncing history in the
past with the building that is a major a nchor and la ndmark in a neighborhood
in which I've lived a nd spent a lot of time. I played basketball (if you can
call my nonexistem skills "playing basketball ") in the yard, a nd l knew a
few people who a ttended. But none of that really played in. I was simply
enamored of the building's steep roof, its ornamental friezes a nd its mix of
Romanesque Revival design wit11 Queen Anne elements. Ir looked Lo me
exactly the way a school should look.
Ta king the kids Lo school daily made me start Lo notice o ther schools.
Sure, I'd seen lots of them in my years living in the city, but I never really
looked at them . I began to be struck by the obvious bea uty of notables like
Fourth Street School (now Golda :M eir School) a nd th e now da rk and empty
Garfield Avenue Sch ool. I learned that they were not created offi1andcdl y
by some anonymous city architect. J o, these two buildings were designed by
H enry C. Koch, who created Milwaukee landma rks like city hall, th e Pfister
H otel and Turner H all. Milwaukee took its schoolhouses seriously, and more
tha n a century later, it was still obvious to anyone willing LO look. Surely,
other cities have lovely old schools, but I doubt there arc ma ny that can boast
of more gorgeo us old schoolhouses tha n Milwaukee.
l\llany survive here, but others have been lost to urban renewal, fire and
changes in educational needs that required the replacement of inadequa te


The playground mjcffcrson School. now razed , in dow111own :\lil\\'aukcc. It wasn't until the
1920s that 1\ Iilwaukcc Public Schools ensured that all schools had adequate outdoor play

old buildings. And this loss ,.,~ lJ continue. Eve ry yca1~ a deadly cocktail of
declining enrollm en t and slas hed funding forces Milwaukee Public Schools
to merge schools a nd close bui ldi ngs. Bei ng aclivc in a school community that
inhabits on e of Lhe oldest schoolhouses in the c ity, I in timately understan d
Lh e sh oncomings. Our building is stunn ing on Lhc oulside. I nsidc, the too
few classrooms are cramped despite the high ceilings. Because they weren't
designed for loday's studen ls, the buildings a rc lcchnologically ch allenged
and oflen don'l meet the sp ecifications for accessibility accorcling to the
Americans with Disabili Lies Act
As schools need lo g row, the discussions begin. D ocs it pay Lo continue to
expand and kee p up a 125-year-old build ing? Will that invcslmenl continue
to pay divide nds ed ucationally? After all, vin tage schoolhouses live in our
hearts and m emories and decorale our landscape, but they exisl lo do a very
specific function: help educate our child ren. If they no longer can do that
effectively, is it time to say good bye?
I n i\!Iilwaukee, some old schools have fo und new lives as apar unents, day-
care ccnlcrs and private schools. T wo buildings were rcceml y the focus of
projects Lhat would tra nsform lhcm into ne ighborhood a rts centers.
This book is not an attempt to tell lhc entire story of M ilwaukee Public
Sch ools. It's not even a chronological history o f rhe bui ldings in th e roughly
170-school, eighty -thousand-student district. Rathe r, it's sort of a guide to



Vintage schoolhouses live in o ur hearts and memories and decorate our landscape, but
they exist to do a very specific function: help educate our children. If they no longer can do
that effectively, is it time to say goodbye? T hat was the case with the old TwenLy-first Street
School, seen here, whid1 was replaced with a new building in 1978.

the discovery, or rediscovery, of some great Milwaukee buildi ngs. I will pay
homage to some long-lost schools, look at some veteran survivors and see
how others arc connected to their neighborhoods. vVe'll learn a little about
some remarkable Milwaukee architects, too. vVe'll take a tour underground
in one old school, and we'll go inside a few buildings that still stand but are
currently empty.
We'll also look at what the future may hold for Milwaukee's old
schoolhouses. I'm biased toward the oldest buildings in the district, and that
bias will be apparent here. This is a catalogue of my admi ttedly amateur
p assion for these buildings, but I warn you: I'm not an architect. Some of
you V>rill know them considerably more intimately than I do. I hope that you
find an old friend within these pages, and I hope that it helps rekindle some
fon d memories.



0 ne ra rely, if ever, writes a wo rk of non f1 ction alo ne. These a rc some

of the folks who deserve some credit for helping create this one. or
course, I couldn't have spent the time on th is project without th e support
of my family. Special thanks to them also for humori ng me and not once
telling m e to clam up as I've pointed out old school build ings during our
daily drives. A few chapters here o riginally a ppeared on,
and I thank p ublisher Andy Tarnoff and site presiden t J e tT Sherma n not
only for indulging my interests but also granting permission to reprint those
pieces he re, albeit sometimes in ~tl tc red form. J ohn Linn and G ina Spang in
the Milwa ukee Public Schools .Facilities Depa rtment have gone a bove and
beyond, a nswering questions and allowing me access to the district's archives.
Thanks to Dave Tesch for his architectural expertise a nd to Yance
M arti for reading the man uscript and provid ing a slew o f useful a rticles
and advice. Thanks to M att Cohen for showing me around the bowels of
M aryland Avenue School and t0 Bob H agne r fo r his tours o f some closed
buildings. Thanks also to M ilwaukee Public Schools superintenden t Dr.
G regory Thornton for writing his thoughtful foreword during a busy school
budget season and to Rosea nn St. Aubin, Amy K anL and th e rest o f the
folks in the M PS Communications Departme n t who offered answers and
encouragement, too.
I owe a debt of gratitude also to MPS's Nao mi Gubernick, the Mi lwaukee
Board of School Directors and Lynne Sobczak and Eugene J ones in the
Offi ce of Board Governa nce. T han ks also to the stalTS at the M ilwaukee

County Historical Soci ety research library and the special collections of the
M ilwaukee Public Library- especially To m Stack in the Ready Reference
Department and archives technician G ayle Ecklund who hel ped me
uncover some interesting photographs, architectural drawings and
information. Ben Gibson, Katie Parry an d the team at The History Press
have again been a pleasure to work with.

A word on dates: 1\!fPS's own documents often list divergent construction dates for many
qf iLr buildings without exfJlanation- /JedzajJS based on groundbreaking;,; completions or
school openings. Howevei; the dates typically vary unty by a year or two. i t is therefore
possible that some ef the dates here will not match dates seen in other sources.


M ilwaukee's public school history started in the winte r or 1836, when

thejuneautown settlement- one of Lhree that wo uld merge to create
fVIilwaukec-open cd a small frame school at what is now the southwest corner
of \1Vater Street and \t\lisconsin Avenue in response to Wisconsin te rritorial
law that h ad been established that july. A few months latc1~ Kilbourntown,
west of th e i\1Iilwaukce R.iver, foLIO\·ved suit, opening a school at 371 Third
Street, just north of wha t is now l{jlbourn Ave nue.
MPS's own history, Our Roots Grow Deep, quotes a longtime district principal,
Pat rick D onnelly, as saying, "The first schools were essent.ially primitive . .. a
crude log hu t or rickety frame sha nty, 30 feel long by 20 feet wide, with a
door in one end, a fireplace a nd chimney on the opposite end, fou r small
windows . .. There was a wooden floor, long benches placed along the sides
of the walls for the smaller children, and two or th ree small ta bles with
appropriate benches for the more advanced pupi ls, who were able to \.vrite ...
C lasses there were none. T he variety book supply rendered it impossible to
have classes."
By 1845, as the combined villages found ed by Solomon Ju neau, Byron
Kilbourn and George \\talker were working to consolida te into the single
city of M ilwaukee, Milwaukee Sentinel editor Rufus King was bangi ng the
drum for school expansion. "The whole numbe r of school children between
the ages of 5 and 16 years in the town of Milwaukee, is l, 78 1," he said ,
according to Our Roots. "There are l 3 schools in operation within the
corporate Jim.i ts, viz., fo ur public schools and nine private schools. Actual

attendance at the public schools, 288; at the private schools, 356 ... There
are upward of 1,000 children for whom no adeq uate provision of school
accom modation is made. There arc but two public school houses under this
boa rd, one of them harcUy deserving the name."
The foUowing yea1~ Milwaukee was incorporated as a city, and a school
board was formed, with King as p resident. By the end of th e yea r, acco rding
to Our Roots Grow DeejJ, Milwa ukee had six public schools: first Ward, located
in the basement of St. Peter's Cath olic Cathedral on State Street; the Second
and Fifth Ward schools, run o ut of o ld schoolhouses; and the Third Ward
and the Fourth Wa rd schools, which convened in rented houses. A second
Third Ward school was opened later in the yea r.
In 184 7, the city had five districts a nd added th rec more schools, and by
the foliow:ing year, MPS had 865 students enrolled and an average da ily
attendance of 640 pupils. A decade late1~ the board authorized three high
schools, al though only two were opened. Those had do eel by 1860 d ue to
finan cial woes within the district.
A descrip tion of one of these early school buildings appears in the 1979
booklet Toward a History ef Eighth Street School, wri tten by Beth Green, Brian
Kreuziger, Clare Look, R achel and Jim J aeger. T he Fourth Ward
School was built in 1850 on the site of the current Eighth Street School, at
Eighth and 1VIichigan in the heart of downtown Iilwaukcc. Their narrative
offers some insight into not only what the buildings looked like but al o how
quickly they became obsolete in the ever-growing Milwaukee, which by 1850
was home to more than twenty thousand souls:

The fiJJt school on this site was 42 by 60 feet and cost $3, 492. 70
[roughly ~8 1 ,000 in today's dollars].fimzished Lo house 350 students.
The two-story b1frk building was divided into two areas on thefirstjloo1;
each with an ante and recitation room for the primm)I and intermediate
departments. The second slm)I had one laige room and two smaller ones
for the grammar or senior department. The building was built by John
A . .Messinger... [and] o/Jened in l 850 ... [butl /Jrobabb1not finished or
j1roj1er(y furnished until about ayear or so late1:

Interestingly, the b uilding had a short li fe span. A replacement was erected

on the same site in 185 7. The a uthors of the Eighth Street School histo ry
noted that no records explaining the short life span were found, but they
posited that it had quickly become obsoletc-"thc early buildi ngs were built
so cheaply," they wrote- or that it might have falle n victim to fire or "some


other disaste1~" But the new bui lding was definitely largc1~ so Lhe reason
for the replacemen t may simply have been an attempt to meet growing
enrollment demands.
Fortunately, Lhanks to the J\!lilwaukee Sentinel of July 15, 185 7, we also have
a descriplion of the new build ing, which was the work of archiLects Mygatt
and Schmidtner:

The building stands 75 by 45feet three stories high and is brick and
the sl:yle ef the architecture is appropriate and handsome. On each ef the
three stories is a big room, 43 by 5 1feet) with two recitation rooms reach
12 by 18 feet] connected with it. The room on the fa:rt floor is intended
for the primary dejJartment, is 1 O'hfeet in the cleai; and wilt accommodate
about 200 children. The second st01)\ which is intendedfor the Intermediate
Department is I 1 'h feet clear and seats about 150 children. The ujJper
sto1)~ which is 16feet cleai; will be occupied by the p1i11cijJal de/Jartment,
there being separate desks and seats for about 130 /Ju/Jils.
Two wide and substantial flights qf stairs, one on !he right and Left
ef the main entrance [which fro nts Eighth Streetl lead up .fi"om the
ground floor to the upjJer stoi]< Two similar and separate staircases in the
rear lead down from the different stories to the out building:,~ which are
distinctfi·om each other and cannot be enleredfiwn the outside. The school
rooms are furnished with new handsome and convenie11t desks and seals,
manzifcictured by Bzljfolo, the standards being ef iron and woodwork ef
chen)l A slightly raised plaiform at the eastern end ef each room constitutes
the throne ef the teacher in c/uuge. The whole building seems lo have been
jmt up in the most thorough and wo1kmanlike s91le, and no detail has been
neglected. Indeed, it is a job ef which tlze contractois and the cif:)1 may }eel
equally proud.

Nevertheless, within fo ur years, the building was, according to the Eighth

Street history, "repaired to aid convenience and durabi liLy," and by 1863,
it was already overcrovvdcd, leading to the construcLion of an addi tion in
1866. A second, two-story brick addition followed in 1874. Just six yea rs
after that, MPS's annual report was already fl oating the idea of building a
third school on the site:

[Fourth Ward School] is the oldest building now in use and it is rapidly
reaching a condition when it will have to be thoroughly reconstructed or
deserted. ft has been remodeled internally several times; has had additions

H1sToR1 c M 11.wAU KEE P u Buc Sc 1-100LH o usEs

Eighth Street School, the third school to srancl on the site at Eighth and Michigan Streets,
was designed by H enry Koch and is the oldest MI'S building still op erming as a sch ool. It is
home to Project ST/\Y, an alternative high school for at-risk students.

made lo it; is insefficiently light.ed and heated; has no fJrovisions for

ventilation; and has outside privies with the most im/1eifect sewerage. The
moms usedfor Pn:mary grades are especially objectionable. The ceilings are
too low, and the effects ef wet weather are plainly visible upon the walls, on
account ef there being no excavation under the building... These statements,
which have been /JUt in their mildest Jann, amount to a condemnation ef
the building There cannot be llze least question as to its wzsuitableness for
school pwj;oses. The only debalable point is, when the ciry can cifford the
monry requiredfor a new schoolhouse?

In a utumn 1883, a fire broke out in the ouLho uses, and three months
late1~ th e bujlding was closed a nd the classes moved to Lhe Exposition Center
on and Kil bourn (. ire of the cur ren t l\tlilwaukee T heater), while the
illstrict erected a new buildi ng, designed by H enry C. Koch . T h at builillng
currently stands on the site a nd is tl1e o ldest still in use in the M PS system. In
addi tion to its .longevity, the builcljng is a lso one of the few among th ose of
its era to have escaped the boxy addi tions addcd to most nineteenth-century
schools in the midclle of the fo llowing cemury.


The e nrollment g rowLh lhal caused these changes at Eighth S treel forced
the district to build , bui ld, build over the next seven decades in a school
construction boom tha l wo uld be halted first by the Great D epression and
th en \ 1\forld War II. During these decades, municipa lities were beginning to
recognize th e importa nce of these buildings- which, rem embe 1~ Barnard
suggested should be no less than " temples" of lea rning and culture-and
their m eth od of construction.
In 19 10, Wesc Virginia sta te superintende nt of schools M orris Purdy
Shawkey wrote in the book School Architecture Lha t

school architecture is an art. Too eften we make the mistake ef supposing

that any architect or cm/Jenter is able to devise a suitable home for a school
and all its activities. J\llany times our architects plan school buildings by
taking into consideration proportions, gables, architectural effects, Lumbe1;
brick and stone, and either forget or .fail to understand the children and
their work~the very things for which the house should be erected. Those
with prefessional knowledge concerning the requirements for a modern
school house should prescribe the general standards, andfimn these Let the
architects determine the other.features.

In West Virginia, as in Milwaukee, early schoolh ouses had become

inadequate, according to Shawkey, but things were changing: '1\lthough we
still have entirely too ma ny dila pidated old, beggarly, box-schoolhouses, with
doors battered almost to destructio n, windows sm all a nd broken , general
appearance ragged, yards covered vvith a fcw abused bushes, weeds and
' blackberry vines,' they are marked fo r re moval just as soon as financial
conditions will per m it. The ' beggars,' for the most pa rt have give n way to a
better type."
Five yea rs la le r, W.O. Tho mpson expressed simil ar sentiments on the
importa nce o f school design in his introduction to a rchilect Wilbur T Mills's
19 15 book American School Building Standards. "The recen t movem ents in
education as effected by legisla tion have emphasized the physical plant as
th e basis of successful school practice," h e wro te. "School architectur
including all the problems of safely, sani taLion, heating, lighting, ventilation
a nd others, having the physical well-being or the pupil in mind- has been
th e earnest study of ma ny of the leading architects in lhe country."
This study a nd the serio usness o r good school architecture were entirely
appropriate, wrote T hompson (who declared public education to be the
most important issue to the Ame rican people), because " the proper housing


of the children during sch ool hours, and ad equale provision for p lay a rc
vital to their future citizenship. Every effort looking toward the perfecLing of
school buildings should have cordial support."
A few pages late r, Mills himself opined tha t " the school houses of a ny
communi ty a re the gauges of its enlighlenment" a nd that "one can ha rdly
lay too much stress on the importa n ce of highly skilled a rchitectu ral or
engineering services (or both) in the design a nd constructio n of school
buildings. Any school building which is at all worthy of a competent
architect's attention merits the services of the best ma n who can be induced
to undertake the work. "
Back in 1860s and '70s 1iJwaukee, things were looki ng up. I n 1867,
thanks to a law passed by the state, the cit)' got a permanent high school.
I t was first located in the Seve nth Ward Sch ool H ouse a nd then in the First
Ward School H ouse. By the time it was about six years old, a fire d rove the
school to the Baptist church, and it later returned to the First Ward school
building on the corner of Van Buren and Ju neau (then Division) Streets.
In 18 77, "Milwaukee H igh School settled in at the then twclve-yea r-old
iVWwaukee Academy building on Cass and Kn app Streets, where there has
been a school (currently Lincoln l\iliddle School for the Ans, formerly Lincoln
High School) ever since. By then, there we re twen ty-one public schools in
the city, according to vVW. Coleman 's Milwaukee ILLustrated: Its '!1-ade, Commerce,
lvlanefacturing Interests, Advantages as a Residence City. Coleman was clearly a
fan of some of them. '\1-\.11 of the latest improvements are found [at the First
District School] ," he wrote next to a n illustraLion of the building. '1\.nd the
interior is as complete and a ttractive as tl1e reader can see the outside is."
Coleman aJso appla uded tl1e work o r H enry Koch 's firm with regard to
"Milwaukee's schools:

The matter ef heat and ventilation has occupied the attention ef the School
Superintendent and Commissioners very much, and £n !he Thirteenth
District school building, an illustration ef which is here given, the subject
lzas been jJracticalLy settled... For which Messrs. H. C. Koch & Co., the
architects, are to be thanked. The new building in the Fourteenth District,
on Eighteenth Street, also /Jlanned by Koch & Co., .1/Jeaks volumesfor their
ability ... As architects for public school buildings, H. C. Koch & Co. are
acknowledged to be leaders, not only in this ciry and state, but in other states,
as was shown by thejact that they secured the contract.for constructing the
school building at Jvlt. Pulaski, Ill., over 74 other architects, representing
nearly every state in the Union.

H1sToR1c MILWAUKEE PuBuc Sc1-100LHousEs

Among H enry Koch's many school buildi ngs was Eighteenth Street School, originally the
Fourteenth District School, which was destroyed by fire in 1973.

In an 1875 address, then school board p resident Gustav Trumpff suggested

that construction of school buildings-v.rluch, at the time, were uniformly
named for the districts in which they were located (e.g., Eighteenth D istrict
School)- had continued apace in recent years. But the fact that the district
did not control them was a hot-button issue:

A great deal qf mone.J' has been expended by the ciry authorities for the
erection ef large and elegant school buildings ... Still I believe that it would
be wise to give the School Board a voice in the selection ef sites far school
buildings, and in determining their sizes and arrangemenLr. Wizen a short
time since, the School Board., far the purpose of curtailing its expenditure::,;
reduced the number ef teachers in some ef the schools, it was ascertained
that most ef our schoolhouses were planned without regard to the wants
ef the schools. Some buildings contain a number ef small rooms, far each
ef which a separate teacher is necessary ... during the winter the [School
Board] asked far an amendment to the Ciry Charter, providing that the
plans far new school buildings should be submitted to the School Board
far approval. The committee ef the Common Council readi{y assented to
this proposition, but no alteration was made in the law. This is much to
be regretted.

H rsTORlC M I LWAUKEE P u nuc Sc1-10 0 LHOUSES

Twenty-seventh S treet School, now ho me to.James Groppi High School, was one or the
many buildings erected during the tenure of 1'"1 PS Superintendent \ \lilliam E. Anderson
from 1883 to 1892.

In contrast to T rump!T's comment about small rooms, D istrict

Superintendent J ohn Somers noted in his 1878 report that many
classrooms "contain upwards of 100 pup ils each." This fac t might help
account for vvhy one of his successors, vVilliam E. Anderson , sparked
a building boom from 1883 ro 1892 during his nine-yea r tenu re as
superintendent. D uring Anderson's reign, the district built o r annexed a
large number of schools, including C lybo urn Street, D over Street, East
Hig h School, Eighth Stree t, Fifth Stree t, Fourth Street, Garfield Avenue,
Highland Avenue, H opkins Street, Lee Street, Longfellow, Madison
Street, Maryland Avenue, McKi nley, Mineral Street, Mound Street,
Palmer Street, Park Stree t, Prairie Street, Sixteenth Avenue, Third
Street, Trowbridge Street, Walnut Street and Windlake Avenue.
Others, like Vieau, fitch ell and Twenty-seventh Street and a very
large expansion of Maryla nd Avenue, were completed within a year or
two of his resignation in 1892. For this work, he wo uld tap some of the
city's most respected architects, incl uding H enry Koch, Eugene Liebert
an d H erman Schn etzky.
Still, the district could barely keep up with enrollment growth. In the first
weeks of 1893, Superintendent George Peckham told the Nlilwaukee J ournal


that twenty-six barracks were th en in use to ho use an overflow of kids.

Additionally, space had been rented by the school board to use as classrooms
in the Sixth, Ninth , Thirteenth and Eighteenth D istricts. "! ot only is it
necessary that buildings be supplied to take the place of lhe barracks but also
that buildings be erected in the over-crowded districts," Peckham said. "The
Fifth district is in great need of a new building. Pupils are packed inlo rooms
in great numbers and even w'ith that, many are unable to attend school. "
The Nlilwaukee Sentinel noted on the firsl day of 1893 th al lhe barracks were
unfil places to educaLe kids, especially during \t\lisconsin winters: "Th ese
slightly built wooden structures are bul insufficienl protection againsl lhe
severity of winter weather, and are poor p laces in which lo attcmpL to keep
school. But there is not Lhe slightest doubl that the Board of Public Works
will soon have to build several more of them so crowded are many of the
regular buildings."
About $500,000 was needed by the district Lo build at minimum in the
Fifth, Eighth, Tenth, Twelfth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth D istricls but also
in those districts renting rooms, Peckham said. "These figures are bedrock,"
he told the paper. " Not a dollar could be taken off the total. Yet even with
that, the amount will be but sufficient for present necessities and when next
year I ,000 and more pupils apply in excess of year's number, the same
difficulty will again be experienced ... The money must be raised or else Lhe
practice of educating children made illegal, for matters cannot continue as
they are. "
Peckham said that the city's public works board and council were not to
blame. \i\fhat was needed was money, and fo r that the schools needed the
state governmenL to pay attention. "The legislature musLbe applied to," he
urged, " [and] the power given to us to issue bonds." A delegation trekked to
Madison that April to do jusl that
T he battle for elbow room in :NWwaukee Public Schools wasn't showing
any signs of going away, even as buildings conlinued to be erected. In an
1898 report, Superintendent H enry Siefert noted that whi le there were now
forty-seven total schools (three high schools, twenty-four disti;ct schools, a
school for the deaf and nineteen p1;mary schools) a nd twenty-rvvo one-room
moveable schoolhouses, more than $500,000 would be required to meet
buildi ng needs, which included five replacement buildings or renovalions
of existing buildings, five new buildings and additions to buildings in at least
three districts. Plus, he said, a new high school was required Lo rneeLdemand
on the northwest side, and the N inth District School that would later bear
his name was in serious need of replacement:


I desire /.o call)'our attention to the unsatiifact01y condition ef the old Ninth
District School. Some q/ the rooms are so poorl;y Lighted and ventilated,
that they should not be used as classrooms. Ten years ago, wizen I was
princi/Jal ef that school, I refused to use one ef the rooms as a regular
classroom, and had the seals taken out. Since then the clamor.for additional
school accommodations became so pressing that eve1y one ef the nineteen
rooms in this building had lo be occupied, and, in addition, two barracks
had to be bu£11. The new.fourteen-room /Himaiy school on Twentieth and
Brown streets relieved the fJressure somewhat, but we could not take awqy
the barracks.

A replacemenl in the Second Ward, on Seventh and Prairie (now

Highla nd), was also urgent, according to Siefert, who wrote, "This building
is without exceplion the poorest school building in the city. It has little or
no provision for ventilation, except through th e windows. The lighting is
entirely inadequate. The basement is a dark hole." In the same report,
Siefert bemoaned the lengthy process required to get a new school built. "Is
it reasonable that it should take two years to build an eight-room school?"
he asked.
Siefe rt did, however, celebrate the new buildings on Ring Street and
Brown SLreet as advances in M ilwaukee schoolhouse construction: " We
may be justly proud or th ese las t two buildings. They contain every desirable
feature or a mode rn school house: proper size of rooms, correct lighting,
steam heating regulated automatically, a rtificial ventilation and water
closets on every noo r. " H e also p raised the fon.v ard-thinking mentaliLy of
building above current needs, writing, "Owing to the precaution exercised
in building these two schools la rge eno ugh, there are still five rooms vacant
in one and one room in the o ther. If in the erection of new school buildings
due regard be paid to th e proba ble increase of th e school population in Lhe
near futu re, we shall no t sufTer from the constan t em barrassment of lack
of school acco m modation. "
Yet, only two schools, Lhe Sevemh Ward (Jefferson) School and Soulh
High School, were erecled in the following three years. After the nationwide
dep ression of 1893-94 and recession that followed in l 895- 97, money was
tigh t in the second half· or the 1890s in Milwaukee, and expenditures on
school buildings we re slowing.
In 1891, the ciLy spent $244,000 on schools, but by eight years later, just
$ 149,000 we nt to new schools. (The headline "Costly Buildings Scarce"


was a recurring one in newspape rs of the day.) And tho ugh the schools we re
erected , there was fear th at there would be liule cash on hand Lo furnish
the build ings, according Lo a December 4, 1898 articl e in th e Se11t£net: " The
fac t that the city's fin an ces are de pleted will make no diffe rence with the
erection of these buildings [Sou th High and J efferson]. The money has
been appropriated and is al hand. Some tro uble may be expe rienced ,
however, in securing appropriations for the purchase of desks a nd other
school furniture."
By the summer of 1899, th e same pape r noted thal the lack of funds
fo r school construction was hampe ri ng the dis trict's a bility to educate all
of Milwaukee's children: " Only two new school buildings a rc to be opened
in th e au[Umn- the new South Side H igh a nd the Seven th District- and
as these v.rill do little towards relieving the pressure of a n increasing school
attendance, which even last year was too large for t.he accommodat.ions, it
seems likely that a good many children will find themselves crowded out for
lack of room. "
H oweve1; the paper noted, the district was worki ng hard to maintain its
existing buildings, and even that was proving difficult: "If the school board has
not been able to erect new buildings for the accom modation of th e children in
the outskirts of the city, where the greatest need of more school room exists, it
has been doing what it can to make the old buildings more habitable."
l\IIPS spent between $8,000 a nd $9,000 to replace "u nsanitary" plumbing
systems in nearly a dozen schools, but that depleted the coffers and so talk
of converting the old South Side High building into a p rimary school a nd
other district-v,ridc repairs a nd maintenance were put on hold pendi ng a
response to a district request for an extra $7 ,000 from the common council
to do som e of· this work.
In 190 I, the school board was still warning tha t buildings were
ove rcrowded, a nd over the next decade, m ostly under the superintenden ce
of Carroll Pearse, co nstruction picked up the pace. Between 1902 and
19 1 l , a number of buildings were construc ted, including Bartlett Avenue,
T wentieth Street, Clarke Street, Auer Avenue, Siefert, Thirty-seve nth
Stree t, Ninth S treet Annex, D oe rOe r~ Forest H om e Aven ue, Ll oyd Strccl
a nd T hirty-eighth Street. One other, State Street, was annexed.
As early as Februa ry 20, 1898, the Sentinel reported that a predicted post-
1900 school building boom was proving benefi cial to a rchitects. "The most
important work among architects for the coming year is the drawing of plans
for the numerous public schools that are to be built," it reported, noting that
a site had already been selected fo r the District 18-2 building on Bartlett


Avenue and that plans had been made to raze the old school on Seventh
and Prairie Streets and build a replacement and Lo build new schools in the
Nineteenth and Twentieth Districts.
In a 19 l 2 report, Pearse noted that du ring his tenu re, he adopted a " policy
of larger and better equipped school grounds, [a] policy of larger school
buildings, rather than an increased number of smaller buildings, [and a] new
type of school buildings with modern facilities and large assembly halls on
[the] ground floor." (Earlier buildings typically had gym s and auditoriums-
or more often "gymnatoriu ms"-on the top floor.)
A nevv penny-pinching app roach appea rs Lo have taken hold, which may
accou11l for the reuse of plans for multiple buildings and fo r buildings less
ornate or architecturally elaborate than their elder siblings. An example is
the new First \Varel School, built on Cass Street in 1905. As it prepared to
open its doors for the first time, the school was described in a September 3
article in the Milwaukee Sentinel:

The new slruclure was designed with the main ob.feel ef producing a building
which shall be stable, sanitaiy and convenient in all its departments rather
than one upon which mone_;1has been expendedfor the attainment ef artistic
results by means ef architectural ornamentation. It was designed to be a
straiglzifo1ward and honest representation ef a building which is practical in
all its details. To this end the exteiior is absolute!:)! devoid ef ornamentation
and is impressive mere!:)! by its sim/Jlicity and straighifo1wmd expression ef
structural details.

Under construction around the same time was the new Fourteenth District
School- since renamed Rutherford 13. H ayes- on South Tenth Street (then
Fifth Avenue) between H ayes and Arth ur (then called Smith and Clarence)
Streets that the Sentinel reported on ovcmber 5, 1904, was the first steel and
concrete public building completed in the city :

vValls, floors, stairs, columns, and roqf are built ef "reieforced concrete,"
which is concrete interlaced or supported with steel rods. Wizen the building
is finished it will apj;ear to be made ef brick, as there wdl be a veneering
ef four inches ef brick. Behind the b1ick there will be a wall ef concrete
eight incites thick. Yet the walls, unlike those ef a solid biick building, do
not efford the chief support. There are concrete columns and girdei:s, efter
the fashion ef la1ge steel structures. The columns ef Large size are I Bx 18
incites. A building ef ordinary construction could not have an asseinbl:)!

H1sTo R1 c MILWAUKEE P UBLIC S c 1-100L1-1 o u sEs

Older readers will remember idyllic scenes like the one ~c c n e in this 1920s photograph
or a kindcrganrn room a t H arford Avenue School, which is still open adjacent lO UW-
.\ Iilwaukee campus on the east side.

room 48x66 feet in size witlwut pillars w support the sl01y above. Steel
girders are used to avoid these annoying obstructions ef tlte view, but in this
building the concrete gi.rders will be strong enough. There will across
the ceiliug lsupporting] the weight ef the roof

In addition Lo the slrength and fireproof qualities of this new type of

construction, the Sentinel reported that "another advantage of th e use of
concrete is Lhe cost," no ting that while steel a nd concrete structures cost 10
percent more than fra m e buildings, th ey were 25 percent less exp ensive than
brick or steel. The construction of H ayes- designed by O.C. Uehling~was
proj ected to cost S60,000.
The school boa rd finally wrested control of siting a nd construction of
school build ings in 1905. The following yea r, the board, which by now
oversaw fifty-one buildings, created an Architectural Division and hired D.C.
O tteson- who had supervised the construction of Ferry & Clas's landmark
Milwaukee Public Library, which opened in 1898- to run it.
In 1912, the board appointed Milwaukee architectural firm Van Ryn &
D eG ellcke as MPS a rchi tects on a half-time basis. For the next t\-velve years,

H1sToR1c MILWAUKEE Punuc Sc1-100LrrousEs

the firm helped construct a number of buildings, m ost notably Washington,

Riverside and Bay View High Schools. Also in 1912, the district again altered
its sch oolhouse nomenclature, leaving behind the old district numbering
system because of changes to ward boundaries that followed expansion
of the city. At its February 6 meeting, the board voted to name schools,
noted Lamers, "acco rding to the streets upon wh ich they are located, the
Superintendent and Secretary to select the names most desirable."
Lest you think the school board can undertake any action and avoid
controversy, it's worth noting that even naming schools for the streets on
which they are located drew criticism ... six years later. l n its J une 9, 19 18
edition, the M ilwaukee Journal reported that the city health. commissioner,
comptroller and assistant city attorney all opposed the idea of street na mes
on schools. " aming a school after the street it faces docs little to establish its
location where is one or two others on the same street," it q uoted the health
commissioner, Dr. George C . Ruhland, as saying.
The article noted that C lybourn Street School is actually located on
Twenty-seventh Street, and although there is one school named Twenty-
seventh Street School, there is yet another school just few blocks no rth on the
same street. The same problem existed on Ninth Street, \1Valnut Street and
others, it reported. '~t\nyone who went to the school at Lee and \!Veil Streets
in search of the Lee Street School would have to betake himself' to Lee and
Ninth Streets for tl1at is where the Lee Street School is," added Ruhland.
"Finding tile Twentieth Street School deserves to be classed among outdoor
sp orts, for there are tllree schools on Twentieth Street- one near Wright
Street, one at Twentieth and Brown Streets, and one at Twentieth Street and
Cold Spring Avenue. T he first mentioned is the Twentieth Street School."
The paper asked Alderman Patrick]. Grogan- who was then lobbying
to get a new school built to replace one damaged by fi re in his Sixteentl1
\!\lard- if the schools ought to be named in honor of famous Americans as
a means to teaching patriotism. "I think the lesson of patriotism ought to
be taught in tile class rooms," Grogan replied. "I believe that the system of
naming tile schools after the streets they face is so valuable from a practical
standpoint tl1at it should not be abolished." That opinion, wrote the Journal,
was shared by Twenty-third Ward alderman j ohn L. Bohn.
O tteson died in 1922, and in this same year MPS reo rganized the
Architectural D ivision, creating the Bureau of Buildjngs and Grou nds.
While it wouldn' t hire a bureau chief until I932, when it appointed Bohumil
J elinek, Minneapolis architect Guy E. Wiley was named assistant chief of
the department and served as tvIPS's own full-ti me architect. \1ViJey wou ld


have a hand in the construction and expansion of many schools during his
nearly thirty-year ten ure in the mstrict.
Further na me tinkering took place in 1929, and while some schools kept
their location- based names, others were given the names of artists, politicians,
inventors, presidents, naturalists, writers and other notables. In June 1931 ,
Lhe school board 's instruction committee made a decision that school leaders
and educators could only have schools named for them ten years o r more
after their deaths. Th at meant the district had to delay the renaming of
Ring Street for Robert M. La Follette and T hird Street in honor of Victor L.
Berger, and as the J ournal reported, " [T]he naming of the new N. Sixteenth
Street School afler Emmanuel]. Philipp was also postponed in accordance
wi th the 10-ycar rule." H owever, action was taken to rename the new North
Stadium- still under construction- and Lhe new nearby high school for
Rufus King a nd to cha nge the name of Clybourn Street School to Mary
Hill in honor or a former principal.
After World War I, construction resumed, and during the 1920s, the district
erected Bay View High School, Lincoln High School, Peckham J unior High,
R oosevelt J unior High, Kilbourn Junior H igh, Kosciuszko Junior Tracie,
Ferm vood, Franklin, Greenfield, Lapham Park Social Center, Neeskara,
Riley, Sherman, Townsend, \Visconsin Avenue and the South Stadium. At
the same time, many builrungs were renovated or expanded, inclumng Field,
Fifth Street, Hi-Mount, J ackson, Mound, Palmer and Vieau, and many
properti es adj acent to schools were purchased to expand playgrounds.
" M a ny older schools had been built on small sites- 'quartcr squares'-
and a program Lo provide adequate playgrounds for them in the '20s and
for decades thereafter demanded the p urchase and demolition of groups
o f houses," wrote William Lamers in Our Roots Grow Dee/1. "In thinly settled
areas into which Lhe city was exp anding, la rge vacant tracts of land were
p urchased at acreage prices for immediate or future building."
T he la rger playgrounds were an acknowledgement not only of the
importance LO child ren of physical activity but a lso o f' the greater role
schools played in neighborhoods. As citizens and civic gro ups began to push
to Oing open the door of schoolhouses for other uses- including recreation,
public meetings, ocial centers and other educational programs- the state
legislature passed a law in l 907 to allow such uses.
In 1911 and 1912, .MPS created an extension departmC'nl, which opened
social centers and playgrounds. At D etroit Street School in the Third \!\Tard, a
public natatoriurn was built in 1915 that offered vital se1viccs to a heavily Italian
immigrant neighborhood. In October 2004, retired fifty-five-year veteran MPS


Steuben Junior High School on the west side was the work of :\Iilwaukec Public Schools·
residem architect Guy E.. \\.ilcy. l ow ho me to the popular :\[ilwaukee French Immersion
School, the building retains its original cilc work and other imcrior details.

educator Pauline (Eugenia) Stanwitt shared ,.,~ th Bob Ruggieri or the Italian
Tunes newspaper her memor-ics of the natatorium:

Few homes in the old Third Mlt-n d could boast ef having a bathtub. In
those days, a bath consisted ef.filling a round, galvanized washtub with
clean hot water.for each member ef thefamily about to take a bath. This
is how it was until theyear 1915 when the natatorium was built. I Vhat
a pleasure it was lo enter the huge building and stand under the slwwerfar
a thorough washing before jumping into the blue/green waler qf the laige
swimming pool. Tuesday and Thursday was women's dt!Y rVednesda)\
Friday and SatwdaJ\ the men look ove1:

Construction in th e district was sty mied by the Great Depression, but by

th e end of the 1930s, the list of new constructio n, additio ns, renovations
and major repairs was a long one. Burbank, Cacnslen, Garden H om es,
Humboldt Park, Juneau, King, .Morganclale, Philipp, Pulaski, Steuben,
Story, Tippecanoe a nd the North Stadium were buiJt, and more than sixty


existi ng buildings were e>..'})anded or renovaLed o r underwent major repair

wo rk. v\!iley directed the bulk of the work in the 1920s and '30s, and by
1943, the distri ct comprised 118 buildings and 22 playground buildings.
':Al tho ug h this period was m arked by co nsiderable sch ool construction,"
wrote Lamers, " the architectural staff carri ed almost the en tire load of
designing. By the late 1930s, as enrollments fell a nd funds grew scarcer, the
building prog ra m slackened."
World Wa r II brought constructio n to a full stop, and it did not begin
again until a few year s after the end of th e conflict. After Pulaski High was
opened in 1939, there was no new construction in t11e district until Eighty-
first Street School was finished in l 949. Driven by demographic ch anges,
that was a project, along wi th a fe w o tl1ers, that caused tl1e district to retl1ink
its 1945 fi ve-year facilities plan ba rely two years in.
" Shifts in Milwaukee's p opulation have caused tl1e schoo l board to adopt
a new five year bu ilding program, upsetting the program outlined in 1945
for its postwar construction and improvements," wrote reporter Elizabeth
M aier D evitt in the Milwaukee J ournal in November 1947. "Because of the
rap id settlement of the northwest section o r th e city, the board has recognized
elem entary school expansion there as a first need and has pushed other
projects furtl1er into the future. " Among those newly urgent projects were the
Eigh ty-first Street a nd Fifty-third Streel Schools, alo ng with imp rovements
at Washing ton Hig h School.
In the m eantime, J elinek had re tired in 1942 (Wiley wo uld resig n in
195 1). But ti m es were ch anging anyway, and the postwar baby boom would
fo rce MPS to look o utside the distr ict fo r its archi tecture and design needs,
accordi ng to Lamers:

To meet the building demands of the middle 1940s and the 1950s
and J 960s, the Board was comjJelted to contract the services of Local
architectural.firms. Under this arrangement the role of the Construction
Division changed. It no longer jJlanned and designed buildings and
carried the construction responsibilif:Y through the whole C)lcle .fi"om
bluejl1ints to occupancy. It participated, rather, in the preliminmy
planning, assisted in drawing s/Jecijications and in selecting architectural
firms for individual assignments, and .followed construction-in a
word, it was supervis01y.

\Vi th th e lack of activi ty and the deferrals caused by rethinking the 1945
facilities pla n, the d istrict fell behind o n mo derni zation a nd construction


projects, and in 195 1, it Ooated a school bond referendum for the first time
since 1926. T h e goal was to raise nearl y $ I0.0 million , which would h elp
fund $ 18.2 million in work to help erase wha t a report called "a critical
housing shortage" for l\ifPS. This shortfall, the distri ct noted, was the resul t
of an increasing birth rate, substa ntial growth in city population a nd agi ng
school buildings.
The document attributes the rising age of schools to the decline in
constructio n work durin g the Depression and World \Nar 11 and to the
fact that building costs ha d since increased without a simila r increase in
fund ing. In 1951 , the district had ninety-eight buildings, with an ave rage
age of thirty-seven yea rs. Twenty-two buildings were more tha n fifty years
old, a nd three we re more tha n seventy years old. Allen , built in 1875, was
the oldest.
" While it has been the pol icy to keep these buildings in good repail; a
program of mode rnization and probable replacemen t must be considered
if we are to assure the safety and right of a ll children to equa l educational
opportunity," wrote Adell Schott in the school board's 195 1 "M anual of
Information: Futu re Needs of the Milwau kee Public Schools."
The district predicted a shift toward more high school- age students
tha n elementary student<; in MPS. Not only would more high schools be
needed, bu t those schools would also be more costl y to construct. MPS also
estima ted enrollment, which had grown from 66,980 in 1948- 49 to 67 ,409
the following year, would ball oon Lo nearly 82,000 by th e end of the decade.
Therefore, the "1v1anual" a rgued, th e referendum simply had to p ass, or
Milwaukee students would be faced with the prospect of school
p rograms, long-distance transporta tio n, in creased class sizes, conversion o f
basements, a uditoriums and other faci lities into classrooms and "temporary
construction [that] will be substituted for permane nt construction vvith
greatly increased m a intena nce cost and less educational service val ue."
Atop the MPS wish list? The construction of C lem ent Ave nue School,
Kluge School, Fifty-fifth St reet School, N ine ty-fifth Street School, a new
\!Vest Division High School, improve ments al \i\fashington High, a new
high school in tJ1e northwest pa rt of the city and the remodeling a nd
modernization of old buildings and ba rracks, or portable units, LO alleviate
overcrowdiJ1g a t some schools.
The second group of needs included a re placemen t for Al len and Field
Schools (that b uilding is indeed called All en-f ield), a replacement for Center
Street a nd Pierce Schools a nd a " permanent unit building" for Curtin School
on the south side.


On Tuesday, Apri l 3, 195 1, voters approved the bond issue by a 2: I

margin, and the prqjects just !isled we re completed. Eleven years late1; the
.Milwaukee Sentinel rcporled lhal vo ters approved a S29 million bond offering
lo fund a fi ve-year facililies p lan.
"ll was lhe fiflh consecutive time since 1951 lhat rvulwa ukee had approved
bond sales for new schools," wrote reporter J oe Botsford in 1962. " But it
was the first time that a school bond prop osal had faced such vigorous,
vocal opposition. Civil rights grou ps fought the proposal to the fi nal hours,
charging thal construction or schools in Iegro popula ted a reas would
encourage further de facto segregalion."
By 20 I 1, whe n it completed its most recent facilities report, Milwaukee
Public Schools wh ich has an cnroUment of about eighty thousand- held
220 build ings and playficlds in its portfolio a nd the average age had j umped
to sixty-six years old . J ust over 40 percent of the district's facilities ela ted to
before 1930.
The report prqjectccl the total capital improvement need for the district's
fac il ities to be $99 1.2 millio n. The oldest buildin g still serving as an MPS
school is Eighth Strecl, e rected in 1884.


W hen I drive past a build ing like the old Garfield Avenue School, 22 15
North Fourth Street, which l do a fc'"' limes each week, I'm intrigued.
Garfield is an especially lovely old building that appears to still be in pretty
good shape. Because it was in use li·om its construction in 1887 through
2006, it was maintained. T hat's a good thi ng because the build ing is a piece
of Milwaukee architectural history. It was designed by H enry C . Koch, who
is best known in tovvn as the a rchitect of city haU. Koch also designed Turner
H all, the Pfister Hotel, M arquette's Gesu C hurch and other buildings here
and beyond.
Koch was a devotee of Romanesque R evival style and was a disciple of
Boston a rchi tec t H en ry H o bson Richa rdson, the namesake of a style that
came to be called Richardsonian Roma nesq ue. Koch earned a nu mber
o r school building com missio ns, .includi ng the early Fo urteenth District
School on Eig hteenth and Wells a nd De troit S treet School (late r Andrew
J ackson), which we re constructed in the 18 70s, the Eigh th Street and
Maryland Aven ue Schools in the 1880s a nd South D ivision H igh in the
1890s, a mong others.
Romanesque Revival/ R icha rdsonian Romanesque was a pop ular
architectural style in Milwaukee and across the country from abou t 1870
until about 1900. One o f the most recognizable Romanesque Revival
structures in Milwau kee is Willoughby J. Edbrooke's U.S. Post Office, Court
H ouse and Custom H ouse (now the Federal Building on East Wisconsin
Ave nue), with its graceful multi pointcd towe1; built between 1892 and 1899.
HrsTORlC MILWAUKEE Puuuc Sc1-100LHousr::s

Garfield A,·enue School was designed by Herny Koch, who cksigncd such l\ lilwa ukee
landmarks as ciry hall, G esu C h urch and Turner H all. CurrcnLiy closed , it is on the
."/arional Register of Hist0ric Places.

Other prominent extant examples include Edward Townsend Mix's St.

Paul 's Episcopal Church and, of course, Koch's PfisLcr Hotel.
Reflecting the open interp retation by nineteenth-century archi tects of
eleventh- and twelfth-cen tury western European architeclurc, Koch often
blended styles, mixing clements of classicism, Palladianism, Queen Anne
and other styles into his works.


As much as Milwaukeeans treasure some of the fifteen courthouses in Wisconsin and Illinois
ci!J1's landmarks, few of us know much about the and, reported!J, all Milwaukee Public Schools
folks who created them. erected between 1873 and 1881 (and some
Architect Henry Koch designed ci!J' hall-once afterward, too)- in a career that spanned
among America's tallest buildings-Turner Hall, for!JJ'ears. Enlisting to fight in the Civil War,
the Pfister, the "new" hospital at Mihuaukee Koch worked as a draftsman on General Ph ilip
Soldiers Home and other great Cream Ci!J' Sheridan 's staff
buildings. But does 01:ryone bryond a small cadre Even less known are Koch disciples Herman
ofarchitecture students and geeks know his name ? Schnet<.ky and Eugene Liebert, two German
Koch, who was born in 1841, designed immigrants who, like Koch, arrived in
more than three hundred buildings-including Milwaukee and stqyed to p]y their trade. All of


their best-known work· was executed in the then and Gailun Tannery Galluns of Milwaukee-and
fashionable Romanesque Reuiual s!Jle. he worked at the tannery until a partner there
Schnet.d.y was born in Wi·iezen, Germarry, in landed him ajob in Koch's office.
1850 and arrived in Milwaukee eighteenyears Liebert joined Schnet.d.y as a draftsman in
later. ~ 1869, he was working as a draftsman 1887, and thry became partners fiveyears later.
for architect George A'fygaH- 1vho, it has been That same year, thry designed St. Michael's
suggested, was the first professional architect in Church (1445 North TwenJy-Jourth Street)
Milwaukee-and his apprentice, Henry Koch. and, the followingyear, St. Stephen Lutheran
Koch, who signed on with Mygatt when School in Walker's Point (which still stands but
he was just sixteen, left ta create a firm in is vacant), as well os a major addition to Koch's
partnership with Julius Hess one year later, Maryland Avenue School.
and it is presumed that Schnel<:ky followed. But But it was in 1896 that the duo drew the most
soon Koch was on his own. It was during these enduring ~mbol of their lega9 in Milwaukee:
years that Schnetz}.y helped Koch design marry the Germania Building (135 West Wells Street).
earjy Milwaukee Public Schools. Eighth Street, That samey ear, thry produced plans for a new
Ga rfield Avenue, Fourth Street and Kagel are West Side Oater West Division) J-Iigh School.
among the extant MPS buildings designed ~ In 1897, Schnet-<:'9 and Liebert parted wqys,
Koch. Soon, Schnetz}.y !Vas doing that kind and each continued to build in Milwaukee. In
of work, as !Veil as other more prestigious 1900, the latter purchased land on the east bank
commissions on his OlVn. ofthe Milwaukee River and built three distinctive
In 1887, Schnet.<.lfy designed Greenfield summer homes and a lovejy chalet-s!Jle barn. All
School in West Allis. It was later renamed still stand on Sunrry Point Lane, though thry are
Garfield School and is currentjy home to the among sixteen homes that the Ci!J of Glendale is
West Allis Historical Socie!J. The Romanesque trying in 2012 to bi!J and raze.
Revival schoolhouse was added to the National Schnet.d.y died in 191 6, and his son, Hugo,
Register of Historic Places in 2006. In 1889, continued the fami}y practice. Liebert died in
he drelV plans for the nearjy identical Walnut 1945 in the home he designed and built fo r
Street and Fifth Street Schools. He also designed himself in 1887 al 1948 North Holton Street.
St. Martini Luthera n Church (1520 South Koch had passed awqy in J910. According to
Sixteenth Street) in 1887, St. John 's Luthera n Liebert's great -grandson, the famijy has made
Church (804 West Vliet Street) tlVoyears later something ofa tradition ofEugene's profession.
and, in 1890, Blatz Brewing Comparry Office "He had four sons; two were architects-
(1120 North Broadwqy) and the McGeoch Wilter and Carl-and the other two were
Building (322 East Michigan Street). All of engineers, including 119 grandfather, Arthur,"
these are still standing. said Rochester, New York- based architect Todd
In 1892, he went into partnership lVith his Liebert. "I am the onjy architect since Walter
fo r·mer Koch colleague Eugene Liebert. Born in and Carl, with a practice that includes hospitals,
Berlin in 1866, Liebert came to MillVaukee in schools and municipal buildings in both New York
1883. His mother was a Gailun-as in the Trostel and North Carolina. "


Maryland Avt·11t1t· School, now a public M ontessori school , has been an east side landmark
for 125 years. The current building-erected in th ree phasl"s in 1887 (Henry Koch),
1893 (Schnctzky & Liebert) and 195 1 (Richard Phili pp} replaced a smaller First District
Primary school located on the same site.

For a nice overview of Liebert's residential, Eugene Liebert. fou might be surprised how
commercial and ecclesiastical work, check out ma19 of his works are still here, brightening up
Milwaukee architectural historian H. Russell our landscape tad'!)'.
Zimmermann 's book· The Arch itectu r e of

Look al Turner, city hall and Garfield Avenue School- as well as Golda
Meir School and its companion, K agel School, also K och works-and you
will be struck by the commonalities: the arches over the wi ndows, the peaks,
the sets of Lriple wi ndows and so on.
"T he Ga rfi eld Ave nue building was design ed with a central hallway
around which light filled rooms were grouped in irregular clusters,"
accord ing Lo Built in Nlilwaukee: An Architectural View ef the City, edited
by R andy Garber. "The exterior of the sLructure was a late-nineteenth
century caricature of Palladianisrn in that it was composed of three

H1sToR1c M1LWAU KCE P u Buc Sc1-100LHousEs

oddly asymmetrical masses. FurLhermore, the m asses were articulated by

tripartite window systems, which were hugely overscaled. The impression
given is that the building is lighter than it should be."
Garfield Avenue School, whic h was originally designated District 6-2
and also served as lorth Girls junior Trade from 1936 to 1953, has been
on the National Register of Historic Places since 1984.


H cnry C. Koch also drew up plans for K agel Elem en ta ry ( 1210 West
Mineral Street) in Walker's PoinL If you compare iL LO Golda M eir
School (originally called Fourth Street School), you 'll see so many similarities
tha t it seems safe to say that Koch created both schools from the same basic
design. K agel (l\ili ncral Street School) was built in 189 1, the year after Fourth
Street School was constructed.
Note that both schools have a central secLion with a Lrio o f large a rched
windows- five smaller attic windows a bove a nd three insets above that.
They a re both flanked by symmetrical 'Arings that repeat the " three arched
windows" theme in sections that- like th e central area- span the first and
second floo rs. Above, a cen tral arched wi ndow in each wing is Oa nked by
sets of double wi ndows. The central third-floor windows on each wing arc
topped wi th dormer peaks, with ma tching decorations. Both also sha re
roug h-h ewn stone exposed basement founda tions.
Some oth er schools from this era a re of different design but sha re some
simila rities . .For example, l\lfaryland Avenue, built in 188 7, sha res the same
quintuple window set a t the attic level. Koch designed the original Mary land
Aven ue building, though a large additio n in 1893 was the wo rk of his
disciples H erman Schnctzky an d Eugene Liebert. While Lhat school also
has a rough-hewn stone foundation , it is not c>q)osed. You have to enter the
building Lo sec it.
M aryla nd and Kagel share another connection. Kagel is named for longtime
MiJwaukce Public Schools principal AJbert E. K agel, who was the first principal

-- --

-- -- -....

The former :VIincral Street School in \\'alker's Po im was renamed for longrimc district
teache1; principal and adm inist rator Alben Kagel. The b uilding, designed by Henry Koch,
is a f\"i n to Vi:iunh Street School.

at M aryland Avenue, serving from 1887 (when the ma in part of the current
building was consLTucted) until 1902. K agel was born in Memel, Germany, in
1863 and a rrived in Milwaukee seven years later. H e attended ForesL H ome
Avenue School (then ElevenLh Ward Sch ool), and aitcr graduating from the
M ilwaukee SLaLe N ormal School in 1884·, he was hired as a "grnde assistant"
a nd, in Ivlay 1885, was na med principal at Fifth Distr ict Branch School.
In 190 I, K agel was ma de a n assistan l superin tendent, a ti tle he held until
his death in 1923. H e was acting superintendent in 19 13- 14. Mineral SLreet
School- which was called District School 8-1 until 1912, when mosLschools
go t new monike rs- was renamed in his honor in 1926 . In 1928, a fter a
fundraising campaign and push by educators, l\IIilwau kee Public Library
cleared space Lo creaLe an Albert E. K agel l'vl emoriaJ Room.
M illon C. Pottc 1~ who became superintendent in 19 14, called K agel "[a]
m an of inner kindliness, a nd therefore of simple courage," according to
\Villiam M . La m ers in Our Roots Givw Deep. "A lover of little children, who
feared no man , a nd there fore hated no man ."


Fourth Street School, now re named Golda i\Icir School in honor of its most famous alumna,
is one of the m ost impressive b uildings in the :tvIPS portfolio wday: The academic program is
also one of the most respected a nd sought-afcer a mong M ilwaukee schools. Photo qy aullwr.

Mineral Street School- like ma ny other early extant school buildings-

is pa rt of the legacy of Superin tendent vVilliam Anderson, who was top
man at M PS from 1883 until 1892. Among the other buildings constructed
during his tenure were Clybourn Stree t, D over Street, East High (Lincoln),
Eighth Street, Fifth Street, Fourth Street (Golda M eir), Garfield Avenu e,
Highla nd Avenue, H opkins Street, Lee Street, Longfellow (Sixteenth
Avenue), l\lladison Street, Maryland Avenue, McKinley, M ound Stree t,
North Pierce Street, Palmer, Pa rk Street, Prairie Street, Thi rd Street
(Victor Berger/M artin Luther King), Trowbridge, Twenty-first Street,
Walnut Street and Windlake Avenue.


I t seems that quite a few people other than me arc curious a bout and
fascinated by old school buildings. M y biogs abou t th e Henry Koch
designed Garfield Avenue School and K agel Elementary were well-received
and drcv,1a number of e-mails and in-person commem s.
O ne teacher, for example, told m e that Longfe llow School, T rovvbridge
Street a nd D over Street were the oldest extant public school buildings in the
city. I'm sorry to tell this teacher that neither her school nor th e others she
mentioned can claim that distinction. Longfellow dates to 1886, Dover to
l890 a nd Trowbridge to 1894. That puts the first two right in the heart of the
buildings erected during the tenure of Superin te ndent William Anderson.
W hile M PS's Our Roots Grow Deep notes that T rowbridge was built during
the Anderson years, an Energy Star docum en t that lists the construction
dates of a num ber of district buildings gives the 1894 date. That, oC course,
could not be accurate if the building was indeed built du ri ng Ande rson's
time. Rega rdless, it is no t the oldest.
The oldes t, according to MPS facilities documents, is Brown Street
School (2029 i\orth Twentieth Street), supposedly constructed in 1882
But, MPS's own documents seem to be inaccurate on this poi nt. The 1898
annual rcpon by then superintenden t Henry O.R. Siefert celebrates rwo
new primary schools erected by the district injanuary of that year. One was
on Ring Street Qong since renam ed Lafollette). Th e other was "a fourtecn-
room building replacing the old six-room fram e building at the corner of
Twentieth and Brown streets, in the Ninth \!Varel."

Opened as :--Jinth District P1imary, Bro\\~1 Street became District 9-2 in 1903 and was
dubbed Bro"'n Street in 19 12, when many schools were renamed, typically alter their
locations. T he street, and therefore the school, is named in honor of west side l\lfilwaukee
pioneer Deacon Samuel Brown.

The second is clearly a reference to Brown Sb-cct School, which stands on the
corner of Twentieth and Brown. ' "1hile it would seem unllkcly that the district
has misdated this building for decades (a 1940s facilities report also lists the 1882
date), it seems even less possible that Siefert, in a written report published by
the Board of School Directors, got the location of this new construction wrong.
A search in tJ1e MPS facilities archive cLid notJling to clear up Lllis inaccuracy.
If Ll1e latter elate is b"l1e--and it likely is, considering that an 1896 edition of
the Milwaukee J ournal noted that numerous arcllitecrural firms had submitted
competitive plans for a new building on Twentieth and Brown- then Eighth
Street, built in 1884·, is the oldest MPS school still in operation.
Opened as Ninth District Primary, Brown Street became District 9-2 in
1903 (when Siefert, 154 7 North Fourteenth Su·eet, opened) a nd was dubbed
Brown Street in 1912, wh en many schools were renamed , typically a fter
their locations. The street-and therefore the school- is named in honor of
west side Milwaukee pioneer Deacon Samuel Brown.
The original building was already quite large, and it was later eJ\.lJanded
to the north. Viewing it from the south elevatio n (Brown Street), you really


get a sense for its orderly mass. Then compare it to nearby Siefert or a school
like Golda M eir, and yo u can a ppreciate how spacious it must be in relation
to other buildings of the era.
Like many others in M PS, Brown Street has a semicircular space. H owever,
while some span two floors, the Brown Street half moon is only one story
and appears to house a single roo m. Often these rooms were kindergarte n
classes, as was the case at Dover Street School, where the littlest pupils were
taught in a half moon shaped basement room flooded with light (thanks to
its south ern exposure) that illuminated a stunningly glossy oak floor.
An I 882 construction date would suggest that Brown Street was the work
of H enry Koch, but the building lacks the adornment of the Koch buildings
discussed in earl ier chap ters and looks more solid, like a weightier community
structure. The absence of his style and the fact that it is stylistically similar
to nearby Siefert Elementa ry, built in 1903, furth er suggest that 1898 is
the correct date. The b uilding was, in fact, designed by architects H enry
P. :M ollerus J r. and H enry G. Lotter, who also designed addi tions to the
Twe ntieth District School and to the Fifteenth District School in the 1890s.
Lotter designed buildings vaguely similar to Brown Street for Clarke Street
a nd Fratney Street Schools.
Siefe rt, named fo r MPS superinte ndent H enry O.R. Siefert ( 1896- 1904)
and built on a U-shapcd plan, is similarly unadorned, although its central
section boasts a lovely row of seven large arched windows on the third floor,
giving it a Romanesque feel.
Siefert was opened in 1903 as Ninth District No. 1, a K-8 school, and a
history on the school's website notes th at the "student body was composed
primarily o f sLUdents from blue-colla r German families. Pancratius
Tiefen thaler Lthere is a T iefenthaler Park nearby on Chen y Strcetj was the
first admi nistrato r, and he served in this capacity for three years." I'm not
sure if it was old Pancratius o r one of his ten successors (including Siefe rt
himself, who was principal of the school from 1906 to 1922) who was
responsible, but I'd love to know why every one of the dozens of windows in
tl1e western elevation has been bricked up.
Like Brown, Siefert has a much later addition, too. But while Brown's is
harmonious, Sicfcrt's is a single-story utilitarian shoebox of an add-on. (lt
should be added, though, that Brown Street also has two ot11er additions that
are no treat for the eyes, either, and that Siefert has an earlie r addition that
is nearly undetectable to the naked eye.)
Also in the neighborhood is the former McK.inJey School (2001 West VJjct
Street), which is now home to the V.E. Carter H uman Resources Center. T he


S ieren , on Fourteenth and Galena Streets, opened in 1903 as Ninth District No. I , a K -8
school, and a history on the school·s website notes that thr ··student bod y was composed
p rimatily or swden ts from blue-collar German fa milies. Pa ncratius Ticrcnt haler was the
first administrato1; and he served in this capacity for three years."

sprawling, now-painted Neoclassical brick bu ilding~wh ich appears from the

outside to be in need of some serious maintenance--vvas opened in 1885 as
Fifteenth District No. l and was renamed Cold Spring Avenue in 1912. In
1927, it was named for the twenty-fifth presiden t, William B. McKinley.
It's such a seem ingly ra ndomly arrayed a malgam o f sections that it
seem s obvious it had been a much smaller building that was add ed o nto a
lo ng time ago. The main section (the eastern part) was designed by Walter
A. Holbrook. The west wi ng, facing Twen ty-first Street, was designed by
1viollcrus a nd Lo tter and was constructed in 1898 as an addition that is, in
fact, an en tirely separate building. Viewed from a bove (thank you, Google),
M cKinley appears to be four attached buildings. Wi th all its nooks and
cranni es a nd wings and dormers, the school looks like it would be a
spelunker's d ream.
On the o ther encl o f the spectrum is the fetching Fifteenth District No.
2, a few blocks away at 131 2 North Twenty-seventh Street This wonderful
building is in beautiful shape. Built in J893, I initially speculated that it was
designed by Gc rrit DeGelleke, who was architect for the school board from


1905 to 1918 and also did work during other periods (includingju neau H igh
School in 1931 ) w1th his firm Van Ryn & D e Gell eke.
While the building would fit in alongside Eschweiler's buildings on the
U niversity of Wisconsin- Milwa ukee (U\ VM) campus that were bu ilt at the

turn of the century-Eke J ohnson and H olton H alls, for example look at
neighboring Sabin H all on the UWM campus to see the kind of work Van
Ryn & DeG elleke were doing in the 1920s. H owever,John Linn, manager of
design and construction at the district, sa id that the architects we re George C.
Ehlers, '~~th Charles E. f\ifalig, associate, who did other MPS proj ects, inclucbng
J\uer Avenue and Siefert Schools and an addition to Alexander Mitchell.
There is an a ddition on the south side tha t appears to have been added in
the I960s- g rafted omo a n earl i e1~ somewha t more har monious addition-
but I'm not going to let that ruin my opinion of this building (even if it docs
destroy the view of the building fi·om the south).
In rccem years, the building housed the Urban Waldorf School before
reverting to Twenty-seve nth Street School and, finally, closing a few years
ago. When its doors opened again in 201 1 to house the two merged Kilmer
schools (one had been located on the south side, the other in the lower level
of French Immersion), it was rcna medjames Groppi High School, in hono r
of Milwaukee's controversial cleric a nd civil rights leader.


n my nosing aro und inLo Milwaukee's vintage school buildings, I fo und

I a few sets or twi ns- almost a lways frate rna l, tho ugh perhaps identical
in one case- and eve n sets of triplets and quadruplets among C ream
C ity schoolh ouses.
Considering just how many schools were erected in the last two decades
of the nineteenth a nd the first part of the twentieth centuries, it should
perhaps be expected that some designs would be used more than once,
especially when the city's financial woes in the second half of the 1890s arc
also considered.
O ne set or t\vins is Fourth Street School (G olda Meir) and K agel School
in WaJker's Point. I discussed that connection earlier. These schools are very
nearly identical. Another set of twins was Fifth Street and \!Valnut Street-
both from the pen of archi tect Hugo Schnetzky-though onJy the former is
still standing. Wal nut Street was built in 1888. It had ten classrooms and a
third-Door assembly hall (many vintage schools have these and use them as
gyms and auditoriu ms) a nd was built at a cost of $38,880 for the structure
and the land at 23 18 West Walnut Street.
Fifth Street, built the same year, is very, very similar. There are some minor
modifications in the window configuration , and the main wing extended
furthe1~ allowing for sixteen total classrooms and the third-floor assembly. T he
price tag for I.his bigger building and the land at 2770 N orth Fifth Street wa5
$ 110, 150. If not for the extension a nd the minor window discrepancy, these

The now-vacant Firth Street has survived and was most recently home to Isaac Coggs
School, which closed in 2007. The building was handrcl over LO the city, and fo r a few years,
tht: white painted structure housed the l\ILK H eritage.: Hea lth Cente1; which has a new
home two blocks away. Fifth Street has sin ce been retu rned to the lvlPS portfolio and is
cu rrcnLly vacant.

Like its near-twin fifth Street School, \ Valnut Street Srhool- which was located on Twem y-
third and Waln ut- was designed by Hugo Schnctzky. It was d estroyed by fi1·e in 1978 and
subscqucnLly razed , a nd a number of homes ha\·e been built on the land .


buildings would appear to be nearly identical. By the !ale 1920s, Walnut Street
had an cnrollmem of 494, while Fifth Street had 726 students.
T he now vacant fifth Street has survived and was most recently home
to the Isaac Coggs School, although it was closed in 2007. The building
was handed over to the ci ty, and for a few years, the white painted structure
housed the MLK H eritage H ealth Cen ter, which has a new home two
blocks away. Fifth Street has since been returned to the M PS portfolio and
is currently vacant.
Walnut Street did not enjoy th e same longevity. lt was lost to fire o n J uly
25, 1978. Arson was the suspected cause. "It's defini tely a suspicious fire,"
Acting Assistant Fire ChicC Richard Seelen told reporters at the scene. Filth
Battalion chief Florian Sobczak said, "She was extremely hot. When it burns
as fast as this one did, it's been going a while and usually something highly
flamma ble has been used." Sobczak added that there were separate fires in
the basem ent and on the second floor.
\•Valnu t Street had been closed for about a year when the fire occurred, a nd
the district was pla nning to declare the building surplus and hoped to come
to an agreemen t to sell the building to Veledis and Lorraine Carter, who
wanted to move their day-care center there. I nstead, the Carters purchased
the vacant tvicK.inley School from :YIPS in 1985 and opened there, at 200 l
\Vest Vliet Street.
Certainly, there were other twins among vintage buildings, a nd as we
move fo rward in time, we find that in the 1920s Roosevelt and Peckham
j unior high schools were built off the same plans, with some modifications.
At the high school level, and Pulaski- both designed by MPS archi tect
Guy Wiley- a rc very similar, too.
Th e first instance of quadruplets that I've found is unu sual in that
three o f th e buildings are clearly triplets- i\u cr, Siefe rt and Thirty-
seve nth Stree t Schools, which were a ll built in 1902- 3- a nd a fourth
is p re tty darn close even though it had bee n erected a few years earlier.
Th at e ldest sibli ng, Brown Street, was built in 1898 by He nry P Mollerus
and He nry G. Lotte r, vv hile G eorge Ehlers was the arch itect of Siefert
and i\ue r Ave nue Schoo ls. Is it possible that E hl ers altered their d esign
in creat ing Siefert and Aue r?
Cu rious, Loo, is the fact that George Birnbach is credited wi th designing
Thirty-seventh Street School, conside ring that it is basically identical to
Ehlcrs's plans for Auer and Siefert. Thinking that perhaps the two (or even
all of them) worked in the same practice, I consulted city directories, which
listed different office locations for Birnbach, Ehlers and M ollcrus & Lotter.


Auer A\•Cnue School o n Twenty-third Sn·eet, built on roughly the sa me plans as Brown
Street, Siefert and Thirty-sevemh Street Schools, had this u n fo rtunately situated exp ansio n
add ed directly in fron t o f the fitc;ade in 1966.

Accord in g to J ohn Linn , M ilwaukee Public Schoo ls m a n ager of

design a nd co nstructio n , it's not likely that they wo rked o ff the same
plans, but it is possibl e. " Th ey may have give n a se t o f plans for a
sch ool to a noth er firm a nd had the m modi fy a nd update as n ecessary
Lo match , but that is usua lly frown ed upon- a nd typicall y illegal-
although we have our contrac t set up th at w e control th e copyri g hts on
the design work," h e said .
H owever, other architects I asked noted some precedent for architects
working off simil ar plans, a nd one p ointed to the example of I ew York
brownstones. Vintage photographs a t the i\llilwaukee Coun ty I-IisL01ical
Society reveRI some earli er examples of twins a mong Mi lwaukee's public
sch ools, too. H enry Koch used nearly identical pla n fo r the Fourteenth
Dist1ict School (Eighteenth Street) and th e First Wa rd School o n Cass a nd
K ewaunee treets on the East Side.
And the Eighth Wa rd (on Mineral a nd Seventh Ave nue/Twelfth Street)
a nd Ninth \Va rel (Fourtee nth and G a lena S treets) Schools- predecessors to
th e curren t bui ldi ngs on those sites, K agel a nd Siefert Schools- were also
twins, except for a few diflc ring details.


The four buildings-Aue1~ Brown, Siefert and Thirty-seven th Street -a re

all built on U -shaped plans and have fai;:ades based on a central section with
tall arched windows. That section is flanked by symmetrical wings, with bays
of rectangular windows. Brown has five bays of windows in all three sections.
Siefert, meanwhile, has seven in the central portion and three in each wing.
Th irty-seventh Street and Auer arc hybrids, with five in the central segment
and th ree in each wing.
While Siefert and Brown have a pair of low dormers atop the cen tral
segments, Thirty-sevemh Street and Auer do not. There is more variation,
too. Only Brown adds similar dormers atop its fl anks, too. Siefert and Brown
also have the same dormers on the sides of the wings, directly above the side
emrances. Thirty-seventh does not have these.
Brown and Thirty-seventh Street still have decorative cold-air intake vents,
often mistaken for bell towers; Auer and Siefert do not. And interestingly, the
cmrance is positioned cliITerently in the fai;:ades. Siefert's is centered, Thirty-
scventh Street's is shifted to the left side of the main section and t11ose at Auer
and Brown right of cente1: Auer is the only one of Lhe four that has a

Thiny-se,·cnth Street School, o n Roberts Strcctjusc south of Lisbon An!nue, is now closed.
h is o ne of a fam ily of similar buildings that includes Brown Sl!"t'et, Siefert and Auer
Avenue. Thiny-sevemh Street was closed when MPS opened Bethune Academy nearby.


quirky semicircular section protruding from the fa\:acle. Interestingly, it spans

only the first and second floors of the three-story building.
Thirty-seven th Street was smaller tha n iefcrt wh en they were constructed
in 1903, but the farmer's wings were extended Lo acid six more classrooms
in I 9 I I . Siefert, Auer a nd Brown additions were put on later, too, but unlike
those al T hiny-seventh Street, they arc immediately obvious. Alas, because
Auer back5 up lo the street, the only place to stick a n addi tion in 1966 was
d irectly in front of th e building. The result is tha t most o f the fa\:acle has
since been obscured.
J\ue1~ Siefert a nd Brown are curre n tly operating as schools, but Thirty-
seventh was closed in 2005. After it was shuttered, there was talk of tearing
clown Thirty-seventh School to build housing to replace the housing a block
to the sou theast that was razed to make room for Bethune Academy, which
was a replace ment for Thirty-seventh.
Incidentally, the 1902 C larke Street School- the work of H erny Lotter---
has a wi nged fa\:acle similar to chose of these schools, though there are

J\rchiccct H enry Lou c1; who drew Brown Street School with his partner Henry .M olkrus,
designed Clarke Street School (at Twenty-eighth Street) and a similar building for Frarney
Street School in Riverwest in 1902.

H1sToR1c M ILWAUKEE PuBuc ScHoou-1ousEs

differently a rched windows. T here are, however, arched brick details that
echo Lhe Siefert and Thirty-seventh fa<;ades, and iL has Lhe same low dormers
as Siefen and Brown. It is also built on a U-shaped plan but has a no ther
segment added, creati ng a deformed £-shaped footp 1i nl.
A seLof LripleLs comes later. In the latLer pan of Lh e 1920s, Lhree nearly
idenLica l schools were erected on Lhe \Vest Side, Bay View a nd the NorLh
Side. These LripleLs have some half-siblings, Loo. leeskara was firsL, built
in 1926 on Hawley Road j usl north of Vliet Street. Fernwood, southeast
of Okla homa and Kinnickinnic in Bay View, foll owed in 1927, and in
1928, "Iownsend StreeL was built on Sherman Bo ulevard at Townsend. A
number of schools from that era were built on a similar design, alLhough
wiLh variaLions. Among Lhem a re Wisconsin Avenue ( 192 1) and Sher man
(1925) boLh drawn by Van Ryn & D eGcllckc- a nd, in 1931, Garden
H omes, which appears Lo be the wo rk of Guy Wiley.


W hen I look at J\llilwaukee schools like Neeksara and Fcrmvood- both

built in the l 920s-I'm rem inded of the stately, boxy, brick school
that I went to daily for seven years, from kindergarten through sixth g rade.
After spending time looking at much older public school buildings in
M.ilwaukee- oncs that are generally m ore ornate and featured more peaks
a nd valleys, as well as more Oo rid decoration- eeskara ( l 601 I orth
H awley Road) especially caught my eye. It is solid a nd sta tely, but there are
some lovely details on the exterior of Neeskara- originally Nee-Ska-Ra and
na med for a spring that was on the site. Amid th e terra-cotta tiles above the
entran ce~, !Or example, are intersp ersed blue tiles with whales and swans
and other inte resting features, like open books and lamps.
Fernwood has a n identical- though less decorated- entrance design
that, as at Jeeskara, is integrated into the upper Doors with sweeping, blocky
columns. Especially beautiful and, I suspect, ofte n overlooked at eeskara
is the sleek and maj estic tapered a nd fluted sm okestack on the north side of
the building.
Inside the school, there are solid terrazzo la ndings in the stairwells.
C heckerboard tile work acids a regal touch. Although the hallways aren't
especially noteworthy now (perh aps details ha\·e been removed over the
years), the woodwork in the stairwells is sturdy and eye-catching.
Nee-Ska-Ra was built in 1926, the same year that MPS created its own
in-house Bureau of Buildings and Grounds to design, build and maintain its
properties. Though erected in 1926, the district's own history lists a principaJ

N ecskara, on Hawley Road, is solid and stately, and there are some lovely d etails on the
exterio1; like Lhe Lerra-colla tiles above the entrances. The school was orig inally called 1ee-
Ska-Ra and named fo r a sp1·ing that was on the site. from '24 on because, like many other schools at the time, it began bfe in
temporary barracks on the sit.c before a permanent building ·was constructed.
I haven't. found figures for Neeskara, but Fermvood cost $3 75,000 to
conscruct. Both were designed by MPS architect Guy Wiley, who also built
Townsend Street off t.he sam e plans. The plans for I eeskara were \1\/iley's
first for the disu·ict..
The first principal at Nee-Ska-Ra wa5 Edwin G. Luening, who had previously
been chief aclminist.rator at Weil St.reel, Walker Street and M aryland Avenue
Schools and stayed on at Nee-Ska-Ra until 1952, when he was replaced by
Annette Garnier (nee Bartz), who was principal until 1961. By the time t.he
school celebrated its fifi.i et.11 anniversary, it had had just four principals.
Some older folks may remember Teeskara as Neeskara-Binner School. The
Paul Binner School or the D eaf was incorporated into NIPS in 1885, and Binner
was principal through 1895. In 1950, the district decided to take an inclusive
approach with its deaf elemenLary students and moved the Binner School classes
to Neeskara from Lincoln and Cass St.reel Schools on the East Side.
These days, l eeskara serves about 4·35 kids in Milwaukee's Washington
H eights neighborhood.

Ft:ruwood in Bay Vie\'; now a public \ lonlcssori school, was built off the same plans as
.\lecskara. These mid- I920s plans were lh c fi rst that Guy £. \Vilcy drew as staff architect for

Townsend Street School, san dwic hed lw twccn Sherman Boulevard and Fond du Lac
/\\·cnuc, is another school built off the same Guy Wiley plans used 10 construct Nccskara
and Ft-rnwood.


l am in timately acquainted with Maryland Avenue School, which is in

the heart of a neighborhood in which I've li\·cd, atte nded unive rsity and
wo rked across the last th ree decades. Though it is now dwarfed by a giant
new hospital complex, IVlaryland Avenue, at the crossroads of two main East
Side streets and sitting o n something of a little buue, once towered above the
neighborhood it has se rved for 125 years.
The original section or the current building, wh ich replaced a much
smaller brick schoolhouse on the site (a p ho LO of the lalle1- erroneously
da ted 1900- appears in Ra ndy Garber's Built in \lilwaukee volume), was
c reCLecl in 1887 for $25,000 , and though original d rawings have been lost to
timr , the building is the work of Henry Koch.
T har pan th e most no rtherly section (if yo u exclude the low 1950s
gym/cafeteria) - containcd four classrooms and the de rigueur "third
fl oor assembly hall." But as we've seen, Jvfilwa ukee was growing, a nd the
Eig hteenth District was no different. By 1890, Milwaukee's population had
boomed to 204,468- up from 115,587 in 1880 and 7 1,440 in 1870- and in
189 I , the 1\!fiLwaukee Journal reported that

on the opening daJ' ef the.fall school-term,fif!y-seven children were turned

away .fi'om the Eighteenth District School on account qf a lack ef room.
Jn order to accommodate the overflow, rooms wilt be rented and read)! for
occupan01b;• Nlondqy next.


Aff,. -- JiiJ nnn·

In 1893, Schne tzky a nd Licb crt's plans for a la rge addiLio n LO the Eighteenth Disu·ict
School, now cal led rvlaryla ncl Avenue, we re realized . This o riginal clnm~ ng sh ows Lhc
western ekvatio11 before it was obscured by a new cn Lrancc ;u 1cl ch imney erected in 195 l
along with a 11t'W subterranea n boiler room. Photo by authm:

A resolution lo build an addition qf eight rooms to the school is now

pending before the common council, and the citizens qf the Eighteenth ward
are anxious that immediate steps be taken, since it would be impossible lo
house all children next sp1i11g, owing lo lack qf suitable halls in the ward,
which othe1wise might be rented.

By March 1892, the school board had pul o ut a call for p lans for
such a n ad d ition, and the fi r m of Sch nc tzky a nd Liebert-who were
building a new St. S tephen 's Luthera n School o n South Fourth SLreet
aro und the sam e time- won approval for their pla ns, which add ed a
long, perpend icula r wing Lo the existing bui lding at a cost of $24,349 .
\t\f hile the addition is th ree stories tall, classrooms we re built on ly on the
fi rst and second noor.
Rooms were still being rented in early 1893 while the expansion was
un de rway, accordi ng to newspaper reports. And with carpenters just
beginning to frame the roof in February, the Milwaukee Journal warned that
the building would n't be ready before September I. Two months lacer, the


Tho ugh a new boiler room was added 10 Lhc sourh waJI of the 1893 addiLion al :Maryland
Avenue in the 1920s, a modern plant was installed in a large room dug beneath the
playground in 195 1.

same pap er reported that the EighLeenth District was showing yet another
in crease in student attendance.
However~ as th e 1892- 93 school year wound down, Lhe ]ournal reported
Lhat the ~ifaryland Avenue addi tio n wouldn't be full y occupied come
SepLember: " The add iti on Lo th e Eighteenth D imicL school will be
completed in September and two room s will be immedia Lcl y occupied. The
kindergan en now quartered in rented room s, will find a home in the new
str ucture. There will, howeve1~ be three unoccupied rooms in the building."
This perhaps explains a discrep ancy. While the call for p la ns asked for
designs for an eight-room bui lding, only six roo ms were finished in 1893,
and it seem s safe to assume that the expansive third-Ooor attic space in the
add ition was intended to house m o re classroom space. Thal space rem ain s
unfinished to this clay.
In 1902, a second school, Bartlett Avenue School (originally desig nated
District 18-2 a nd design ed by Van Ryn & D eGellekc), was erected to meet


The new stai rw e ll and chimney Lower, grafted onto the w('s l fac;ade as pan of the nrw
boiler fa eiliLies, is arg ua bly the worse thing to ha ppen tot.he build ing visually, disrupting the
harmony of the fac;ade.


In l 902, a second school, BarLlclt Avenue School originally designated D ist1ict 18-2 and
designed by Van Ryn & OeGellekc- was erected to meet demand in the ward.

de mand in the ward. In te restingly, in the l 19 years since the 1893 wing was
completed, no furth er classroom space has been added to M a ryland Avenue.
Ln 1920, a small boiler room was attached to the south end, a nd two years
la ter, new bathrooms were constructed in the basement (still the only noor
with studen t restrooms). In the 1930s, a new fresh-air intake squared off a
corne r on the wes t eleva tio n, where the new a nd old buildi ngs mee t. T wo
decades later, a new subterranean boiler room was excavated and constructed
ben eath the p laygro und just west of the 1893 addition, a long with a stairwell
a nd chimney tovver grafted onto the west fa<;ade- argua bly the worst thing
to happen to th e building visually-disrupti ng the harmony of the fac;aclc.
At the same time, a Richard Philipp- design ed multipurpose gym/ cafeteri a/
auditorium- wi th an undergro und p hysical pla nt- was added to the north,
obscu ring the origi nal entra nce LO the 1887 building.
O th er smaller d1anges hm·c taken place over the years, including removal of the
two 01iginal pea.keel fresh-air intake vents (one in the old building and th e other in
the 1893 addition), the bricking up of clas.sroom \-vindows (either to create more wall
space in the classrooms or to conse1vc energy- or both, depending on who you ask)
<rncl, more recently, the bricking up of attic windows and the luncttes in the third-
floor assembly hall window panels. The assembly hall itself was converted into two
d assmoms, and tl1e only remaining clues to its existence are segments of some of the


In thl' early 1950s, a Richard Philipp- designed multipurpose gym/cafc1cria/audito1·iu111

was added LO the no rth, obscuring the entrance ro the original 1887 i\faryland Avenue
building designed by H enry Koch.

interior wooden arches. But fo1t1.111atcl)~ t.hc decorative friezes and capitals and some
other exterior details remain.
Inside, in the pubk area o f the basement, yo u can easily spo t where the
1887 building once ended and where it now snuggles up next to its 1893
counterpa rt; the old rusticated stone fo undation clearly m eets a la ter brick
one, and breaks in that older stone foundation indicate former exterior doors
or windows.
T hanks to the building engineer, I go t an impromptu tour of the building's
spaces that arc rarely seen by a nyo ne beyond the engineer h imscl r. It made
me feel like a spelunking kid again and gave me a n ew apprecia tio n or why
th ese pote ntiaUy dangerous areas arc no p lace for an unaccompan ied child.
Though we're already below grade, we can go much deeper underground
tha n yo u'd expect. Go down a few steps and you can en ter the ven tilation
a rea. A doo r opens on a sm a ll closet-like space with l:'..vo doors side by side.
On th e left is a door so narrow yo u have to turn sideways to fit th rough
it. But kee p yo ur hands close to you r sides beca use along the le ft wall o f a


very cramped space is an approximately four-foot whirring fan blade that

draws air down a hallway and a shaft that connects to the attic. Though
the orna mental caps (often mistaken for bell towers) are gone from the
roof, the vents remain. On the righ t is a wall composed entirely of fil ters-
changed a few times a year- through which th e air passes b efore reaching
the fan, which then blows the air up into the public sp aces of the building.
On the other side of the filters is the passageway to the ven t shaft, called
a plenum chamber.
Along the short passageway- maybe ten or twelve feet long--you've got
to plant your feet to avoid being blown over by the airOow. At the end, you
can gaze three stories up the shaft to the attic, seeing the original building
fac;:ade and windows on the left. T\.vo of the walls were added later, squa ring
off a corner of the building's exterior, to create this shaft.
Many of· these old schoolhouses have giant attics. One such attic, at Vieau
School in VValker's Point, was recently converted into classroom space. The
one at Garfield School has two sides, separated by the ceiling of the third-

T he ornate roo f" vcms seen on many old schools were part of' a system that includ1.:d an
ime1;or ai r shaft called a plenum chamber (like this one at l\ laryland Avenue) and were key
components for supplying fresh air 10 classrooms. Photo 0' aulhor.


Because Lhc call for p la ns to expa nd l\ la ryl:md 1\ ve11ue in 189'.1 asked for d esig ns for a n
eigh t-room build ing and o six room s were fin ished , it seems safe to assume that the
expansive third-fl oor anic space in the ad d ition was inLcnd cd to house m ore classroom
spare. T ha t space re mains unfinished to this d ay. Photo l!J aulho1:

Ooor gym. To get from one side to the othe1~ you climb a steep wooden
ladder and \•Valk across the beams o r l he i,,rym ceiling.
The attic at Ma ryla nd Avenue School is simila rly large a nd wide open,
suggesting that it was designed for expansion, a nd it is copiously adorned
wilh old graffiti (Garfield , on the other hand, has only a [cw scrawls). Some
folks have said that there's one-hundred-yea r-old graffiti up there, but the
oldest I found ela ted from 193 7.
Back down in the basement, yo u can follow a switchback set o[ staircases
into an underground boiler room th at was built in the early '50s, when the
gym and cafeteria were added to the bui lding. Descend ing, I wo ndered what
to expect. ' Vould this boiler room be p retty cramped- almost en Li rely filled
with the huge boiler tanks- as a t the apartme nt building I once managed?
To, what appeared before me was a really big open space, with two giant
boilers- together they might fit on the back of a flatbed sem i and ceilings
that must have been at least fifteen rect high. Off to the west is another large
room, which once had windows and a door along the top or one wall. But

T he aerie <Lt .\ [a 1·yland J\\'t:nue School is largr a nd cop iously a do rn<:'d wiLh old graffiti. Some
folks have said that Lhc rc 's one-hundred-year-old graffo.i up the re, but Lhe oldest I found
dated from the 1930s. Photo b)· author

H1sToR 1c M IL\\.AuKEE Pu Buc ScH001.1 1ousEs

those have been bricked up, too. Thal room is empty, and the engineer was
unsure of its original puqJose. He said that the by now unused openings were
scaled up because they had become leaky and it was easy for little four-l egged
critters to make their way in during a search for shelte1:
Every day, the engineer comes down to tend the boilers, and there's an
ala rm system that notifies him twenty-four hours a day if the boiler should
shut down unexpectedly. ff that happens, he's got to come to school and
get it up and run ning agai n. At th e encl of each academic year, he must
drai n and thoroughly clean each boiler, a task that can ta ke days. It's ha rd
Lo believe that a few levels up, hundreds of kids concentrate on their work
without tl1e slightest knowledge of the ind ustrial scenes below.
Back up in the basement, where there is a computer lab, bathrooms, the
engineer's o ffi ce (acijacent to a room tha t holds the school's electi-icity panel),
an a rt room , a classroom a nd some offices, there is a small room that serves
as a parent room (storage, basically, fo r the Parent-Teacher Organizat..ion

T he subterranean boile r room a l M aryland Ave nue. It's hard to believe that a few levels up,
l11111dreds or kids con centrate on their work without the slightest knowledge o f the industria l
scenes below. Pholo by author.


supplies a nd event materials). It is part of a boil er room added in about 1920

that became redundant when the current boiler room was added.
Another door leads from the parent room into a room vvith a hardwood
Ooor that's perhaps ten by twelve rect and is dry-walled stark white. H ere
arc the gu ts or the phone system, the wireless a nd computer networks and
the like. T his is the technology hu b, and it stands in bright, tcmpcrature-
controlled contrast to the more wo rkaday spaces below.
Before we go, there's one last space to check out. It is the a rea beneath
the stage in the " new" 1950s addition. Past another heating unit, this one
for water for the cafeteria a nd the bathrooms, is a space that's big enough
to make a great classroom , which this school cou ld really use. The problem
is that it has no windows or heat a nd is as clamp as you 'd expect such a
baseme nt space to be. And who wants kids nudging themselves past a gi ant
grumbling water heater to spend the clay in a clamp, dark classroom with no
emergency egress?
Back upstairs in the gym that's Oooclecl with light, I realize tha t I ha,·c a
new apprecia tion not only fo r what it takes to keep a building li ke a school
purring but also for the folks who do it, d ay in a nd day out, provi ding a
safe, comfortable a tmosphere in wh ich kids can foc us on learn ing.


D cspile the fact that mosL of us spent roughly twice as much Lime in
elememary school as in secondary school , we tend to ide ntify ourselves
as alumni of our high school. ·M aybe it's because those years are fresher in
our memories, or maybe it's because those arc the years in which we reall y
b egin LO leap toward adulthood.
l\lilwaukec·s early high school history was sparse. Accordi ng LO Our Roots
Grow Deep, three h igh schools vvere p lanned in 1857 buL only two were
opened, and these proved to be short-lived. One of the m was located in the
new Edward ·fow nsencl Mix- designed Seventh D istrict School al J ackson
and Nlar tin (Sta te) Streets. Jn its D ecember 30, 185 7 edi tion, the Milwaukee
Sentinel described the building as

the new and elegant school edifice .. . now about to he com/Jleted. 1t is

a noble structure, one which our citizens 1rta)I point to with /Jride and
ad111iralio11 an evidence qf educational enteijJrise. The building ltas
an attractive exteri01; and [isJ an ornament to the ciry. l tsfurnish111enls
wit/tin and its surroundings wit/tout are in accordance with modern
As lite opening ef this school is an event worlll)' q/ nole in llze
educational histOI)' ef the ciry, it will not be amiss lo give some general
notice qf lite building, the school arrangements, and the advantages
which /he school /Jromises to a.Jford to Lite children and youth ef the
H1sToR1 c M 11.wAUKEE P uB u c Sc1-100LHousEs

city . .. The ground on which it sits embraces two lots, the area ef which
is about 120 by 127 feet ... T he edifice .fronts 52 feet on Jackson
Street ... it is 44 feet wide by 77 feel deep, height 50 feet lo the top
ef cornice. The walls are brick, faced with Burnhams' best pressed
brick. The design is in the Italian style, the fafade being relieved by
two towers, each 15 feet square, one ef them terminating at the height
ef the building, the other rising 30 feet above the walls ... Dressings lo
the windows are ef cast iron, painted and sanded to imitate stone ...
The building is surmounted by a heaV)1 cornice, supj;orted by massive
brackets and enriched with dentals and mouldings.

The thfrd story of this build ing was home to th e new high school, while
lower floors housed primary- a nd grammar-level classrooms. Because it
was beginning to be clear to Milwau kee that a grammar school education
would no longer suffice in a cha nging world, iLwas the new high sch ool that,
according to the Sentinel, was the most worthy of celebration.
" The true idea of a Pu blic High School," the paper noted,

is to equalize the o/J/Jortunities for acquiring a thorough acquaintance

with the higher branches of study; to prepare young men for the
business occupations qf lffe, or for college. It is for the want ef
advantages afforded in a school ef this kind that ma1!Ji a young man,
from pecuniary inabilil)i, is compelled to.forego the.full development ef
the powers ef mind. A public high school in this ci!y will bring a good
education within the reach qf classes, and afford equalfacilities to rich
and poo1: Pressing onward to the same high attainments in knowledge
will be .found those ef the most diverse outward circumstances and
who may be membm qf famib:es widely separate by the arbitra1J1
distinctions ef society The high school slzould furnish facilities and
advantages equal lo those in the best academies and seminaries fo r
acquiring a good education.

In .March 1867, a law esLabli shing a hig h school in the city was passed
by the sta te legislature, and for the fo ll owing decade, Lhe city's high
school had what appeared to be an ever-changi ng a ddress. By the time
iL was about six years o ld , a fire drove the school to the First Ba ptist
Church (at Ogden Avenue a nd M ars hall Stree t), and it la ter returned to
the First Ward school bu ilding o n th e co rn er o f Van Buren andjuneau
(then Division) Streets.


Snow covers the construction site in wfarch 1928 at the corner or Cass and Ogden where
the new Lincoln High School was being erected. In the background, the 1887 i\lilwaukcc
High School can be seen.

I n 1877 , M ilwaukee High School settled in at the ten-year-old Milwaukee

Academy building on Cass a nd K napp Streets. On December 2, 1867,
lh e J\!filwaukee Sentinel described the then new academy, constructed for
$25,000, as

the most noticeable building in the First kllcl1-d. This is a handsome

brick structure three stories in height, with a Jvlansard roqf surmounted
by a tower commanding a view ef the surrounding ci~y. It is, both
externally and internally, convenient for the /1wj1oses ef the A cade11~1,
and /1leasing to the l!J'e. The.first story contains two department room.i~
with recitation rooms acijoining, which are designed for the use ef the
primmy and fJrepamt01y departments. On t!te same floor is another
commodious room, designed for the use ef the Young Jvlen's Litermy
Society. The second sto1y is occupied by the academic department. On
this floor there is one lmge study room, ca/1able ef seating one hundred


students or more, a recejJtion room, and three recitation rooms. One qf

the faller will be a/J/Jro/Jriated to the use qf the classes in the /1hysical
sciences, and is lo be .filled up with the arrangements necessmy for
conducting experiments illustrative ef these studies. The u/J/Jer sto1y is
designed for a lwLLJor jJllblic exercises.

A new building was erected on th e south east corner of the site in 1887 .
·when South Division opened in the 1890s, :Milwaukee High School was
renamed East Side (and then, East Division) High.
By the turn o f the century, high schools had begun spri nging up around
the city. West a nd South D ivision we re opened in the 1890s, followed by
North D ivision and Boys' Tech in l906 and G irls' T ech in 1909. Washington
and Riverside were opened in 1912, and Bay View started up in barracks
until its build ing was complctc in l922 . By the start of the Second Wo rld
War, Lincoln h ad replaced the old Milwaukee High School, and Cu ste r~
Juneau, Rufus King and Pulas ki were up and runni ng, too. The next spurt
wouldn 't take p lace until the 1960s, when ?vladison , M arshaJl and H amil ton
"vere constructed.
To make sure rha t the prewar high schools get their due, here's a brief
history of each.

SOCTl-l Dl \'ISIO~. Erected in 1898-99, South was the work or H enry Koch.
The school itself had opened a few years earli er and convened at what was
later ca lled ccond Ave nue School, at Second Avenue (now South Seventh
Street) a nd :-- ladison Street, from 1893 to 1899, before moving imo its new
building. As the city grew, the new Sou th building seemed to shrink, and an
addition, includ ing a gym, was constructed in 1932.
South's four-sto ry domed tower vvas nothing short of a neig hborhood
landmark on the near south side of the c ity for decades, so much so tha t
when the school was demolished, shor tly after a replacement was built
nearby in 1977, the dome was preserved.
The origina l buildi ng had been added to in 19 11, 19 16 and 195 1. But
it still cou ldn't keep pace wi th the times. The district's 1969 repo rt, "/\ Six-
Year School Building a nd Si tes Program, 1970- 197 5," made replacing
South D ivision its top 1-ecommcnclation for MPS high schools. " Facili ties
in the vario us su l~jcct fields are in need of improvements to meet today's
standards," th e report noted. " It does not appear to be advisable to conti n ue
remodeling the present South Division building or to construct a n addition
on the present site."


Henry 1\.och 's SouLh Division High School on Laph am Boulevard wou ld quickly become
a south side Milwaukee icon. The beloved tower has been preserved and forms part of
Bl ucmel's Garden Center o n Loomis Road.

vVhilc olde r residents of' the area- a nd school alumni- still mourn the
loss of' the " O ld SouLh Division," the dome lives on. Bluem el's fl orisL &
Garden Service made Lhe Lhirry-foo t dome pan of its building at 4930 West
Loomis Road . Owne r .Mike Bluemel- wh ose mother, like the author's,
atte nded South Divisio n- purchased the dome at an estate sale auction
from the antiques dc<ilcr who bought it when the school was demolished.

WEST D1v1s10:-J. West Division sLa rted out in 1895 as Wesl Side High,
holding classes in the Plankimon Library Block building on Wisconsin
(then Grand) A\·enue. The school's permanent home was builL in 1899
on Highland Avenue (Lhcn Prairi e Street), b etween Twenty-second and
Twenty-third SlreeLs.
The eoclassical building vvas designed by Schnetzky and Liebert a t a
pr~jected cost of' $80,000. M ilwaukee archi tectu ral historia n H . Russe ll
Z imme rma n wro te of' th e building, " In Li ebert's h andsome, but restrained ,
composition we can once again see the influ ence of [Karl Friedri chj
Schinkcl's wo rk in Be rlin . T he sch ool sat on a rock-faced slone foundation ,
the first noo r was in brick wi th banded rustification and the remaining
fl oors we re fi·amed with pil as te rs supporting a frieze with triglyp hs and
block mocli llions. The projecting entrance pavilion was a dorned with
Greek acroteria."


The Neoclassical \V!'st Division High School b11ildi n ~ w<is designed by :::ichnCLzky and
Liebert al a p rojected cost of $80 ,000. \ 1filwa 11kl'<' a rch itcclll ral historian 1-1 . RusseU
Zimmer m an wrote of the building, "In Liebt:rt's lta ndsomr. but restrai11ed, composition
we ca n o nce again sec the infl uence of !Karl Friedrich I Schi nkcl's work in Berlin. " The
building was demolished in 1951 a nd replaced.

Zimmerma n also poin ted to a n unspecifi ed co ntemporary newspap er

report that celebraLecl the sLrucLure, noLing, " It is not a fancy building, nor
is it plain. There is no greaLa moun t or gingerbread work, buL the harmony
of the Lines and angles rel ieve it from plain ness a nd make it a work of
a rch i tee tu ral art. "
D espite a 19 I 6 addi tion, the build ing was fu1t her enlarged by the late
I 920s due to its being "considerably overcrowded ," according to an i\ iIPS
rep ort. The latter addition added a ca feteria, an additional gym, locker
rooms, LOilets a nd a n assembly hall stage.
The building that had been attended by a young Spencer Tracy and
D ouglas IviacArthur was demolished in I 95 I , a nd a replacement was
completed in 1958. Three yea rs la ter; an athletic field was constructed. In
1984, the school was renamed M ilwaukee H igh School of the Arts.


NoRTll D1v1s10>1. North was constructed in 1907 and quickly fill ed

up. WiLhin a decade, despite having lost some enrollment to the new
Riverside, it was Lhe largest high school in the district wiLh mo re than
o ne thousand students. The building got a Len-room ad di Lion in 1911,
and another expansion- including a library, an additi onal gym, twelve
classrooms, a study hall and a cafeteria- was built at the end of the
1920s. Like South, No rth was eyed for replacement already in MPS's
1969 facilities repo rt.
With a new building already under construction next do01~ there was talk
of closing the school in 1976 after a fire caused damage that est..i mates said
wo uld have cost nearly $500,000 to repaic Due to struggles to integrate the
buildi ng, some even suggested halting construction on the new building,
which they felt could never be successfully in tegrated.
But construction went ahead, and the new North opened in l 978. A
quarter cemury late r~ North was closed and replaced in the building by a
num ber of small charter schools. However~ North was rekindled and is now
again occupying the building on Twelfth and Center StreeLs.

North Divi ion, built in I 907, quickly filled up, and within a deracle, it was the largest high
school in the district, wit h more than one thousand students. The building got a ten-room
addition in 1911, and another expansion, including a library, a n aclclition:1l gym, twelve
classrooms, a study hall and a cafete1ia, was built at the end of the 1920s.

H1sToR1c MILWAU KEE Punuc Sc1-1001-1-1ousEs

:"'forth was already being eyed !o r n;placemcnt in l'vl PS's 1969 facilities re port. \Vi th a new
building already under construction next doo1; there was talk of closing the school in 1976
after a fire caused damage that estimates said would have cost nearly $500 ,000 to repair.
Due to struggles to imegrate the bu ilding, sornl' t"\"C ll suggested halting construct.ion on the
new building, which they fe lt could never be succcssf11lly imegratecl. Bur construCLion went
a head, and the new North opened in 1978.

Among th e school's mosl famous a lumni arc polilicians of all kinds:

Golda M eir; Gwen Moore, M a rtin Schreiber, Annette Polly Williams and
Vel Phillips.

Bovs' T RADE i\ND TECHNIC1\L SCHOOL. Tech was born in 1906 when it was
opened by lhc MerchanLs' a nd Manufacturers' Associa Lion as the private
Milwaukee School of Trades. According Lo a booklel louting Tech, ''A year
and a half later, however, Lhc Wisconsin legislature provided a special tax
levy for any city whi ch wished Lo eslablish o r take over a trade school, and
the school became the Milwa ukee Pu blic School of Trades for Boys." In
19 1 7, the school offered a six-year program (grad es seven through twelve),
but it became a trad iti ona l four-year h igh school by lhe mid- l 930s. Tech
was an all-boys school until the mid- I 970s, when the name was changed to
Milwaukee Trade a nd T echnical High School.
After a 1909 fire, a new building was constructed, with new wings compleled
in 19 11, 19 I 2 a nd 19 14·. A number or add itions were built over the years,
most notably in 1929, 1958 a nd 1965, a nd H enry Koch 's neighboring Park
Street School served as an a nnex for many years. The current building. which


Another o r the seemingly endless additions to Boys' Trade and Technical School in Walker's
Point is underwa y in this 1929 photo . J .ook closely a nd you can see a group of c hildren
gathered rtl'ar the c mrancc to neighboring Park Street School (drawn by f-l c n1y Koch),
which s(' rvecl as a n annex to Tech for 111;111y years.

'kch was an all-boys school until the rnicl- I 970s, when the name was changed to Milwaukee
Tracie and Technical High Srhool. This 1920s photo ofTers a glimpse into the school's
rnachinc shop.


looks unJikc a ny other in th e city, was erected in 2002, and the old building j ust
to the north was demolished four years later.
Tech is now officially rnlled the Lynde a nd H a rry Bradley Technology
and T racie School in recognition of a maj or donation made by J a ne Pettit.

R IVERSIDE. Mi lwaukee a rch itectural historian H . Russell Zi m me rm a n

called Ri ve rside, design ed by Van Ryn & D cGclleke, "one of
M ilwa ukee's fin est English R enaissance school buildings," d escri bing
it as a n "imposing stru clure .. . rem iniscent of the Elizabethan ' H ' plan
manor houses ." Th e sc hool, which h ad been called East Divisio n whe n
it was located o n K napp Street, was re na med R ive rside in 19 l l , before
constru ctio n even began.
Interestingly, at the same meeting the school board a ppo in ted Van
Ryn and D eG ellcke as sch ool district archi tects, th e boa rd also discussed
the p lacem ent or the building on th e East Side site. Earlier in 19 12, the
Statucory Committee on School Sires and Plans repo rted disagreemem o n
which direction Riverside (which would open in 19 15) should face.

!vlilwaukee archit <T tural historia n !-I. Russell Zimmerman called Riverside, dcsignt'd by
Van Ryn & D cGcllekr, "one or P.lilwaukce's finest English Renaissance school buildings,"
describing it as an " imposing structure ... reminiscent of the Elizabethan · H ' plan manor
houses." This photo was ta.k<.:n in 19 15, d1e year rhc school opened.


Called East Division when it was located o n Knapp Street, this school was renamed
Rive r~-ide in 191 1, before construction even hegan.

J\t the May meeting, the records- found in Rolland Callaway's "The
Milwaukee Public Schools: A Chronological History, 1836- 1986," show
tha t, acco rding lo Ca llaway, "there was continuing debate concerning the
proper positioni ng o r the new Riverside High School. The Milwaukee Art
Commission had submitted a proposal that the school be placed on the
eastern half or the property facing cast. 'In view of the fact that the park,
which is an n of a splendid boulevard, would be everlastingly ruined
if the rear end or the building with its tall chimney a nd boiler room, be
turned to the south and also because the building will always be readily seen
from Oakland Avenue."'
Of cou rse, we know this advice was not heeded, and the building turns its
back on the Frederick La"v O lmsted- designed Riverside Park and ewberry
Boulevard. For the record, Zimmerman noted in his Heritage Guidebook that
Riverside is "wel l-sited ." Executed in red brick and cut limestone, Ri verside's
fac;:ade, with Gothic and Tudor elements, is quite striking, especially its
ornamented mai n entrance.

H1sToR1c l\lfo .WAUKEE PuBu c Sc i1oou-1ousEs

In 1912, the Stanitory Commi t tcc on School Sites and Plans rep or ted djsagreemcnt on
which direc1jon Riverside (shown und er consn·uction here) should face. The building fac es
Locust Street, turning its bar k on the Frcd c1ick Law Olmsted d esigned RiYersidC:' Park.

W 1\ SH I 'GTON. The Va n Ryn & D eGelieke firm followed R iverside with

ano ther English Tudo r style high school, this time on the still wide-ope n
but rapidly expanding nort hwest side. In 19 12, the Statutory Committee
on School Sites a n d Pla ns gave the go-ah ead LO seek, in Callaway's wo rds,
a " sui table site in the Twenty-Secon d ' 1Vard with North Avenue on the
north, Vi ne Street on the south, Forty-Eigh th Street on the east, a nd Fifty-
Second Street on the west. The re was great concern at this Lime abou t the
need to speed up constru c ti on, including a suggestion to offer a prize for
a design." That prize, howeve 1~ was likely not required since Va n Ryn a nd
D e Gelleke were appointed school archi tects the same year.
Z immerm an , who vvas a pparently a big Can or this style of architecture,
raved about the build ing : " Light tan scratch-face brick, the building is
set on a limestone as hla r fou ndation a n d is trimmed with cut a nd carved


\•\/ashi ngton I Iigh School, Lhe auditorium of which is seen under co nstruction here,
recently cclcbrntcd i1s centen nial. Located on the west side, v\lashington has one or the
most prestigious lists or alum ni among ci ty schools, incl uding Senator Herb Kohl, baseball
commissioner Ruel Selig, NBA star Latrcll Sp rewell, Wisconsin governo r Lee D reyfus and
actor Gene Wi ld er, among others.

\"an Ryn & DeG clleke follO\,·cd Riverside with \\'ashington, another English Tudor-style
high school, 1his 1im<' on the still wide-open bu t r:lpidly expandi ng nonhwest side.

HrsTOR tC M1LWAU KEE P UBLIC Sc1-1 00 1.1-1 ous 1~s

stone. The entrance pavil ion, with its battle me nted p arape t and ra ndo m
quoins, is decorated with richl y carved panels a nd corbels."
By 1927, enrollment a t \l\lashington was a whopping 2,300. Compare that
to 1,450 stu dents a t Riverside that year. T he build ing was expanded to the
north in 1971. fo r a time, nearby Thirty-eighth Street School served as a
Washington High annex.
T h e school, which recently celebrated its cel1lcnnial, has one of the most
prestigious usts of alumni among city sch ools, couming a mong them Senator
H erb K ohl, b aseball commissioner Buel Selig, N BA sta r La trell Sprewell,
Wisconsin governor Lee Dreyfus and a ctor Gene Wilcle1~ a mong o thers.

G IRLS' TRADE Al'\D T ECll!\IC/\L SCHOOL. The m ain portion or the fo rm er

Girls' Tech , now the l\ Iilwaukec Rescue l\!Iission on Eightecl1lh a nd \Veil
Streets, was d esigned by respected ho metown a rchitect Edward Townsend

A neighborhood pooch watches as a l 9 I 6 add ition is co11stru ctccl at G irls' Tracie School on
Eighteenth and Wells Streets. The original building was built in I 813.'i by Edward Townsend
Mix to house the State Normal School. Henry Koch 's Eighteenth Street School can be seen
in the background b ehi11d a se1;es o r barracks classrooms.


Mix and erected in 1885 to house the state Torma! Sch ool. ILis a graceful
Queen Anne- inspired structu re with three cemral triangula r gables.
T he first of a number of addi tions followed in 1898. Nine years later,
Lhe city purchased the building, and Lh e trade school was opened with the
support of' Lizzie Kande1~ a uthor o f' The Settlement Cookbook.
In 1924, the school became the fully accredited fou r-year Girls' T rade
a nd Technical School. M PS put up two more additions in 19 17 and 1932,
a nd an auditorium was built in 1948. fou r years later, the school ceased
accepting incoming students, and in 1955 it closed . T he following year, it
became Wells Street j unior High. I n 1978, the school closed, a nd five years
later, Lhe building was purchased by the i\tlilwaukee Rescue Mission , which
was being displaced from iLs Fourth Street location by the construction of
th e Bradley Center a rena.

B AYV rcw. As was common 111 the early part of the twe ntieth cen tury, Bay
View H igh School began life in l 914· in barracks, tempora ry buildings that
were also sometimes called relocata blcs and demountable classrooms. A 191 7
phoLo shows the barracks, erected on the site of the currem football field.
Beyond, nearby D over Street School is easily recogTiizcd.

/\s was common in the early part o f the rwenl.iclh centul)', Bay View High School began
life in 19 14 in barracks, temporary bu ildings that were also sometimes called rclocatables
or demountable classrooms. This 19 17 photo shows the barracks, crcctccl on the site of the
currcnr football fi eld. Beyond, nea1·by Dover Street School is easily recognized.


Bay View li11 a ll y goLiLs own p erm a nent bui lding in I!:l22, a stately English Tudor Reviva l
st ructure like Rive rside a nd Washington, the work ol' Van Ryn & Dr Gelle ke- topped
\\'ith ga rgoyks.

Bay View fi na lly got its own p ermanen t build ing, a stately English Tudor
Revival structure (again the work or Van Ryn & DcGclleke) topped with
ga rgoyles, in 1922. In photos of construc tion or the bui ld ing, the site is
bounded by fi elds. But those meadows soo n succumbed to subdivisio n,
excep t lor the acija ccnt Humboldt Pa rk, and al though Bay View High
ope ned with a n en rollm ent or 850 in 19 22, j ust fi ve yea rs later there were
1,600 p upils.
But it wo uld be a long ti me before the teachers and students wo uld get
some elbow room. In 1958, the study ha ll was converted to seven classrooms.
An addition Lo the north end of the building, including a 1,200-seat gym,
was opened in 1976. Currently, the Bay View H igh building also houses the
fo r mer Fri tsche :Middle School program.

L lNCO LN . I d iscussed Lincoln's histo ry a b it in the first chapter a nd at the

stan of this o ne, so here I'll add j ust a few more details. T he first p ublic high
school was opened on the site when Milwaukee High School moved into


the then twelve-year-old 1ilwaukee Academy building on Cass and Knapp

Streets. A new school opened on the site in 1887, and it was rechristened
Eas t Division High School when South and West Division we re completed
in the 1890s. East D ivision got a new home on the upper East Side in 1915
and was renamed Rive rside. T he building housed a dear school for a short
time, and in the fo.IJ o r 1920, Lincoln was reopened, fi rst as a j unior high
school and later expanding to a six-yea r high school, quickly testing the
limits of the old building.
G uy Wiley designed a new build ing, esti mated to cost $ 1.25 million , that
was completed on the north end or the block (while the previous building
sLill stood on the south side or the lot) in 1928. That building slill stands
today, though the high school program was closed in the spring or 1978, and
is home to Lincoln M iddle School o r the Arts.
Among Lincoln's alumni are O prah Winfrey, singer Al J arreau, novelist
R obert Bloch and N BA all-star "Downtown " Fred Brown.

Guy Wiley design(:"d a new Lincoln High bu ilding, csLimatccl to cost $ 1.25 million , that was
completed in 1928. T hat building still stands today, though the high school program was
closed in spring 1978, and it is currently home to Lincoln !'.liddlc School o f the Ans.


Built in 192+ as North i\l ilwaukce High School, Custer came into the district as a six-year
school (grades se,·en through twelve) in 1930 aficr Nonh Milwaukee was annexed by the
C ityor Milwaukee in 1929.

C USTER. Bui lt in 1924 as North Milwa ukee High School, Custer came
into the district in 1930 a fter i orth l\llilwaukee was annexed by the C ity
of l\l[ilwaukce in 1929 . It was a six-year school. It began as a considerably
smaller school than its counterparts, wi th an enrollment of 65 I in 1930 that
grew LO 793 in 1931 and 95 7 in 1932. J\ replacement building for Custer was
erected in 1955 .

So1.o:--10N J UNEAU. One of three handsome moderne (or Art D eco) style
M ilwaukee public high schools, sou rces a llribute the plans {o r Juneau to
Gerrit DcGclleke, who along with his firm Yan Ryn & D eGelle ke did much
.!VIPS work, though typically during a n earlier period . It's surprising, loo,
since G uy Wiley was already MPS's staff a rchitect by the time Ju neau was
erected in 193 1- 32, and it looks ver y similar in style to W iley's Rufus Ki ng
a nd Casimir Pulaski High Schools built in the following years.
T he th ree-story steel-frame Ju neau build ing was constru cted with a
ligh t brick fac;:ade with large windows, mostl y in glass block but with a
band of squa t windows a lo ng the bottom o f ea ch opening. A decora tive
frieze runs along the roofline, and ironwork with swirls a n d grid pa tterns
adorns th e e ntrances.
J\n additi on was built to the south in 1976, a nd despite a good match on
the brickwork, the new building lacks the details (such as the frieze) of its
elder sibling.


--- -=--...

011L' of three handsome modcrnc/ Art Dern style !vlil waukcc publ ic high schools, sources
attribute the pbns forjuncau to Gcrrit DrG elJcke, who, a long wirh his firm Van Ryn &
DcCcllcke, did m uch J\f PS work, though typ ically duri ng ;m earlier pr riod.

An ad ditio n was built on the south encl of Ju neau i11 197(), and despite a good match on
llw brick"·ork, the new building lacks the d('tails (. uch as the frieze) of its elder sibling. This
photo sho\\"s the o riginal building's 10T11.

H1sToR1c 1f1LWAUKEE P u nu c Sc1-100LHOUSES

Juneau, which was, for a time, a six-year high school- grades seven
through twelve- closed in 2005, though it has since reopened as a home
to charter schools Montessori H igh School and Commun ity H igh School.
:M acDowell l'vlo ntessori moves into the building for September 20 12 and
will expand to a public K.3-1 2 Montessori p rogram.

R t.:FUS K ING. In its 1929 report, ''A Five Year Building and Future Sites
Program," MPS reported in a section on junior high schools that "a site for
another school within the city limits at Seventeenth and O live Streets has also
been p urchased," whi ch reminds us that Rufus King was originall y planned
as a six-year high school, encompassing grades seven through twelve.
M PS a rchitect Guy Wiley designed the Art Deco structure, which was
begun in 1932 and comple ted in 1934 at a cost of $ 1.3 mill ion. It had a
pleasing set-back design m imicking outstretched arms, with a n impressive
central tower, and the plans would later be tinkered for the construction of
Casimir Pulaski on the city's south side.

1VI PS a rchitect Guy \ Viley ck·signccl the Art Deco Rufus King High School, begun i11 1932
a nd completed in 1934 at a cost of l) 1.3 million.

HrsTo ruc MtL\VAUKEE Pusuc Scr-rooLHOUSES

According to the school's own history, which notes Lhat th e school is a produce of t.he \ \lorks
Progress Admin istraLion , 'The d esigns and execution of the b uilding's plaster work, stone
work, 111oodwork and other detai ls were supplied by local artists and craftspeople. T he art
clf'co style ... makes Rufus King a special gem among it~ modern , sta rk, spa rtan peers."


According to the school's own history, which notes Lha t the school is a
product of the \ Vorks Progress Administra tion, "The designs a nd execution
of the building's plaster work, stone work, woodwork and other de Lails were
supplied by local a nisLs a nd craftspeople. The arl deco sryle ... makes Rufus
King a special gem among its modern, sta rk, spanan peers."
Despile Lhe six-year school plan, King opened as a tradiLiona l four-year
school wilh a n enrollment of 1,225. A 15,000-sea t stadium was a lso erecLed
on the twelve-acre site. Th e building was expanded in 1999.

According to a newspaper report, ''Lhe firsl shovel or dirl was

Lurned" in the construction of P ulaski on December 22, 1937. The buildi ng~
which Lhe paper claimed was " by far the largest of th e 22 new schools and
additions that Guy E. Wiley, school board architect for 15 years, has desig11ed"-
wa5 complclcd rapicU)~ in just under eighteen months.
That wo uldn'L have seemed long for a school Lhat had spent six years
inhabiting ba rracks (the fou rteen initial barracks g rew Lo forty), pu L up to
alleviate overcrowding al South Division and Bay View, while a\\·aiti ng a
p e rmanent home. Some of that time was p assed as what the newspaper

Pulaski High Schoo l, a larger sibling to G uy Wiley's earlier Rufus King High Sd1onl
building, was rnmplctrd rapidly, in just under eighteen mom hs.


The new Pulaski building incl uded an impressive library, see n here. The buiJding was much
needed to replace dozens of barracks erected lO hou e the popular school for as long as ix

l'u laski High School's new l10nu· ca me after th e academic: prog ram had spent six years in
the temporary baJTacks shown ht:re. Initially, there were fou rtee n such temporary strucwres
at Pulaski , bm that number had ~r0\n1 to forty by the time the building \\'as completed.

10 l

caJled "storms" raged over the cost of the new building, which vvas designed
on the pla ns of Rufus King but was 25 percent larger than King.
"It is generally accepted now," the Journal wrote, " that the reason Pulaski
cost so much f$2.4 million] was because it is such a large project and because
its contracts we re awarded at a time when the labor and m ateriaJ
m arkets were rising- not because it is so elaborate or orn ate."


I t's interesting the way Lhat a myth can grow and trickle down through the
ge nerations. Consider the sto ry tha t aged a long with th e former Mound
Street School (2148 South :M ound Street) in Bay Vi ew.
Opened in 1886 as District 12-2, a companion Lo District 12- 1 ~ate r
called Allen School), the school- designed by Waller H olbrook, with an
adcucion by Van Ryn & DeGelleke- was renamed for its location in 191 2,
when many other schools we re simila rl y rechristened.
Barely twenty years earlier, the street was pla nned by Edward Allis (of
Allis-Chalmers) and future mayo r Amm i R. Butler a nd na med Mound
Street in ho nor of the I ndia n mounds located o n Sixth and Lincoln nearl y
a mile away.
By 1974, a n MPS history no ted that the street crossed a n IncLia n mound ,
leading to the na me. Four years later, when the school was tagged fo r closure
by the district, a newspaper a rticle claimed tha t " the school was built in
1886 over an a ncie nt Indian bu rial mound. " In his book Milwaukee Streets:
The Stories Behind TlieirNcm1es, Carl Baehr debunked the enduring fal sehood:
"T he small hill this street runs over is not one of [the mounds I, as street lore
has claimed. "
What is not myth is the deep meaning and value a school ca n embody in
a neighborhood. Sometim es tha t value is fell more in the heart than in real
estate values, however. "Because the school is closing, reside nts fear there
will be no incentive for young families to move into the area," wrote reporter
Douglas Rossi in the Milwaukee.Journal in October 1978. " If no young people
I-:IrsTORIC MILWAUKEE P u Bu c S c 1-100 1.11ousEs

Bay \ "iew·s i\ lound Street School opened in 1886 as D istrin 12-2. The building was
designed by \\"alter H olbrook, \1·ith an addition by Van Ryn & DcGcllckc.

move in, some fear Lhe neighborhood will turn inlo a slum . T he proliferation
of ' Fo r Sale' signs on houses in the area is fueling Lheir rn ncern ."
FasL-forwa rd three decades, a nd Bay View is one of the ciLy's hottest
neighbo rhoods- and still popular with families. Discussions have com e full
circle as Pa rents for Bay View Schools lobbies MPS to give Bay View High
School a neighborhood focus to prevent fam ilies wi th ch ildre n fl eeing to the
'burbs to fin d suitable schools.
Then, as now, neighborhood con cern about Lhc closure of a school- in this
case, Mound Street- was easy to unde rstand. The school hoard suggested
clo ing M ound Street because of declining enrollment. Accordi ng to Rossi's
article, the a ttendance area population wa aging, a nd as l'vl ilwaukecans
know, the no rthern edge of Bay View, where Mound Street is located , is
heavily industrial rather than residential.
. ome Mou nd S treeL families had been through th is before, or their
grandparents had. When J ones Island School was closed in 19 19 as part of
the depopulation or the now entirely indusLrial ized pe ninsula, ma ny of the
neighborhood children moved to Mound Street.
The !alte r school was erected in 1886 at a cost or $98,650 for the la nd
and improve men LS. Tt was expanded in I 896 and modern ized th ree years
late r. At that poin t, it boasted fourteen classroom ., a . mall assembly hall


In 19.') 7, l\!Jound Street served as a model fo r other M P S buildings of its vi ntage when a
"p ilot room " was added. This is a "be fo re" photo of room 16.


The pilot room---seen here in a n "after" photograph-,rns a remodeled classroom that was
m eant to serve as an illustration of ho"· these solid o ld bui ldings could roll \\~Lh t.hc changes.


and a basement with a lunch room and bathrooms. By the late 1920s, the
relatively small school had an enrollment of 626, a n astonishing fact for
a nyone fam iliar with modern school enrollments.
In 195 7, Mound Street served as a model for other MPS buildings of its
vin tage when a " pilot room" was added. The pilot room was a remodeled
classroom that was meant to serve as an illustration of how these solid old
buildings could roll with the changes. These new rooms \Ve re clean, sleek and
efficient. Gone were the ornate moldings, wainscoting and fixtures, replaced
by modern fluorescent lights running nearly th e length of the room. Out
with the old cast-iron and wood desks bolted to th e fl oor, with flip-up scats
attached to the desk behind; in wi th simple, easily moved, utilitarian chairs,
two to a table.
Old, ineffi cient wi ndows were replaced with modern examples with
shades that rolled down Lo the bottom and up to the top from a scroll in the

Old, i11efTicient windows were rcplilced with modern examples wiL11 shad es Lhat rolled down
to the bottom and up to the top fro m a scroll in Lhe middk. T :i.11 doorways capp ed "~ th
transom ligh ts were replaced \\'ith contemporary, meta.I-framed d oo r\\'ays.


middle. Tall dooivvays capped with transom lights were replaced with metal-
framed contemporary doorways.
Room 16 also got an acoustical ceiling, new blackboards, radiant heat
and a refinished floor, though existing floors in less pristine condition were
promised linoleum or asphalt tiles. Finally, the walls were p ainted light yellow
and green.
According to a newspaper report, the room was "transformed as an
experiment which will help guide the modernization of teaching quarters in
many of the school system's older buildings. Modernization of older schools
formed a substantial part of the program which got the go-ahead signal last
spring when Milwaukee voters authorized the issue of 39 million dollars in
bonds during the next five years to meet future school housing n eeds. Nearly
six million dollars of that amount was earmarked for the improvement of
serviceable schools in established areas of the city."
In order to make the most of that money, the school board decided to create
a one-size-fits-all classroom that it could retrofit into old buildings. Room l 6's
makeover cost $5,000 for construction and $800 for furniture. Contrasting
that with estimates of $30,000 to $35,000 per room for a new permanent
school, the board figured that it was on to something.
Bu t tinkering with classrooms couldn't change the reality of
enrollments a nd their effects on school budgets. By the late 1970s, MPS
was ready to close a nu mber of schools: Liberty-"t\.·f acArth ur, Fifth Street,
Ludington, vVarnimont Avenue, McKinley, J efferson , Mound, 'Veils and
Clarke Street Annex.
Neighborhoods were concerned. Downtown barber J ose Ortiz had
two children at Mound Street. "Close the school," h e told the Journal,
"and it will hasten the run to the suburbs. A school holds a n eighborhood
together. I believe in this neighborhood. I own my own home there.
They talk abo ut integrating the schools; well, we've clo ne it. ' Ve have a
multicultural neighborhood, with good , hard working people in it."
Bu t while these days it's often hard to find a buyer for a century-
old schoolhouse in a down economy, MPS had interested buyers for a
number of properties. Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) and
a yoga school expressed interest in J efferson (located just west of Juneau
Village), a day-care operato r purch ased McKinley (a nd still owns it) and
there were at least three parties interested in Fifth Street: t he City H ealth
D epartm ent wanted it for a health clinic, a church sought to open a day
care there and the O pportuni ties Industrialization Center hoped to use
it as a job train ing site .


Room 16 at l\llound Street School also got a n acoustical ceiling, new blackboards, radiant
heat and a refin ished floor, though existing floors in less pri stine conditio n were promised
linoleum or asphalt tiles.

M aybe Bay View did okay despite the closure of .lvfound Street School in
the spring of 1979 because it, too, had a buyer. Towne Realty bought the
building a nd tapped KM DevelopmenL to remodel it into \ Vinchester Village.
The building still lords ove r its quiet Bay V iew street. But instead
of housing children during daylight ho urs, M o und Street has carpeted
hallways leading to forty-eigh t apartments fo r the elde rly a nd
handicapped. Within a few m onths of opening in Februa ry 1983, it was
at full occupa ncy.
Two of its first residents we re sixty-seven-year-old C ecelia
\ Vawrzyniakowski and seventy-nine-year-old H elen Sedivy. For them,
moving in was som ething of a homecoming. " I started kindergarten here
a nd went up to the seventh grade," \IVawrzyniakowski told newspaper
reporter Marilyn Gardne r. Tillie, as she was known to her friends, said
that she loved th e school.


Sedivy's return was perhaps ironic. " I hated school," she told Gardner.
" I played hooky, and there was a Lrua ncy officer right there saying, 'You get
back to school, fotle girl. ' No rn atLer whaL route I took [to skip school], that
son-of-a-gun was always on my Lail. "


T hough ]\1filwaukec's Gaenslcn School- which curre ntly has a special-

needs population approaching 50 percent- is named for :Niilwaukee's
first orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Frederi ck]. Gacnslen, an argumen t could be
m ade that it should have been cal led Potter School.
Then MPS superintendent M ilton Potter was the force behind lhe first
classes held specifically ror handicapped children in 19 13. Though that
program was short-lived, Potter was determin ed to help educate students
who couldn't physically get to regu lar classes.
H e next started a system of p roviding insLrucLion in the homes of children.
By 191 7, MPS- wiLh Potter still al the helm built the Lapham Park Open
Air School at Eighth and Walnut, next to Ninth Street School (currently the
site of Elm Creative Ans, Alliance School a nd Roosevelt :Niiddlc School of
Lhe Arts). According to a district publication from a decade later, the school,
which had a n enrollment of 132, " provides education for weakened children
in a wholesome atmosphere."
As the n ame implies, Lhe bu ilding's m a ny windows could be Oung
op en to provide a co nstant stream o r fresh air- such as it might
have been in early lwe n tieth-ce n tury industrial fVliJwaukec- which
was recom m e nded for many ai ling child re n. Co ts were provided in
classroo ms lo, in the wo rds of a newsp ap er p ho to capLio n or the clay,
" m ake child re n comforta ble."
Tn 1928 , the school welcomed children with physical disabili ties, too.
Al though eleven kids were at the handicapped school on its first day,
HISTORI C M IL\\'ACKEE P ·Bue Sc1-100LHocsEs

By 19 17, l\ I PS buih the Lapha m Pa rk Open /\ir School a t Eig hth a nd\ \l;ilnu t, next to
:'l!inth Street School ~Jo th ). /\ccordi ng to a district publicati on printed a clcrade l;i1c r,
the sch ool, wh ich had an c nroll111c nt of 132, p ro, ·idcd ·'education for weakened c hild ren in
a wholesome m111osphere."


In 1939. a 1ww state-of-the-an Gaenslcn School building, d esigned by Alexander Bauer of

E chwcilcr and Eschwcikr Archi tects Associated, was crcctccl alon.~ tlie fVlilwaukce River on
a six-acre site between Burleigh Street and Auer Avenue in Rivcrw('Sl.

enrollm ent was expected to be about twenty, and the district provided
transportation for them. Nine years later, the school- which was educating
kids who " needed open-air treatment" and those who were handicapped-
was renamed Gaenslcn.
In 1939, a new state-of-the-art building, designed by Alexander Bauer
of Eschweilcr and Eschweilcr Architects Associated, was erected along
the l\/Iilwaukec River on a six-acre site between Burleigh Street and Auer
Ave nue in Ri ven.vest. The building's classroom wing overhung th e riverbank,
with views out across the river and the riverfront prope rty, which had been
designated as a bird sanctuary.
\l\lhen the new Gaenslen building opened, it served a K-1 2 population ,
and according to a Wisconsin A rchitect article that appeared after the
building's completion, there were "cases of infantil e paralysis, spastic
paralysis, or other birth inj uries, cardiac d ifficulties, and accidental inj uries.
Anyo ne who a nticipates a depressing sight, will be amazed at seeing these
children .. . They arc probably the most cheerful group of pupils at any
school in the city."

11 3

lnteresLingly, Caenslen's innovatio ns may have helped render it outmoded at a n early age.
A year before the building (pictured here upon its completion) would hm·e celebrated its
fifti eth an niversary, a replacement bui lcling--thc current G aenslcn School was completed.

The Februa ry 1940 article describes the b uilcting, wh ich was a singlc-
story, variegated brick building wilh limestone trim with an Arl Deco
O ai1~ as having four functi ons: instructional, therapeutic, recreation al and
ad ministrati ve. " l\lfany inqui ries have a lready been lurnccl over to the
a rchitects for information concerning the many unique innovations included
in lhc design a nd plan of the new Gacnslcn School."
I nte restingly, Gaenslen's in nova tio ns may h ave helped rend er it
o ulmoded a t a n ea rly age. A yea r before the bu ilding wo uld h ave
celebrated its fifti eth anniversary, a replace men t building- the curre nt
G ae nslcn School- was completed .
"T he old bu ilding m ay not have been that old com pared lo others in
MPS's inve nto ry of educational facilities," said l\lfark Zimme rma n of
Zimme rma n Architectural Studios, which designed the c urrc nl building,
"but the needs a nd strategies had adva nced [so] tha t the old building was not
as user-friendly with where the needs a nd the competitio n across the country
we re for th ese students with special needs."
Z imm erma n, whose fir m h as desig ned a number of schools, added that
there were many things to conside r in design ing Gaenslen : "Ir was nor a
simple or typical tweak of a tradi tion al school floor pla n. Som e of the

I 14-

drivers of the design were meeting a wide range of physically challenged

students and their mode of mobility assista nce, from wheelchairs, to
wago ns, to 'creepers,' bu t there was a full spectrum of mobility challenges
and needs."
Because atti tudes toward children wi th diverse needs have changed over
the years, the approach to designing a school that serves those children has
changed, too. T he re is perhaps an increased sensitivity to not only p hysical
but also emotional needs. " You add a want and need for equity and
fairness," said Zi mme rma n. ''Able-bodied students were an importan t part
of the student pop ulation. T hey wanted to achieve a mix of mainstream
students learning side by side with physically and mentally challenged
students. So as not to call attention to the handicap, chalkboards, for
insta nce, were buil t away from th e wall so the knees didn't get j a mmed
while a stude nt comple ted a m ath problem at the board while seated in a
wheel chair. "
New Leaching a nd learni ng methods also affected how educators
envisioned a new Gaenslen School build ing. "Teachers wanted flexibility
to open up these fi xed barriers from old, traditional schools and teach in
groups and teams," recalled Zimmerman.

Couple that with added Jpacefar maneuvering and access, and the needfar
a new school was a/1parent. There were spaces programmed far therapy
including lrydrothera/J)l indoor play areas far rainy or snowy days with
floor drains allowing far messy prqjects [and] with hose-down clean-up
ca/Jabiliry included, covered bus dropeff areas ...
In the old school, the kids were Let eff one by one with a motorized
pla!form that raised and Lowered students ve1y inefficiently and sLow61. On
a rai'!)' or snowy da)l these kids would be out in the elements getting wet
and cold waiting Lo load or unload. Now thefre at the same level as the
bus floor and covered.

So, now that the current building is half the age its predecessor was when
it was demolished and replaced, will advances in technology and changes in
approaches to educating special needs students mean that Gaenslen School
will need to be replaced in the nexL couple decades?
"Tough question," said Zimmerman .

I think we Las a society] have become somewhat ef a disposable societ;t

In the late '80s, I was /1art ef the Bradley Cente1· design team. To hear talk

1 15

ef replacing it. less than twenry-Jouryears efter it opened shocks me. But
there is an embrace ef sustainable design concepts and j1rinciples as well
as environmenlal!J responsible gestures like recycling old buildings/current
buildings and finding adaptive reuses for archit,ecture that once functioned
to a different use1:
One thing that was visionaiJ' in Caenslen was the moveable classroom
walls, which made the buildings and spaces adaptable,jlexible and nimble.
The test ef time will be: was it .flexible enough? I probab!J wouldn't
recognize a classroom todCI)' from wizen I was in school. With !apt.ops,
iPads, smartboards and the Like, the environments and tlze wqy children /1ay
attention and Learn are remarkab!J different.

C reating Lhc current Gaenslen building was cxciLing, said D ave Stroik,
Zimmerman president and CEO. "V./c did the schooljusl as acccssibilit·y was
becoming a hoLLopic, so it was fascinating to be on Lhe bleeding edge. The new
building was able to deal with many m ore issues of independence than the
original, such as projecting chalkboards that allowed real wheelchair access
and a 'stimulation' room that blasted sound a nd ligh t lo unde rdeveloped
senses of some of the students."
Stroik poinLed out that while it wasn't p ossible to save the Eschweiler and
Esclnveilcr bu ilding, he did make sure that it lived on in some way in the new
building. "We incor porated some of the original art and the nursery rhythm
friezes into the new building," he said. " But it was difTicult to capture a ll of
the intimate charm of the original school."


T rowbridge School of Discovery and Technology ( 1943 East Trowbridge

Street) in Bay View has been staring me in Lhe face for years. Living in
Bay View for six years, l walked past it regularl y. But I never really looked at
it. I saw it, certainly. H ow could anyone miss the sea of concrete behind the
school? I even looked at a house for sale directly across the street. But I never
really did more rhan give it a passing glance.
So, it came as som cLhing of a revelation when I decided to drive down lo
Bay View and take phoLOs of current and former elementary schools in the
neighborhood , including this one, which was originally District 17 Primary,
later designated in 1905 as District 17-2 (nearby Dover Street was District
I 7- 1) and in 1912 as Trowbridge Street.
The school- which currently runs from K.4- through eighth grade-
originally housed first- through sixth-grade classes. Kids then went to Dover
for seventh and eighth grades until T rowbridge was expanded to include
seventh and eighth grades in 1905. Its mosl famous alumnus is O scar-
wi nning H ollywood actor Spencer TraC)~
I realized that 1 had let the sprawling schoolyard distract me from whal
m ight be the loveliest vi ntage building in MPS. Principal Tom Matthews
invited m e down for a lour, so I returned to sec lhc inside, and he told me that
he believes it is the only vintage Cream City brick schoolhouse that has never
had a painted exterior. I've never come across another example, so I suspect
he's correct. And looking at how stunning Trowbridge is, in its 01iginal painr-
frce state, it makes me wonder just how beautiful other old Cream City brick
H1sToR1C if1 L\\"AUKEE. P UBLIC S c HOOLHousi::s

Walter Holbrook's stunning Queen Anne Trowbridge Street School in Bay View is
supposedly the only Cream Cicy brick !\! PS building that has never had its exterior covered
in paint.

schoolhouses would be after a good chemical wash (sandblasting damages the

crumbly bricks).
Most of the schools burned coal for heat, and the soot was more easily
painted over than sandblasted oIT the builrungs. Somehow, this 1894 Queen
Anne building, with its arched Romanesque portal a nd pleasing details,
escaped that fate.
H owever, the interior of the building- designed by arch itect Waller
A. H olbrook, who also drew the plans fo r M cKinley Avenue and M ound
Street Schools- couldn't boast the same success over the yea rs. " \ Vhen
I got the building, it was somewhat in disrepair," M atthews said, noting
that he's since replaced all the windows a nd doors and opened up the
windows in the Roman esque arch above the main entrance, which had
been boarded up.


l\!IatLhews said that when he took over, the m ain hallway was painted a
sort of "Pepto Bismol pink" that can still been seen in some pan s of the
building, and the second floor corridor was " macho muscle car purple. I
had Marquette's rugby team come in and paint the firsl weekend I was
here because I couldn't handle it. . .None of the rooms had been painted in
over lhirty years ... So we've systematica lly gone about a plan of continuous
improvement, just aesthetically and the way the building looks." H e spenl a
year renovating a disaster of a library, too.
But :M atthews has also taken what was a struggling school with decljning
enrollment that was on Lhe verge of being closed and nearly doubled the
number of students- two-thirds of whom come from the Bay View area-
and created partnerships with First Stage Children's Th eatet~ the Coast
Guard, the Milwaukee Symphony, Lhe Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage
District and other local businesses a nd g roups. The studem body is roughly
one-third African American, one-third Lalino and one-third while, making
it amo ng the most diverse schools in the districl.
Walking th rough the building, the hallways are empty and q uiet and
the classrooms orderly but lively with learning, and M atthews clearly
earns the resp ect of his teachers- ma ny of whom have transferred to
Trowbridge Lo be a part of th e rebirth-and his students, who don't
hesitate to ask him questions, express concerns and j oke with him good-
natu redly. And he ap pears to know the names of each and every one of
his 320 kids.
Ma tthews said that it took some time to adjust to the new environment,
but now he's completely at ho me with the kjds at Trowbridge. "T hey break
o ut of line, hug my knees and say, '\!Ve love you, Mr..Matthews."'
H aving known Torn M atthews in a previous Milwaukee rock-and-
roll life, du ring which we often shared a stage farth er up Kinnickinni c
Avenu e at the Odd Rock Cafe, l' rn tho roughly impressed by Principal
M atthe\\·s, who seems the perfect bal ance or engaged, stern , fri endl y, fair
and co ncern ed.
According to a 199 1 historic designation study report, Trowb ridge was
built in two phases. The three easternmost sections- incluiling the majn
entry, as well as a classroom section on either side of it- were constructed
in the first phase. In 1909, two more classroom sections were added lo the
wesle rn side.
The school was built in 1894-- four years a fter Dover Street was
constructed west of K innickinnic Avenue- to replace a much smaller
school that was located on \!Ventworth , just south of Russell Avenu e. Th e

11 9

playgro und b ehind the building was ad ded in the 1920s a nd exp a nded
in the '70s. T he Lop Ooor of the bui ldi ng has one of the Liny gy ms so
comm on in build ings o r Lhe era- the playground expansion musL have
been welcom ed .
T he report notes Lhat " ltl he Trowbridge Street School is a rchi tecturally
signi ficam as a fi ne exa mple of a VicLO rian era sch oolhouse by a noted
M ilwa ukee architec t. IL is h istorically significan t for its associations wi th the
development of the Bay View neighbo rhood."
H olbrook was a pa rtner of important Milwaukee a rchitect Edward
Townsend :M i.."X in the 1880s. Born in Sackets J-Ia rbor, New York, in 1849,
H olb rook ar rived in O shkosh and th en, in 1869, in :Milwau kee, whe re he
began working wiLh J\ tli:x, rising up from his role as a draftsma n to become
M ix's panner in 188 1.
H olbrook design ed Lhe fo r mer Sentinel building a l 225 East ?vlason Street
a nd a number of local reside nces, a nd he also worked on m a ny famous local
Mix proj ects, like the M ac kie Building, the M itchell Building and St Pa ul's
Epi:cop al Church on Kn app Street. H olb rook d ied riding his bicycle on
Stale S treet in 1910.
Lucki ly, fo r fans of l\llilwaukee history an d a rchitecture- as well a. for
the Trovvbridge com munity of staff, students and families- his gorgeous
schoolhouse end ures.


he thrill of "di. covcry" is what made me interested in getting behind

T the scenes looks at some vintage l\llilwaukcc school buildings. Peeking
into the attic at one school to look at decades-old graffi ti left by students
made me cager for more.
So yo u can im agine my enthusias m when I go t in to sec two historic
(b ut cu rrently closed) MPS buildings: Garfie ld Avenue Sc hool at 2215
North Fourth Street, built in 1887 a nd designed by He nry C. Koch,
and Philipp Eleme n ta ry at 43 l 0 North S ixtee nth Street, a much more
recent building but one loaded with incredible details in the Rufus fu ng
neig hborhood.
Philipp was built in 1932 and designed by the esteemed a nd celebrated
M ilwaukee firm or Eschwcilcr and Escbweiler. Nexander Eschweiler's firm
designed the H otel M etro building, the Wisconsin Gas build ing and the
C ha rles Allis Art l\IIuscurn building, among others. As we've seen, the firm
also designed th e first Gacnslcn School in Itiverwest.
We visited G arLield first, a nd it was eerie. Though it vvas daytime, the
ligh ts we re on and we \\-ere not alone- it was an offi cia l visit, so we didn't
sneak in- an empry school sciU echoes with the sou nds or· thousands or
young voices. And the building is not exactly empty. T here are still stacks
or chairs and desks in the classrooms. H ere there's an old computer; there
stand a few sh elves of textbooks. On an office desk, the re are packages from
someone's final lunch in the room. Unplugged vending machines are am ong
the few things left in the basem en t teacher's lounge.

Philipp Elementary, near Ru li1s l<.ing H igh, was bu il l in I!Yl2 and d esigned by the esteem ed
a nd cclcbracccl l\Wwaukee fir m of Eschweilcr and Esrhweilcr. Outside, the building is
aclornt'cl "iLl1 cerra-cotta tiles depicting fairy talc scenes. Photo ~Y author.

Faded decorations on Lhe bulletin boards rem ind us th at Garfi eld vvas most
recenlly home to the private \!Vooclson Academy, which leased Lhc buildi ng
from .M ilwaukee Public chools. It alm ost feels like everyone wen t home one
friclay afternoon and simply forgot to return on l\ifonday morning.
The architectural details are interesting, though the exte rior is more
stunning than the interior these days. But still , there are some interesting
features, like large, bright classrooms, with lots o f (now painted) woodwork.
L ike many old schools, however, Garfield has a small gym- with a stagc----
on the top fl oor, and tha t makes for an interesti ng a tti c.
f'd bee n in exac tly one old sch oolhouse a ttic previously, and tha t o ne
was e ntered by a typical doo r (no stairs) from the school's top floo r.
Garfield 's requires one to scale a steep ladder-l ike staircase hidden be h ind
a closet door. Once up the re, the top half o r the gym separates l\VO
attics. But tall ladders a llow one to pass from one side to th e o ther over
th e ceiling of th e attic. I wasn' t allowed. Bu r I d id peek out o r th e tall ,
slender windows, which o ffer a g reat view, and we did spy som e graffiti,
t ho ug h no t as much as I saw in th e oth er school a ttic. Interesti ngly, a


la rge po rtion of the roof boards were charred, suggesting th at the re was
o nce a p re tty big fi re the re.
Philipp- named for Wisconsin governor Ema nuel L. Ph ilipp- is a
much di rferent place, though no less " ha unted." I don't mean inhabited by
paranormal ac tivity bu t ra ther by th e faint echoes of the pitwr-pat of tiny
feet in the hallways a nd the chatter of yo ung voices in the classrooms.
Philipp is an arts-and-crafo d ream . Outside, the buildi ng is adorned with
tcrra-cotta tiles depicting scenes from fairy tales: cows j umping over moons,
moms a nd their big families outside their sh oe houses, M ary a nd her little
la mb a nd so on .
Inside, the office, the classrooms a nd th e hallways are all outfitted in
stunning woodwork. It's a sight to sec, really. But th e real j ewel is the gia nt
ground-Ooor kindergarten room . You can ente r th rough the cloak room ,
with its rows of waist-high coat hooks each still h as a child 's name wri tten
on a slip of paper. (Tippecanoe School, built in l 936 on the south side of th e
city, has a similar ki nderga rten cloak room and da rk woodwork.)
T hen , along the east wall of the bright, airy room , is a beauti fu l fireplace
with a three-pan el painti ng instal led on the wall above the ma ntel. Farther
along th e wall is a truly incredible tiled fish pond set into the wall. About four
feet long and mayb e two feet wide, with a sp igot on one end above the drain,
it almost looks like a bathtub.
Upstairs, the P hilipp classrooms arc basically unifor m , vvith da rk woodwork
a nd lots of windows. Each still has a globe sitting on the windowsill a nd a
Oag hanging on th e wall . One has a desk, atop which lies a selection of
student photos and one of the teache1; too- p resumably the last students
a nd teacher to inha bit this room .



T he 1970s were n't especially friendly to old schoolhouses in M ilwaukee.

In 1973, a sp ectacular fire decima.Lccl EighLeenth Street School. The
sch ool, built in 1876, was the oldest in Lhc disLricLportfolio at the time. It had
ceased op craLion as a sch ool in 1967 a nd was being used fo r storage- mostl y
school ru rn ilur at Lh e ti me. A brutal winter sto rm severely hindered fire
dep artment efforts to extinguish Lhe blaze.
Five years la Ler, in 1978, fires also spelled Lhe encl of \i\lalnut StrceL
School, bu ilt in 1888 (a nd a twin sister of Fifth Street School, constructed
the same year), and J ef1erson , located downtown . Arson was suspected
in the Walnut blaze, and J efferson, erec ted in 1899, fell victim to faulty
wiring. Conside ring the age and constru ctio n of these buildings- and h ow
man y of them are still in daily use- it seems remarkable that significantly
mo re have noL burned.
Accordi ng to a 1940s repor t by the n MPS a rchitect G uy E. Wiley, the
buildi ngs put up bel:\•VCe n 1875 and J 917 we re o f "ordinary construction,"
meani ng that they were "of a low fire resisting character consisting of
masonry cxlerior walls and wood j o ist floor constructio n on wood stud or
brick p artition walls."
Be~inni ng in 1919, M PS constructed buildings that were wh at was then
called " fireproof," th ough by the 1940s report, Wi ley was already leery of
that term and preferred "fire resistive." T hese builru ngs were of reinforced
concrete or steel-frame construction. But even by the dawn of the twentieth
century, architects were worki ng to crea te schools that were more resistant to

fire. The new Firs t Ward School (later called Cass Street School), just south
of Brady Street, is an example. Erected in 1905 according to plans drawn by
Buemming and Dick, Cass Street's construction focused on improving the
" fireproof" qualities or public buildings.
"The f1oors throughout arc steel and concrete construction," noted a
September 3, l 905 article in the i\lfilwaukee Sentinel. "The plaster is a pplied
directly to the brick work and as few moldings as possible are used in the
interior, thus making it fireproof in Ooor and wall construction . The corridor,
stairways and wardrobe noors are all fini shed in smoothly polished cement
with a sanitary base brought up against the wal l. . .The d ifferent floors arc
connected by means of two seven foot wide absolu tely fi rep roof stairways."
Fourteenth D istric t School (H ayes) \·vas completed shortly after Cass S treet
and the Sentinel, on November 5, 1905, declared it "absol utely fireproof"
thanks to it steel a nd concrete construction.
So, why didn't more burn? VViley's report points to "the care which has
been ta.ken of the old non-fi reproo f buildings a nd the general alertness to
a ny dangerous possibilities with tl1e resulting freedom from any major school
d isaster proves the value o r· the vario us contributing factors which have
produced this result." While schools most likely had fires- a visit to Garfi eld
Avenue School, for example, shows considerable cha rring in the attic- few
buildings seem to have been entirely destroyed by O ame~.
The fire at Eightee nth Street School (845 North Eighteenth Street),
th e n, was significan t. First, it came during a m ajor snows torm that hit
M ilwa ukee on April 8- 10, 1973, a nd brought one foot of wet, heavy
snow a nd wi nd gusts up Lo fifty miles pe r ho ur. Streets were closed,
others were blocked by stu ck ve hicles and the interstate was sh ut clown
fo r Lwo days.
When the fi rst alarm ra ng at 1:18 p.m.- lcss tha n twenty minutes
a rter stude nts a t the ac\jace n t Wells S treet J un ior High had been sen t
home earl y because o f the storm- fire trucks began what, for som e,
would be a long, circuito us route to the blaze. According to a newspaper
report, "One engine co mp any had to go several m iles out of its way
to reach the fire ... because or parked and a ba ndon ed cars blocking the
streets." Additionally, said Fi re Chief William Stamm , snow a nd parked
ca rs preve nted the fi refighte rs from gain ing the necessary access to the
building to fight the fire.
Ultimately, twenty-fi ve pieces of equipment would a rrive to figh t the bl aze
in the ninety -seven-year-old building, including more than a dozen engines,
six ladder trucks a nd more tha n 120 firefi ghters. S till, the fire raged out of

H i sTo Ric M 1u vAUKEE P u Buc Sc 1-100LH OUSES

Hcnt)' Koch's celebrated Eighteenth Street School caugh t fi re during a 1973 blizzard that
brought i\ lilwaukcc to a standstill and may have helped d oom the structure as fi refighters
struggled to arrive at the sccnc and then to get clo c to the building to battle the blaze.


control for more tha n three ho urs. The building was so badly damaged that
a fire department spokesman said that there was no way to determine the
cause. Everything was gone; only the walls remained .
Because Eighteenth Street- designed by H enry Koch-hadn't . erved as
a school since l\/IacD owell Elementary had been built a couple blocks away
at Seventeenth Street a nd H ighland Avenue, no one was inside during the
fire, but some firemen were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and
m inor injuries a nd one was treated al nearby foun t Sinai l[edical Center
for a n eye inju ry a nd released.
Th ere were rears that th e fire would sp read to the adj acent, and equally
vintage, \Ve ils Street junior High School, which began life as rhe No rmal
School in 1885, and o ther nearby buildings. High winds from the storm
blew smoke all aro und the neighborhood. Teachers from \'\Tells Street next
door stood and watched nervously al the scene, hoping the west wall of the
burning building wouldn't collapse on to their cars, which were parked on
the playground nearby.
Although un licked by flam e, Wells StreetJunior High did suffer smoke
damage, and its basemen t was flooded by the firefighters' wate r. I t was
expected lo take a few d ays to dry ou t the furnaces, and so school there
was canceled.
While fire officials were leery of specula ting about the cause of the
Eighteenth Street School fire, they had little hesitation, it seems, in declaring
that the fire tha t destroyed Walnut Street School in July 1978 was d ue to
arson. Built in 1888 on the same plans as Fifth Street School, \ Val nut (23 18
\Vest \Val nut Street) was closed in September 1977. Unlike most other
schools its age, Walnut Street was never expanded or modernized , except for
a small boiler house added to the west wall of the building in 1926 and some
bathroom and o ther small upgrades completed at tl1e same time. In the l 969
report, ':L\ Six-Year School Building Prog ram, 1970- 1975," Walnut Street is
listed a mong the twenty-two elementary schools in MPS that still lacked hot
lunch faci liti es.
I n contrast, Fi fth Stree t g rew in 1908 a nd in 1960 , a nd it vvas
m ode rn ized in 1961. So, as e nroll me nts declined and th e district
continued wo rkin g loward desegregation, vValnuL Street's future was not
ensu red . \i\fhen it went up in smoke in a fou r-alarm fire less than a year
late r- four fi refig hters were injured battling the blaze-it seemed p la in
tha t a rso n likely p layed a ro le.
" It's defini tely a suspicious fire," Acting Assistant Fire Chief Rich a rd
Seclcn told the J\lhlwaukee Sentinel. "T he roof was burning thro ugh in spots


A m e n~ three mo nths after v\lalnut Street was lost lo fire, Ferry & Clas'sjefferson Street
Elernemary School (1029 North j efferson St.reet), int.he heart of' downtown, suflcrccl a
similar rate.

and th en it just caved in." Fifth Battali on chief Florian So bczak added,
"S he was extremely hot. That fire had to be going for some tim e before we
got there [a nd it's worth noting thal lhe firehouse was quite literally righ t
across the stree t, within view of the sch ool]. vVhen it burns as fast as this
one did, it's been going a while and usually som ething highly flammable
has been used. "
Another fire official, this ti me unnamed, told the morning Sentinel, "Some
of th e Fifth Battalion men were the first to arrive on the scene. They had
gone up to the third floor when an explosion blew them dovvn the stairway.
They are lucky to have only escaped with minor burns and smoke inhalation .
The heat was so intense that we had Lo use ae rial ladders Lo soak the buildi ng
with \Nater before anyone dared go back in."
Before the fire, plans were afoo t to sell Walnut Street to Veledis Carte 1~
who hoped to move the day-ca re center he ran with his wi fe, Lorrai ne,
to the former school. "The damage is quite extensive," said Seelen. " It's
demolished, it wo uld be a was te of money to try and do anything with it."
The Carters turned their attention instead to another nearby building, the


former McKinley School , which they purchased in the 1980s and which is
still home to Carter day care.
A mere three months after Walnut Street was lost to fire, Jefferson Street
Elementary School ( l 029 North Jefferson Street) suffered a similar fate. A
five-alarm fire was discovered just before 10:00 p.m. "H ad [it] happened 12
hours earlie1; ·we would have had a school full of kids," Assistant Fire Chief
Robert]. H eindl told the Sentinel.
At the scene of the fire on O ctober l 0, Chief Stamm suggested arson as
a possible cause, though tvvo days later, H eindl reported that h e was told
by the state fire marshal's office that the defective wiring in a second-floor
cabinet was the culprit- this despite the fact that MPS had modernized all
the building's wiring about fifteen years earlier.
The building was condemned the day after th e fire and razed soon
afte r. The site is currently home to the Milwau kee School of Engineering
soccer pitch.
While the Sentinel noted that schools were not required to have sprinkler
systems except in stage areas, it reconfirmed what Guy v\Tiley reported more
th an thirty years earlier: Milwaukee has had a good record with regard to
school fires, despite th e odds.
"An insurance adjuster told me that the record of school fires in the states
hasn't been good," MPS director of repairs Adrian T v\Tisniewski told the
Sentinel, "but the Milwaukee record has been exemplary."


W e've seen in earlier chapters some ways in which old school buildings
have been given new life after the erasers were clapped for the last
time. \ Vhile l\l[ound Street in Bay View \Vas transformed into apartments,
Bartletr Avenue was razed and replaced with housing. After McKinley was
closed, Velcdis Carter p urchased it, and it remains lit as a clay care center.
Girls' Tech , later called Wells Streetj unior High, was sold and is now home to
the M ilwaukee Rescue Mission. Fifth Street School , late r call ed Isaac Coggs
School, was ba nded over to the City of l\IIilwaukce and used as a community
health center. When that moved to a newly constructed home, the city gave
the again-shuttered Fifth S treet back to Milwaukee Public Schools, and it
sits vacant. The empty Wisconsin Avenue School, on the corner of T wenty-
seventh Street, is being eyed by the Milwaukee Police De partme nt as an
evide nce a nd records storage facility.
Follov\ring arc a few more recen t examples of closed distri ct schools finding
a new purpose in a changi ng community.


As MPS reached the home stretch in its facilities plan in autumn 20 11-
which the district conducts every ten years-Supe rinte ndent Gregory

This 1920s photograph of a " typical" classroom at Wisconsin Avenue School (now closed),
a t -1\venty-seventh Street, suggests that some schools in the clistrict housed fifty-five o r mo re
children. That number would be d eemed unt enable today. \Visconsin ;\,·cnue School is now
d osed , a 11d the police d epartment is eying it fo r records and evidence storage space.

Thornton and :Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett broke ground on renovations

to tra nsform the former J ackie R obinson/Peckham Middle School (3245
North Thirty-seventh Street) into apartments.
The building, which is on the Na tional R egister of H istoric Places and the
vVisconsin State Regi.ste1~ is be ing converted into the S he rma n Pa rk Senior
Living C ommunity with sixty-eight alTordable a partments for sen iors.
The complex will in clude thirty-n ine one-bedroom and twenty-nine two-
bedroom a partments, ranging in size from 600 to 1,200 square feet. Rents
are expected to run $4·99 to $ 694· a month. The community will also include
space for on-site health a nd vocational training servi ces, a sixteen-seat
cinema, a community center; a business center and a fitness center.
" \!\le look forward to beginning the transformation of a vacant building
with a uniq ue history into a new community asset that offers affordable
living opti ons for independent seniors," said Ted Matkom, Wisconsi n ma rket
president of l\lfaclison-based G orma n & Comp any, which is developing
the pn~jcct. " This reborn building will play a prominent role within the
Sherman Park Neighborhood and again serve the community as it once did
in th e past. "


A few months latc1~ news emerged that the forme r Fulton Junior H igh
School (which was called Malcolm X Academy when it closed in 2007) on
First and Center Streets m igh t also become housing. Twin Cities-based
nonp rofit CommonBond Communities expressed interest in buyi ng the
propen y which, wi th the playground , fi lls an entire city block- and the builcbng into fifty-five apa rtmenL<; for families. Both of these
conversion proj ects rely on federal afforda ble ho using tax credi ts.


When the educational program at Dover Street School moved at the end of
the 20 11 school year to the nearby fo rmer Fritsche Middle School building
it shares with the Tippecanoe program, the circa 1889 Bay View school
bui lding, designed by Ed ward Townsend M ix and wi th an 1893 addition by
Walter Holbrook, became the site of a planned neighborh ood arts center.
According creative director Kellie K rawczyk, the Hive at Dover would
be a commu nity collaborative a rts cente r. "T he whole idea for an arts
cen ter began when art, music and gym were eliminated from many of our
neighborhood schools," she said in a video tour o f the buildi ng. "So a group
of us volunteers go t together and [created] a p lan. "
Among the highlights of the pla n we re nearl y two dozen rooms available
for rent to art-centric nonprofits and individuals; office equipment available
to tena nts in the building at no cost; a lounge; a library of an history and
how-Lo a n books; a donation cen ter to collect a n and craft supplies fo r use
in the p ublic art studios; a thrift sto re to sell supplies to help support the
p roj ect; a public art studio where students can come and make one of several
prepared a n projects for free or a m inimal fee; kids and adult a rt classes; and
a pe rfo rma nce sp ace in the third-Door "gymn atorium."
In d iscussing the p urchase of th e build ing from the district, a potential
model fo r the sale was seen in the sale of Garfi eld School in 20 11 for one
dolla r to commu nity members, who planned to turn it into a neighborhood
center, according to school board director M eagan H olman, who represents
the district in which Dover is located . "The superintendent asked me about
the disposition of D over, since now that it is closed, it vvould have to have
sign ificant updates to be available LO be used as a school building again,"
Holman said . " I suggested th at we look at selling it for community a rts, and


he asked if I could idemify a buyer. It was then that I approached Kellie, who
has always wanted to run a community art center, and she and her talented,
entrepren eurial fri ends ran w:ith it. "
Unfortunately, neither the Dover Street nor the Garfield Avenue proj ect
appeared to get off the ground, and at th e time of publication, it appeared
that both proposals were dead. But both offered v:isions for ways to keep
shuttered public schools lit as beacons of neighborhood and community


Some former lVIPS schools continue to serve as education facilities via leases
to charter schools, like Milwaukee College Prep , which recently opened new
schools in Lloyd Stree t (1228 West Lloyd Street) and Thirty-eighth Street
(2623 orth Thirty-eighth Street) Schools. There has also been talk of MCP
purchasing the buildings from the district, though th at has not yet happened.
"It is my understanding that they are leased with an optio n to buy,"
MPS's now former media manager Phil H arris said. \ 1\lith the leases, MCP
also opted to open the two new campuses as M PS instrumentality charte rs
(meaning they are sta ffed by MPS employees), tying them more closely to
the district.
While T hirty-eighth Street has been vacant, Lloyd only recen tly became
surplus when the school board voted in Lhe spring of 20 I 1 to merge its
program into H opkins Street School to create H opkins Lloyd Community
School. In 2010- 20 l I, Lloyd had an enrollment of about 440 pre-K through
fifth-grade stude nts, according to Great Schools.
When news of the leases emerged, M CP principal Robert Rauh said,
there was no plan to pu rchase the buildings. "Right now, our focus is solely
on getting the two buildings rcady ... full y enrolled and staffed," he said. "It's
nice to have options down the road, and we will begin to consider th ose once
the dust has settled. "
H erc arc some facts about the school buildings:

• Lloyd Street has twenty-eight classrooms, and Thirty-eighth Street

School has twen ty-five classrooms and one lab.


• Lloyd has 69,553 square feet and Thirty-eighth Street I 03,892 square
feet of bui lding space.

• Ieithcr o f the forme r M PS buildings is air conditioned.

• Lloyd Street, built in 191 0, has a replacement cost of $ l 7, 13 1,026, and

estimates put a replacement cost on T hirty-eighth Street School, built
in 19 1 l , at ~25 .5 million.

In addi tio n to a p resumed infusion of cash, MPS would save a fair bit on
maintena nce if MCP exercised its option to buy the two buildings. As part
of its M aster facilit1es Plan report released onjune 30, MPS was looking at
$887,400 in maintenance costs at Lloyd Street School th rough 2016. Add
in expected maintenance costs of a nother SI 76, I 00 over the following fi ve
years, as well as $4.3 million to upgrade electrical and plumbing systems and
the addition of air concLitioning, and the "Total N eed" .for the maintenance
of the building is estimated at $5.4 million.
For Thirty-eighth Street School, the projected maintenance costs run
even higher. Including the next decade of upkeep and the systems upgrades,
the estimate is $7 .5 million. But, of course, MCP knows that MPS's savings
would become its expenses. So it will be in teresting to see what transpires
down the road.


E very decade, Milwaukee Public Schools undertakes a new facilities plan

to assess its holdings, enrollmenL5, needs, wanL5 and proj ected changes in
enroUment based on demographic changes in Nlilwaukee. Fortunately for us,
MPS completed a plan and issued a report in 201 1; the lengthy report offers a
detailed and eXU"cmcly up-to-date snapshot of the buildings in Lhc district.
The report wa · used by administration as the fou ndation fo r a slew of
projected school closings, mergers and relocations- some of which passed
the school boa rd while many others never got off the gro und- continuing a
trend of closures that has mirrored a decline in studen t enro llment.
Since 2004, thirty-one school buildings have been closed (not counting
changes at the end of the 2011 - 12 academic year). Among them were
vintage buildings like Garfield, Robinson (Peckham) Middle School, Thirty-
seventh Street, Philipp, Thirty-eighth Street, Malcolm X Academy (Fulton),
Lee, Lloyd Street, Dover Street, Tippecanoe, Twenty-seventh Street School,
Wisconsin Avenue and others.
But not all of those b uildings remai ned closed fo r long. Somc- likejuneau,
Sarah Scott and Milwaukee Education Center- again house programs of
various kinds (charte r, traditional schools and so on). Others- like Malcolm
X and Robinson - have been sold or a rc in the process of being sold. Still
others have been leased, like North Seventy-sixth Street, Lloyd Street,
Thirty-eighth Stree t and Morse.
Sixteen of the thirty-one buildings a rc c urrently vacant: South Eighty-
eighth Street, Thirty-seventh Street, Philipp, H a ppy H ill, El Centro dcl Nino,

i\ililwaukcc Public Schools arc much di f1erent today th an Lhcy were in th e 1920s, when these
children were eating their "daily luncheon of milk a nd crackers."

Fifth Street, D ouglass, Edison, M alcolm X , Wisconsin Avenue, Carlton, Lee,

Fletche1~ Dove1~ Milwaukee School of Entrepreneurship, Green Bay Avenue
and 'W heatley.
At the moment, l'v1PS, for whjeh enrollment hovers at about eighty
thousand, owns and maintains more than 18.1 million square feet of
builrung area. There are 184 schools in 161 school buildings-two pre-K ,
44 elementary, 6 1 K-8, 5 middle, 9 middle/high and 17 high school, as well
as 58 support and recreational facilities.
The average age of an M PS building is sixty-six years old. Sixty-four
buildings (accounting for 41 .3 percent of the total) were built before 1930,
and thirty-one are at least a century old .Just 5.9 p ercent of build ings date
from the last thirty years. Just over half, 52.8 percent, were bu ilt between
1930 and 1980. In 1951, as a point of comparison, YIPS's ninety-eight
buildings had an average age of just thirty-seven years. The forty-seven
oldest structures averaged fifty-nine years old, but the fifty-one newest
were an average of just twenty-five years old. T he district's housing stock
has been aging.
T he decline in enrollment has also led to excess capacity in the district.
This is reflected in a calculation called Square Feet Per Student. T he MPS
facilities report points to the " l 5'h Annual School Construction Report"
by School Planning & i\!Ianagemenl magazine, which notes that "the national


median enrollment and square feet per student for elementary schools
was 700 students with 125 square feet per student; middle schools was
900 students with 142 square feet per student; and high schools was 1,600
students with 156 square feet per student."
Compare those numbers with Milwaukee, where elementary students
have an average of 163 square feel each, middle schoolers get 277 (35 7 for
pupils in combined midc!Je and high schools) and high school students have
322 square foot apiece.
But not on ly are the buildings loo numerou s in co ntrast with district
enro llment, their high ave rage age also m eans that the re's a lot of
wo rk lo do to keep them maintai ned. For this, we look at the FC I ,
or Facilities Condition Index, a number that is reached by dividing
the total repair cost, including site-related rep air wo rk and educational
adequ acy of the buildi ng, in to the facility's tota l replacem ent cost. The
resu lting n um ber is compared to a scale wh ere 5 percen t a nd below is
best, 6- 10 percent is good, l J- 20 p ercent is average, 2 1- 30 signifie s
below average, 31-50 pe rcent m eans a building in poor condition, 5 1-
65 percent is very p oor a nd a score 65 and above makes th e building a
cand idate for replacement.
Perhaps amazingly, given th e age of the schools and the fact that
roughly half of all schools have no a ir conditioning wha tsoever ( 15 percen t
are completely air conditioned, and 35 percent a re partiaUy cooled), the
distri ct's portfolio has an FCT of 22.6 percent, j ust a couple points out of the
"average" range.
For co mparison, the report notes that H ouston, whi ch recently
completed a ten-year, $ 1.5 billi on building program, has an FC I of 19
percent, Miami-Dade scores 2 1 percent, Portland Publi c Schools have
a n FCI of 39 and Cleveland Municipal School District has an FCI of
80 (and 92 of its 120 buildings meet Ohio's own threshold for complete
re placement). But in the middle of 20 12, times a re to ug h in Wisconsin ,
a nd sta te funding fo r schools has been slashed two years in a row. In a
period of large layoffa and pe rsonnel cuts, buildin g proj ects are often
deferred or abandon ed .
Because of the expansion of the M ilwaukee Pare ntal C hoice Program
(offering vo uchers to be used a t private schools) and the growt h of
schools charted by e ntiti es othe r than the elected school board, it's hard
to accurately gauge where district enrollment will go. At the same time,
city officials have assailed the district fo r holding on to so many p roperties
rather than selling them. T he city and the d istrict have been playing

H 1sToR1c M rL\\'AU KEE Punuc Sc1-1oOLHousEs

The average age of a n .VIPS bui ld ing is sixty-six years old, a nd many century-old buildings
;i re still in use. Howcve1; Twcmy -fl rsl Street School , seen here on C enter Streel, did not
survive. It was replaced in 1978 with the Gwen Tjackson Early C hildhood and Elementary

tug of war with school buildings over the past two years. The for mer
would like to sell buildings at a bargain rate to charter a nd private sch ool
ope rators, while the district- which m any have suggested sho uld work to
compete with these other " marke t forces"- has held fi rm in its decision
not to sell or lea se buildings to its "compe titors," which draw enrollm ent
an d fundin g fro m the district.
But the economic realities will continue to Carce cha nges. The 20 11
facilities report preclictcd that the district wo uld need $99 l. 2 million to
perform necessary mai ntenance and upgrades to 220 p rope rties. That
includes more than $ 120.0 million in plumbing work, nearly $250.0 million
in electrical work and just over $400.0 million is mechanical repairs and
upgrades. In the curren t economic climate and with the battles being fought
amo ng trad itio nal public, charter and p rivate schools for funding, the
outlook would seem grim.


H opefully, the same spirit that led nineteenth-century Milwaukee to hire

the city's elite arch itects to create buildings that we re enlightened cathed rals
to the importa nce of lea rning a nd the value of' a civic education available
lo all will lead Milwau kceans of the Lwe nly-lirst century to preserve our
archiLectural Lreasures a nd, even more impo rlantly, the public schools that
helped build America.

14 1


1\CKSON/D ETRO IT STREET. H enry Koch's Neoclassical Andrew J ackson

J School (previously called Detroit Street School and District 3 before

9 12) had an imposing Flemish-inspired tower nearly six stories high that
was a beacon in the T hird Ward commu nity, which was ini tial ly settled by
the I rish and later th e Italians. The school survived th e g reat Third \A/ard
fire of I 892, and in 19 I 5, a public natatorium was added, making it even
m ore a locus of neighborhood activity. Though it was built in 1879 at a
cost of $30, 700, .MPS records suggest tha t a school occupied the site from
at least 185 I . T hat it had becom e educationally inadequate was perhap s
al ready clear by I 927 , when the twenty-four-classroom building had an
enrollment of I ,0 l 0 pupils. The building was demolished as part of the
u rban renewal, also sometimes referred to as "slum clearance," that erased
entire sections of the old Third Ward in the late 1950s and early ' 60s.
E1c 1-1TEENTH STREET. Also designed by H en ry Koch, Eigh teen th
Street School was built in 1876 and had twen ty classroo ms a nd a third-
Ooor assembly hall on three Ooors. It marked a new era in Milwaukee
public school construction as it was better healed and ventilated than its
predecessors. Its classical features made it popular in its d ay and reviews
of the building, which sLood behind Girls' Tech/Wells Streetjunior High
until it was destroyed by a spectacular fire during a brutal vvinter storm in
1973, were glowing.

I lcnry Koch's eoclassical And rew.Jackson School (also known as D etroit Street chool
and District 3) had a n imposing Flemish-inspired LOwcr nearly six stories high that was a
beacon in the Third \Vard community. \\'h en this photo was taken, in about I926, .Jackson's
swdcm body was esti mated to be 98 percent Italian.

J EFFERSON. D e m ol ished a fte r a fire caused by fau lty wiring in 1978,

J cfTerson was n't large. D esigned by M ilwa ukee's Ferry & Clas which
created, among other bu ildings, Milwaukee's historic Central Library-
Lhe Cream City brick sLruc Lure had rwo th ree-story wings and a cc mral
section , all with low-p itch ed roofs, tha t contained sixteen classroo ms an d
a small assembly hall. Built in 1899, iL was a more decorated ve rsion
of th e next school bui lt by the distric t, Van Ryn & DeG cllekc's Bartlett
Aven ue (in 1902), with o rna te brickwo rk, incl uding a rches above the
wi ndovvs and d iamond-shaped decora ti o ns in recta ngular boxes. The
enti re rooOinc was ado rned with d entil m olding. I t was mosl unusual
fo r being a ra re school building in the hea rt of downtown Milwaukee,
and by the Lime it was razed, it was dwarfed by Lhe neighboring J uncau
Village apartme nt towers.
GAEKSLEN . T h e o ri gina l Gaenslen School in Riverwcst, buil t into a
bluff o n the west bank of the Milwau kee Ri ver in 1939, was an Art D eco
gem , with long wings p rojecting from a central rotunda. D esign ed by

H1sT0Rlc l\1I1LWAUKEE PuBuc ScHoou-ro usEs

Fe rry & C las's.JelTerson Street School (bui lt as the Seventh District School in I fl99), replaced
an Ed ward Townsend M ix school erected o n the site in 1857. J elTerson Street was destroyed
by fi re in 1978 a nd demolished.

Lisbon A,·cnuc School was acquired by Milwaukee P ublic Schools by a nnexation itt 1907.
It sLOod in a small uiangle at the intersection of forty-sevemh Street a nd Lisbon a nd i\orth
A,·enucs and was used on and off umil 1932, when ir was closed and later clemolishccl.


Alexander Bauer o f E schweiler and E schwciler A rchitects Associa ted , it

was a ma rvel of its d ay. But p erhaps due to its specialized n eeds, it was
doom ed to a short life span . Its replacem e nt, un for tunately, cannot boast
the sam e ch arm.
LISBON AVE?\UE. This smaU school wasn't built by MPS but rather was
acquired by annexation in 1907. I t stood in a small triangle at the intersection
of forty-seventh Street a nd Lisbon a nd North Avenues. Eight years afLer the
district acquired the school, it was closed when Hi-Mount School opened a
fe w blocks away. But the a rea was growing so rapidly that Hi-Mount itself
was soon bursting at the seams, and Lisbon had been brought back in to use
by 1920 . I t was finally closed a t the end of the academic year in 1932 a nd
was razed soon after. The two-story building, which appeared to possibly
have a tti c rooms, too, was a smaU but stately schoolhouse o f symme trical
design, \Nith dual a rched em rances fl anking the central section a nd a pair
of tall chimneys towering above the mu ltisectioned , high-pitched roof. But
for the lack of religious orn ament, it could have almost been mistaken for a
house of worship.
WEST A:'\TD SOUTH D1v1s10:-.1 H1c H SCHOOLS. Buil t at the same ti me, these
we re a mong l\ililwaukee's first enduring high schools, a nd their buildings- like
others such as North Di vision, \ 1\lashington and Riverside- quickly becam e
beacons within their n eighborhoods. Decades after their disappeara nces,
these structures live on in the memories of M ilwaukeeans old enough to
h ave seen them . South's dome, figuratively and quite literally, towered over
its neighborhood in a way tha t the sprawling 1970s replacemen t can' t even
asp ire to. Meanwhile, iconic Milwaukee a rchitects Schnetzky and Liebert,
vvho drew th e plans for Brumder's Germa nia Building and a number of
la ndm ark churches, created a timeless Neoclassical home fo r \Vest Division
that, like South and orth , was replaced with a modern box that inspires
little passion.


W hile many Milwaukee schoolhouses have features worth sceing-

such as the tile work in the former Steubenjunior High (now French
Immersion), the staj ned glass at Story School tucked behind Miller Brewing
Company and the ornate stonework decoration a bove the e ntry at Humboldt
Park School- here are a few buiJrungs of special architectural or historical
interest. Let this be a starti ng point fo r ex'-ploration rather than a beginning
a nd end.

1. Garfield (22 15 N orth Fourth Street), though no longer open as a school,

fo rtunately continues to adorn the M ilwaukee landscape. The builrung,
constructed in 1887, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places,
and its balanced Romanesque design (which includes Paliadian clements,
too, li ke faux colum ns), by landmark 1iJwaukee architect H enry C. Koch,
is q uite lovely.

2. Philipp (43 10 North Sixteenth Street) was built in 1932 a nd designed by

the esteemed and celebrated Milwaukee firm of Eschweilcr and Eschweilec
Alexander Eschweiler's fi rm designed th e H otel Metro building, the
Wisconsin Gas builcling and the Charles Allis Art Museum building, among
others. O utside, it features terra-cotta panels d epicting storybook scenes, and
inside there is glorious woodwo rk galore, along with squirrels and bunnies
pecking down from moldings a nd a kjndergarten room with a fireplace,
frescoes and a fish pond.

3. Fourth Street School/Golda M eir ( 1555 orth Martin Luther J<.jng

Drive) a nd Mineral Street School/ Albert E. Kagel ( l 2 l 0 West Mineral
Street) arc great extant examples of schoolho use siblings. [S ure, this one
was harder because there a rc two schools listed, but Twill try ... ] Although
o nly Fourth Street School, buil t in 1890 a nd now renamed in honor of
erstwhile Milvvaukeean a nd former Israeli prime minister Golda Mci1~
is on the N ation a l Register of H istoric Places, one could argue that its
twin- originally t\IIin eral Street School and now called K agel in ho no r of
a be loved longtime MPS teacher, principal and assista nt superintcndent-
is the more untouched of th e two, at least in ter ms or exterior views. They
arc the work of H enry Koc h, and both are fin e examples of K och's ta ke on
Rom a nesque Revival, with rusticated stone rou nclations topped with bric k
piers capped with corn ices and a rch es (their fi ve-window con figuration at
the a ttic level is mi rro red in Schnetzky a nd Li ebert's :v1aryla nd Ave nue
School addition of 1893). The soaring chimneys are a trademark or the
schoolhouses of the e ra, and the weightiness o f the R om anesq ue fea tures
are tempered by the lightness achieved wi th copious windows. For reasons
clearly other than aestheti c, no less tha n Van Ryn & D eGelleke plopped a
191 5 heating plant add ition right in front of the Fourth Street entrance at
Golda, creating the idea tha t the front of the bui lding is act ually the back.
It is for this reason tha t Kagel feels m ore au thcmic. Though I am not a fan
o f pain ted Cream C ity brick, the paint scheme currently on Golda M eir is
a rare pleasing example.

4-. Rufus K ing ( 1801 West Olive Street) and Casimir Pulaski (2500 West
OkJa homa Avenue) we re buil t from the same Guy Wiley plans in the 1930s,
though with som e varia tions. They m arked yet a nother transformation of
the M ilwaukee schoolho use. By 1920, buildings had become boxier, with
fl at, less ornate roofs, a nd in these two high schools, \ 1\Tiley fully embraced
the then popular moclernc/ /\rt D eco style. (Va n Ryn & D eGelleke did the
same wi th their pla n forjunea u High during the same era.) On the occasion
o [ its opening in l 939, the J'Vlilwaukee J ournal called Pulaski " monumenta l,"
ye t it is King-m ost likely clue to its current popu la ri ty and acade mic success
a nd to its siting-that is more acclaimed today. The view of the centraJ
tower from Eighteenth and Olive Streets is wonderful, and King's ·'a rms"
seem to reach out and embrace you as yo u a rri ve.

5. Vieau (823 South foun h Street) was designed by no less tha n the firm
of Ferry & Clas. The original building-there was a la rge expansion


Fer ry & Clas's design for \'ieau School in \Valkcr's Point was uniqul' among ?\Iilwaukee
school buildings, with a stepped decoration on the peaks. Reccmly, a large ponion of the
auir in the old building was rcnovared tO creare a classroom span:.

to Lhe no rth in the first half of the twentieth century- is unique among
Milwaukee school buildings, with a stepped pyramidal decoration on the
peaks. Spelunkers will appreciate the tunnel built as part of the addition that
runs unde r National Ave nue to the site of M ilwaukee Tech High School.
Recently, a large portion of the attic in the old building was renovated with
federal American R ecovery Act stimulus funds to create a large classroom
for Vieau's acclaimed Project Lead the Way STEM (science, technology,
engineering and math) p rogram.

6. Fifth Street (2770 ~'forth Fifth Street) was built in 1888 along witl1 its
twin, Walnu t S treet School, vvhich burned down in 1978. Like Twency-
seventh Street School, the building is heavily weighted to the south , where
a Lh ree-scory section has high peaks. A lower segmenL juts out to the nortil.
Walnut Street was nearl y identical but with a shorter j utting wing and witl1
slighlly altered window configurations o n the three-story segment. Both
bui ldings, designed by Hugo Schnetzky, were outfilted with the thi rd-floor

HtsTORlC MILWAUKEE P u Buc Scr-100LHousE.s

gymnasiums so common to Milwaukee schools of the era. While Fifth Street

had been expa nded and modernized over the years, \Valnut Street was never
significantly altered.

7. Twenty-seventh Street School ( 1312 North Twenty-seventh Street), now

home to James Groppi High School, was built in 1893 and designed by
George C. Ehlers and his associate Charles E. MaEg with a symmetrical
fa<;ade wit11 the entrance in the center. These days, however, vvit11 two
additions g rafted onto t11e south end of the building-one attempting to
mimic the style of the main building and the other not- and another added
to the north, the building looks much different. Now the structure has an
off-center entrance counterbalanced by a sm aller entry closer to the north
end. If you ignore the much later addition on the far southern end, the wide
fa<;ade is still elegant. Four tall chimneys add height to further complement
this long, low building. Alas, a sleek, high-pitched fresh-air intake has not
survived above the main entrance.

8. Eighth Street (609 onh Eighth Street), built in 1884, is located downtown,
making it a rarity for that reason alone. However, the building-along wi t11
K agel and Fourth Street School (now Golda l\!Ieir)-is a rare example of a
Koch-era building with no mid-t\.ventieth-century add itions. It is also the
oldest MPS building still serving as a district school.

9. Maryland Avenue (24 18 North Maryland Avenue), which has been

expanded a few times over the years, as we've already seen, is an example
of a small H enry Koch project from 1887 (it shares similarities wit11 K och 's
Garfield Avenue School, erected the same year, witl1 a gorgeously harmonious
1893 expansion by Schnetzky and Liebert. A new gym /cafeteria/auditorium,
designed by Richard Philipp, was added to t11e north, covering what was likely
the earliest main entrance, but the real tragedy is a new stairwell and chimney
erected during the same era that blocks tl1e wide, elegant western fai;ade of
the building and erased a nice curvature in t11e roofline. Despite aU of that, it
remains a fine example of a classic l\!Iilwaukee school.

I 0. Siefert ( 145 7 lonh Fourteenili Street), formerly known as Fourteen th

Street School, is the best example of the quadruplets discussed in an earlier
chapter. Siefert, erected in 1903, has t\.vo additions, one o ld and h armonious
and the other newer but low and easily ignored. Brown S treet, nearby, has
been heavily expanded over the years, and the more direct siblings are


"tainted." Auer /\venue's fa<;:ade re mains blocked by the unfortunate siting

of a 1966 addition, and Thirty-seventh Street, which has been closed for a
few years, is painted baby blue. Like Twenty-seventh Street School, Siefert
was designed by George Ehlers, who also designed Lhe Miramar Thealcr
on the city's easl side and, with J ohn Moller, the B.M . Goldberg residence,
a stunning GoLhic mansion thal was the first house builL on the Olmstcd-
planned Newberry Boulevard and Lake Park.



hese charts arc from i\!Iilwaukee Public Schools' own history, Our Roots
T Grow DeejJ, 2nd edition, 1836- 1967. They are included here because
Lhey a re of considerable use not only in deLer mi ning meanings behind school
na mes in i\!Iilwaukee but aJso in tracking Lhe changes in names, of which there
have been many over the years. \.\There some information was lacking, Carl
Bae hr's useful and interesting book, JV!ilwaukee Street Names: The Stoties Behind
Their Names (Milwa ukee, vVI: C ream CiLy P ress, l 995), was consulted for
updates. The changes LO school names since 1967 have been freq uent and
many. Following are some currem updates though by no means a compleLe
list of changes over the past for ty-five years, as one could perhaps write an
entire book on the changes across the decades- with former names first,
current (or most recem) na mes second.

Boys' Tech Lynd e & H a r ry Bradley

T echnology a nd Tracie School
Burroughs M iddJe School C ommunity High School

Eighth Street Pn:~j ect STAY

Eighty-second Street Mil waukee G erman Im m ersion
Elm Frances Brock S tarms Ea rly
Childhood Center

Fifth Street Isaac Coggs (closed)

Fifty-fifth Street Milwaukee Spanish Immersion
Fourth Street Golda Meir
Fritsch e Middle School Tippecanoe-D over
Fulton Malcolm X Academy (closed)
Garden H omes Lloyd Barbee Montessori
H enry L. Palmer Dr. George Washington Carver
H opkins Street H opkins Lloyd Community
.Juneau, Solomon M acDowell Montessori
Lloyd Street Milwaukee College Prep
MacDoweU Highland Community School
Scott, Sarah 'Wisconsin Conservatory of
Lifelong Learni ng
Seventy-six th Street Satori M iddle School
Steuben Milwaukee French Immersion
Thirty-eigh th Street Milwaukee College Prep
Thirty-first Street Westside Academy
T ippecanoe H oward Ave nue Montessori
Twentieth Street W heatJey
Twenty-first Street Gwen Tjackson Early Learning
Twenty-seventh Street J ames E. G roppi High School
Wa lker C armen Academy et al.
West Division High School of the Arts
'Wilbur Wright Middle School Milwaukee School of Languages
Victor L. Berger Dr. Martin Luther King j r.


C arle Lon
D over
Th omas A. Edison M idclle School
Eigh ty-eighLh Street
FifLh Street
FlcLch er, Dr. Arth ur A.
Frede rick Douglass
Fulton/Ma lcolm X
Garfield Ave nue
Green Bay Ave nue
Happy HiJl
J ackie Robinson Midclle School (sold)
Sixty-eighth SLreet
Thirty-sevenLh Street
Thurston Woods
D a niel WebsLer Midclle School
Phyllis Wheatley
Wisconsin Avenue

Tucked away on a side sn-ee1 off Lisbon h·enuc. Thiny-li rs1 Stree1 School which now houses
\VrsL~icle Academy- is a gem of an old neighborhood school building, erected in 1895.


Name of School Deriv ation of Name

Ad m inislralion Building replace ment for old

administraLion building

Serondm} Srhools

Bay View H S Bay View, former area and

ciLy. now part of Milwaukee;
descriptive name

Boys' Trade & Technical H S descripLive name

Cuslcr 1-I S origina l school located a t North

Th irty -seventh Street and
\Nest C uster Avenue, the la uer
re porLeclly named after an earl y
:'-fort h Nlilwa ukee settle r, H a rvey

Alexander H amilLon H S American sLatesman

Solomon j uneau j r./Sr. H S Milwaukee's first permanenl

seLLlcr, first poslmaster and firsl
mayo r

Rufus Ki ng H S first presiden t of Board

of School D irectors, first
superinte ndent of schools,
sold ier, edi tor, jurist and


Lincolnjr./Sr. H S Abraham Lincoln, U.S.

p resid ent

J ames Madison H S U.S. presiden t

j ohn Marshalljr./Sr. H S American ju1i st; chief justice,

U.S. Supreme Court

North Division H S a rea designation; located o n

earl y Milwaukee's north side

Casimir Pulaski H S Polish soldier in th e American

R evolution

Ri verside H S Located on th e east bank of the

~1Iilwaukce Rive r

South Division H S Arca designation; located o n

early Milwau kee's south side

\Nashington H S G eo rge \ Vash.i ngton, soldi e 1~

Pat riot a nd U.S. president

West Division H S area designation; located on

earl y Milwaukee's west side

Junior High Schools

J ohn Audubonjr. HS American orni thologist a nd


Alexa nder Graham Bell J r. inventor of the telepho ne


J ohn Burroughs j r. H S American naturalist and essayist


T homas A. Edisonjr. HS American inventor

Gustav A. Fritschejr. HS high school principal, MPS

Robert Fulton Jr. H S American inventor and engineer

Kosciuszko j r. HS Th addeus Kosciuszko, Polish

Patriot and soldier in the
American Revolution

Samuel Morse jr. H S inventor of the telegraph and

portrait painter

j ohn Muirj r. H S American naturalist and essayist

Peckham Jr. H S G eorge W Peckham ,

superintendent, MPS

Rooscvcltj r. HS Theodore Roosevelt, U.S.

president and historian

C hristopher Latham Sholes inventor of typewriter

Jr. H S

Stc ubenjr. H S Baron Friedrich \!Vilhelm von

Steuben, Prussian soldier in
Am erican Revolution

Walker.Jr. H S George H. \ 1Valker, founder of

Walker's Point a nd mayor of


WeUs Streetjr. H S *Daniel \!Vellsjr., lumberman,

businessman and railroad

\Vilbur \1\Trightjr. HS co-inventor of the airplane

Elemenla~y Schoolr

Louisa May Alcott American novelist

'Walte r Alle n Walter Allen, assistant

superintendent, MPS

Auer Avenue *Louis Auer, local real estate

dealer and public officeholder

Bartlett Avenue '~John K. Bartlett, distinguished

local physician

C lara Barton founder of American Red Cross

Victor L. Berger l\ifilwaukee editor and


Blai ne J ohn T Blaine, Wisconsin


Brown S treet *Deacon Samuel Brown, west

side pioneer

Browning J ona than and Amanda Brown,

Milwaukee County pioneers


William George Bruce distinguish ed Milwaukee citi zen,

editor, writer and publisher

William Cullen Bryant American poet and editor

Luther Burbank American horticulturist

/\.£. Burdick Tippecanoe/Town of Lake

p ioneer and donor of school site

Carleton source unknown

Cass S treet *Lewis Cass, American

statesma n

Clark Street *\ Villiam Clarke, local physician

a nd judge

Samuel Clemens "Mark Twain," Ame rican


Cleme nt Avenue * tephen Clement, president

o f Milwaukee Iron Works and
C real Lakes sea captain

Congress *U.S. Congress

J ames Penimore Cooper Am eri can novelist

Craig J ohn Craig, sold site lo school

district in 1853


J eremiah Curtin Am erican diplomat, scholar,

novelist and linguist

Anna F. D oerfler elementary school principal,


D ouglas Road *source unknown

Dover Street *Dove r~ England

Eighth Street *

Eighty -eighth Street *

Eighty-first Street *

Eigh ty-second Street *

Elm *(street has been renamed

G arfield Avenue)

Ralph Waldo Emerson American poet, essayist,

philosopher and lectu rer

Engelburg source un known

Fairview descriptive name


f ernwood a (ler subdivision

Eugene Field American poet

Fifth Street *

Fifty-fifth S treet *

Fifty-third Stree t *

Forest H orne Avenue *Forest H ome Cemetery, at the

fo rmer southern te rminus

Fourth Street *

Be nj amin Fra nklin American statesman, diplomat,

writer, publisher and scientist

Fratney Street *Benjamin Fratney, local editor

and educator

Frederick]. Gaenslen distinguished local orthopedic

surgeon and educator

Garden Hornes Garden Homes subdivision,

early local cooperative ho using

Garfi eld Aven ue *J am es A. Garfield, U.S.

president and general


H amlin Ga rla nd Wisconsin novelist

U.S. Grant ge neral and U.S. president

Grantosa Drive *"Grantosa ," combination of

Granville and Wa uwatosa

Green Bay Avenue *

G reenfield Greenfield Township

H ampton *

H appy H ill

H a rtford Avenue *H artford, Connecticut; one of

ro ur streets in th e a rea named
fo r East Coast cities.

H awley *Cyrus H awley, earl y setller a nd

landowner in area

Natha niel H avvthorne American novelist

Ru therford B. H ayes .S. president

H i-1\lfo unt Boulevard *


Olive r Wendell Holmes American poet, essayist,

educator and physician

H opkins Street *Otis B. H opkins, early local

druggist a nd real estate dealer

Humboldt Pa rk Baron Friedrich von Hum boldt,

Germa n naturalist, traveler and
staLesma n

Washington Irving American w1;ter a nd diploma t

Thom as J efferson *U.S. president, scientist,

writer, sta tesman, inventor a nd

Alben E. Kagel MPS acting superintendent,

assistant superintendent,
p rin cipal and teacher

Keefe Avenue *John C . Keefe, surveyo r who

platted property in general a rea

Byro n Ki lbourn founder o f Kilbourntown,

mayor of Milwaukee a nd
railroad magnate

J oyce l(jlmer

Robert M . Lafollette U.S. statesman, senator a nd

Wisconsin governor

Lancaster *Elizabeth Street thoroughfare

was renamed Lancaster in J 926;
source unknown


Lee *probably after an early seltler

named Lee who in 183 1 b rought
first wagon load of trad ing
goods to Milwaukee; Lee Street
was renamed M einecke Avenue

Liberty source unknown

Lincoln Avenue *Abraham Lincoln, U.S.


Lloyd SLreet *Nelson B. Lloyd owned a farm

when the district was platted in

Henry W. Longfellow American poet and criLic

Lowell J ames Russell Lowell, American

poet, essayist, editor a nd

LudingLOn probably Han;son Ludington,

lumberman, Milwaukee mayo r
and 'Wisconsin governor

Ge neral D ouglas MacArthur American soldier and statesman

Edwa rd A. MacD owell American composer and pianist

M anitoba *Canadian province; named by

Herman M ann famil y


Maple Tree source unknown

:Ylaryland Avenue *::Vfaryla nd Sta te

William }.11cKinl.ey *U.S. president

M einecke Avenue *Adolph M e inecke, local

businessm a n a nd ma nu facLLirer

Alexander M itchell Local banker an d philanthropist

M organdalc neighborhood/ subdi visio n name

i\Iound Street *named for nearby Ind ian

m ound

Neeskara 1 eeska ra Spring, o nce located

on school g rounds

Neeskara-Binner D i\'. Neeskara Spring; Paul Bi nne r~

early Milwaukee educator of

New R oad Source unkn m.\.11

inety-fifth Street *

Tinth Street *


Oklahoma Avenue *

Oklahoma-Binner Div. *Paul Binne r, early Milwaukee

educator o[ deaf

Henry L. Palmer *local businessman, politician

and legislator

Parkview descriptive name

Emanuel L. Philipp Local business man and

\iVisconsin governor

Franklin Pierce *U.S. president

Pleasant View descriptive name

J ames Whitcomb Riley H oosier poet

Se,·enty-eighth Street *

William T. Sherma n U.S. general

Siefert H e nry O.R. Siefe rt,

superintendent, MPS

Silver Spring descriptive name


Sixty-fifth Street *

Sixty-seventh Street *

Sixty-sixth Street *

Story Alfred Story, :tvl ilwa ukee p ioneer

and phila nthropist

G ilben Stua rt American painter

Thirty-eighth Street *

Thirty-fifth Street *

Thirty-first Street *

T hirty -seventh Street *

Thirty -sixth Street *

T ippecanoe T ippecanoe subdivision a nd


Townsend Street *Edwin Townsend , early settler

a nd !vlilwa ukee real estate


Trowbridge Street *William S. Trowbridge, early

settler and county surveyor

Twelfth Street *

Twentieth Street *

Twenty-first Street *

Twenty-fourth Street *

Twenty-seventh Street *

Victory source unknown

Vieau J acques Vieau, first fur trader on

the site of Milwaukee

\iValnut Street *

\ \Tarnimont Avenue
1 *Eugene Warnimont,
Milwaukee County Board

\ \/alt Whitman American poet

John Greenleaf Whittier American poet and abolitionist


Wilson Park Wilson Park; ·wood row Wilson ,

U.S. president

\ Visconsin Avenue *

C losed Schools

J ames Douglas local architect

J ames A. Garfield U.S. president (not lo be

confused with Garfield Avenue

Wi lliam H. H arrison U.S. president

.Joshua Hathaway civi l enginee1~ pioneer and

public administrator

Ma ry Hill elementary principal, MPS

.Jones Island island south of Milwaukee

H arbor entrance

J o hn Pla nkinton local industrialist

Charles Quenti n hoa rd mcmbe1; state senator a nd

p hilanthropist

D a niel Webster sta tesman

*School named after streel on which it was localed; street named after individual indicated.



Many Milwau kee Public Schools have operated under lwo or more names.
To clarify an otherwise confused record, and thus to facililale research, the
following name changes are listed.

Name of School Adopted Former Names

Allen, Walter 1929 Hanover Street to

' 29; T wel fth D istricl
No. l lo ' 12

Auer Avenue 191 2 Twcmieth District

No. 4 to '12

Bartlett Avenue 1912 Eighteenth District

No 2 LO ' 12

Berger, Victor L. 193 1 Third Street to '3 1;

Twe nty-first District
r o. I co ' 12

Boys' Trade and 'l echnical 1907 Milwaukee School of

High Trades to '07

*Boys' Trade Annex 1928 Park Street to '28;

Fiflh Dislrict No. I
lo ' 12

Brown Street 1912 linlh District No. 2

to ' 12; inth District
Primary to '05

Burbank, Luther 1931 .Johnson's Woods

a nnexed '26

17 1
Cass Street 19 12 First District to ' 12

C la rke Street 19 12 Twenty-second

District No. l Lo ' 12

D oerfler, Anna F. 193 1 Scott Street to '3 1;

Twenty-third District
No.2to' l 2

Dover Street 19 12 Seventeenth District

o. 1 to '12

E lm 1927 Elm Street to '2 7;

District N o. 2 Lo ' 12

Field, Eugen e 1930 Second Avenue to

'30; Eight District
l 0. 3 to '12

Fifth Street 1912 T hirteenth District

No. 3 to ' 12

Forest H ome Avenue 1912 Eleventh District No.

I LO' 12

Fourth Street 19 12 Sixth Distric t o. 1

LO ' 12

Fra nklin, Benjamin 1923 Franklin Street Lo ' 23

Fratney Street 19 12 T wenty-first District

No.3 to 'l2


G aenslen, Frederick]. 1937 Lapham Pa rk to

'37; Lapham School
(open air) to '24

Garfield Avenue 1953 No rth Girls' Junior

Trade to '53;
Ga rfield School to
'36; G arfield Ave nue
Lo '2 7; Sixth District
No. 2 to ' 12

Grant, U.S. 1929 Grant Street co '29

Green Bay Avenue 19 14 ·Williamsburg to ' 14

H ayes, R .B. 1930 Firth Avenue to '30;

fo urteenth District
No. 2 to ' 12

H opkins Street 19 12 Twentieth District

No. 3 to ' 12;
Twentieth District
Primary No. I

Jefferson, T homas 1926 J efferson Street to

'26; Seventh D istrict
LO' 12

Juneau, Solomon,Jr./Sr. 193 1 J uneau, Solomon,

H igh Junio r High to '3 1;
High to '30

Kagel, Albert E. 1926 Ylineral Street to ' 26;

Eighth District No. I
to' 12


Keefe Avenue 192 7 Davis Streel Lo '2 7

*Ki lbourn Junior T rade 1935 Kilbourn j un ior

Technical H igh to
'35; Byron Kilbourn
Pre-VocaLional to
'3 1; Pre-VocaLiona l
lo '23

Kosciuszko Junior H igh 1957 Kosciuszko J unior

Trade to '5 7;
Kasei uszko Junior
Technical High to
'35; K osciuszko Pre-
Vocational Lo '23

Lafollette, R obert 1\11. 1931 Ring Street co '3 1;

Twen ty-first District
N o. 2 to ' 12

Lee 1927 Lee Street lo '27;

Tenth District 0. 4
to' 12

Lincoln Avenue 1949 South G irls'Jun ior

T rade to '49; Lincoln
Avenue lo '33;
Thirteenth /\ven ue
to ' J 7

Lloyd S treet 1912 T enth D istrict No. I

to ' 12

Longfellow, H .W. 1930 Sixteenth Avenue

to '30; Twc11Ly-Lhi rd
D istrict No. I Lo ' 12


M a ryland Avenue 19 12 Eighteenth District

No. I to ' 12

J\lcK inley, William B. 1927 Cold Spring Avenue

to '2 7; Fifteenth
District o. l to' 12

Mitchell, Alexander 1930 Eighteenth Aven ue

to '30; Eleventh
District o. 2to ' 12

Mound Street 1912 Twelli:h District No.

2 to' 12

Ninth Street 19 12 Tenth District No. 2

to ' 12

*North Girls' J unior Trade 1935 North G irls' J unior

Tech nical to '35;
School for Women's
Work to '3 1; Sch ool
fo r Girls to ' 27

Palme1~ Henry L. 1930 Isla nd Ave nue to '30;

Sixth D istrict No. 3
to ' 12

Philipp, Em anuel L. 193 1 Fifteenth Street to '3 1

Pierce, FrankJjn 1956 Pierce Street to

'56; Thirteenth
District No. 4 to
' 12; T hirteenth
District No. 2 to ' 12
(a nnexed to No. 4)


Pulaski, Casimir, High 1933 Soulhwest High to '33

Riley, J ames Whitcomb 1930 G reenbush Street to

' 30

Ri verside High 19 11 Eas t Division High

to ' I l; East Side
High lo 1899; High
School lo 1894

Sherman, William T 1924 Locust Street to ' 24

Siefert, H.O.R . 1928 Fourteenth Street to

'28; Ninth District
No. l to ' 12

*South Girls' Junior Trade 1935 Soulh G irls' Junior

Technical High to
'35; Pre-Vocational
to ' 3 l (transferred
to Lin coln Avenue
building, '3 3)

South Division H igh 1899 South Side High to


Story 1927 T hirty-sixlh Street

to '27

Thi rty-eighth Streel 1912 Twenty-second

Districl o. 4 to ' 12

Thirty -first Streel 1912 Nin eteenth District

No. I to ' l 2


Thirty-seventh Street 19 12 N ineteenth District

No. 2 to ' 12

Trowbridge Street 1912 Seventeenth District

No.2Lo ' l 2

Twelfth Street 1912 Twentieth District

No. l to'l2

Twentieth Street 1912 Tenth District No. 3

to '12

Twenty-first Street 19 12 Twentieth District

No. 2 to ' 12

Twenty -seventh Street 1912 Fifteenth District N o.


Vieau 1927 Walker Street to '27;

Fifth District No. 2
to ' 12

Walker Junior High 1927 Twe nty-seventh

Avenue to '27

Walnut SLreet 19 12 ineteenth District

No. 3 to ' 12

West Division High 1899 West Side High to


v\lisconsin Avenue 1927 Grand Avenue

to '2 7; Sixteent.h
District o. 2to' 12



Former AdminisLration 1914 Prairie Su·eeLto '14;

Building (closed 1961) Second District ~o.
l to' 12

Center StreeL (closed 1966) 1912 T hirteemh DisuicL

l o. l LO ' 12

Eighth Street (closed 1967) 19l2 Four th District to ' l 2

E.ighLeenth Street (closed 1912 S ixteenth District

1967) No. l to ' 12

Harrison, WiJJi am H. 1930 Twe nty-fifi.h Avenue

(closed 193 1) to '30 (annexed l 9 16
as Layton Pa rk)

Highland Avenue (closed 1927 Prairie Street to '27;

1964) Seventh SLreet to '12;
Second District No.
2to ' 12

Hill, Mary (closed 1939) 1931 C lybourn Street lo

'3 1; Grand Avenue
Annex to ' 14;
Sixteemh District
Annex 1 o. 2 to ' 12

.Jackson, Andrew (closed 1927 Detroit Street Lo '27;

1957) Third District to ' l 2

Jones Island (closed 19 J 9) 1914 Park StrccL Annex to

'14; Fiflh District No.


Knapp Street (closed l 915)

Lisbon Avenue (closed 19 12 Twen Ly-seeo nd

1932) D istrict No. 3 to ' 12

M adison Street (closed 19 12 Eight District No. 2

1940) lo ' 12

Park Street (closed 1928) 19 12 Boys' Trade Annex

to ' 28; Fi fth District
-0. I LO ' 12

State Street (closed 1942; 1925

reopened 1955 59)

T wen ty-ninth Street (closed 1928 Garden Acres to '28


Weil Street (closed 1942) 19 14 orth P ierce Street

Annex Lo ' 14

\ \/indlake A,·enue (closed 1912 Fourteenth District

1942) ~o. I LO ' 12

Wright Street (closed 1942) 1925 Abraham Lincoln

(annexed) to '25




Former Name Last Known Reference

D istrict l sec Cass Slrecl

D istrict 2-1 see Former Administration Building

Districl 2-2 sec H ighland Aven ue

District 3 sec And rew J ackson

District 4 sec Eighth Street

District 5- l see Boys' Trade Annex

Dislrict 5-2 see Vieau

District 5-3 see J ones Island

District 6- 1 see Fourth Street

District 6-2 sec Garfield

Districl 6-3 see H enry L. Palmer

District 7 see T ho mas J effcrson

District 8- l see Albert E. K agel

District 8-2 sec M adison Street

District 8-3 see Eugene Field

Dislrict 9- 1 sec H .O.R. Siefert

District 9-2 see Brown Street

District I 0- 1 see Lloyd Street

District l 0-2 see N inth Street

Distri ct I 0-3 see Twe ntieth Street


D istrict 10-4 see Lee

District 11 -1 see Forest H ome Avenue

Disnict 11 -2 see Alexander Mitchell

District 12-1 see Walter Allen

District 12-2 see Mound Street

District 13- 1 see Center Street

D istrict 13-2 see Franklin Pierce

District 13-3 see Fifth Street

District 13-4 see Franklin Pierce

D istrict 14- I see Windlake Avenue

District 14-2 see Ruthe1ford B. H ayes

District 15- 1 see William M c.Kinley

District 15-2 see Twenty-seventh Street

District 16- 1 see Eighteenth Street

District 16-2 see Wisconsin Avenue

District 16-2 An nex see Ma ry Hill

D istrict 17- 1 sec Dover Street

D istrict 17-2 see T rowbridge Street

District I 8- I see Maryland Avenue

District 18-2 see Bartlett Avenue

District 19- 1 see Thirty-first Street

District 19-2 see T hirty-seventh Street

D istrict 19-3 see Walnut Street


District 20- 1 see Twelfth S treet

District 20-2 see Twenty-first Street

District 20-3 see H opkins Street

District 20-4- sec Auer Avenue

District 2 1-1 see Victor L. Berger

District 2 1-2 see Robert M. Lafollette

District 21-3 sec Fratney Street

District 22-1 see C larke Street

District 22-2 see Elm

District 22-3 see Lisbon Avenue

District 22-4 see Thirty-eighth Street

District 23-1 see H enry W. Longfellow

District 23-2 sec Anna F Doerner

Former Name last Known Reference

Blucmoundju nior High sec Solomonjunca u High

Clybourn Street see j\1Jary H ill

Cold Spring Avenue see Wi lliam NfcKinlcy

Davis Street see Keele Avenue

D etroit Street see Andrew J ackson

East Division High see Rive rside High

East Side High see Rive rside High


Eighteenth Avenue see Alexander l\1Ii tchell

Elm Street see Elm

Fifteenth Street sec Emanuel L. Philipp

Fifth Avenue see Rutherford B. H ayes

Fourteen th Street see H .O.R. Siefert

Fra nklin Street see Benjamin Fran klin

Ga rden Acres see Twenty-ninth Street

Grand Avenue see \Visconsin Avenue

Grand Ave nue Annex see Mary Hill

Grant Street see U.S. Grant

Greenbush Street sec J ames Whitcomb Riley

H a no,·er Street see \•Valter Allen

High School see Rive rside H igh

Island Ave nue sec H enry L. Pa lmer

J efferson Street see Thomas Jefferson

J ohnson's Woods sec Luther Burbank

Juneau, Solomon,J unior High see Solomon J uneau H igh

Kilbourn junior Technical High sec Kilbourn J unior Trade

Kilbourn , Byron, Pre-Vocational .cc Kilbourn J unior Trade

Kosciuszko J unior Trade sec KosciuszkoJuni or High

Lap ham School see Frederick]. Gacnslcn

Layton Park sec William H. H a rrison

Lee Street sec Lee


Lincoln, Abraham see Wright SLreet

Locust Street sec ' \Tilliam T Sherman


Mineral Streel see Alben E. K agel

Torth Girls' Junior Technical High see North Girls' Junior Trade

Park Street Annex see J ones Island

Pierce StreeLAnnex see Weil Street

Prairie Street see Administration Building

Ring Street sec Robert M . Lafollette

School for Girls see orth Girls' J unior Trade

Scott Street see Anna F. Doerfler

Second Avenu e see Eugene Field

Seventh Street see H ighland Avenue

Sixteenth Avenue sec H enry W. Longfellow

South Girls' Pre-Vocational see South Girls' Junior Trade

South Girls' Junior Technical High see South Girls' Junior Trade

South Side High sec South Division High

Southwest High see Pulaski High

Tenth Street sec Administration Building

Third Street sec Victor L. Berger

Thirteenth Avenue sec Lincoln Avenue

Twenty-fifth Avenue sec \Villiam H . H arrison

Twenty-seventh Avenue see George \i\falkerjunior H igh

Twenty-sixth Streel see Elm


Walker Street see Vieau

West Side High see \A/est Division High

Williamsburg see Green Bay Avenue

\ Vomcn's Work, School ror

see No rth Girls' Junior T rade


R obert T anzil o is m anaging

editor at,
a daily online city m agazine, a nd
create d the site SchoolMatte rsM K E.
com. Born and raised in Brookl yn,
he attended PS 199, C u nning ham
JHS 234 and Ed ward R . l\IIurrow
High School. He earned a BA
in mass comm unication at UW-
~tfilwaukee. H e lives in [ilwaukce
with his fam ily and se rves o n Lhc
school governance council a l his
ch ild ren's f\/lilwaukec Public School,
housed in a vintage building.
Photo b.J· A/1{[>1'lr1mqff
Visit us at
W\V\1eh t
I t's no surprise we feel a connection to our schools, where we learn to read, write
and forge social bonds of a ll kinds. They a re potentially the scenes of our first
crushes (and the second and third). They arc where we learn to create ourselves.
For more than a century, l\Iilwaukcc has ta ken its schoolho uses seriously, and it
has a matchless variety of go rgeous landma rks to prove it. Roben Tanzilo pays
ho mage to some long-lost schools, salutes some vete ran survivors a nd examines
the roles they play in their neighborhoods. Learn a little abo ut some remarkable
:'vi ilwaukcc a rchitects and :cc what the futu re may hold for some of the city's most
beloved old build ings.


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