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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

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In Arts & Entertainment

Fifth Street School is still standing at 5th and Hadley.

In Arts & Entertainment

It's smaller twin, however, was lost to fire in July 1978.

In Arts & Entertainment

Here you can see how some of the Walnut Street windows differ from those at Fifth Street.

In Arts & Entertainment

Walker's Point's Kagel School has a twin Downtown ...

In Arts & Entertainment

... It's now called Golda Meir.

In Arts & Entertainment

Brown Street, built in 1882 and seen here circa 1973, is the oldest extant MPS school.

In Arts & Entertainment

Nearby Siefert, built in 1903, is very similar to Brown.

In Arts & Entertainment

Also built in 1903, the now-vacant 37th Street School is another Brown/Siefert sibling.

In Arts & Entertainment

If not quite yet another sibling to those three schools, Clarke Street is at least a first cousin.

Twins and even triplets in vintage Milwaukee schoolhouses


In my nosing around into Milwaukee's vintage school buildings I have found few sets of twins – almost always fraternal, though perhaps identical in one case – and even two sets of triplets among Cream City schoolhouses.

Considering just how many schools were erected in the last two decades of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th, it should perhaps be expected that some designs would be used more than once.

For example, during the nine-year tenure of superintendent William Anderson, many buildings were built, among them Mineral Street School (Kagel), Clybourn Street, Dover Street, East High (Lincoln), Eighth Street, Fifth Street, Fourth Street (Golda Meir), Garfield Avenue, Highland Avenue, Hopkins Street, Lee Street, Longfellow (16th Avenue), Madison Street, Maryland Avenue, McKinley, Mound Street, North Pierce Street, Palmer, Park Street, Prairie Street, Third Street (Victor Berger/M.L. King), Trowbridge, 21st Street, Walnut Street and Windlake Avenue.

One set of twins is Fourth Street School (Golda Meir) and Kagel School in Walker's Point. I wrote about that connection last May and you can read that here. These schools are very, very similar and could be near-identicals.

Another set of twins was Fifth Street and Walnut Street, though only the former is still standing.

Walnut Street was built first, in 1887. It had 10 classrooms and a third floor assembly hall (many vintage schools have these and use them as gyms and auditoriums) and was built at a cost of $38,880 for the structure and the land at 2318 W. Walnut St.

Fifth Street, built two years later, is very, very similar. There are some minor modifications in the window configuration and the main wing extended further, allowing for 16 total classrooms and the third floor assembly. The price tag for this bigger building and the land at 2770 N. 5th St., was $110,150. If not for the extension and the minor window discrepancy, these buildings would appear to be nearly identical.

By the late 1920s, Walnut Street had an enrollment of 494, while Fifth Street had 726 students.

The now-vacant Fifth Street has survived and was most recently home to Isaac Coggs, which closed in 2007. The building was handed over to the city and for a few years the white painted structure housed the MLK Heritage Health Center, which is currently building a new home two blocks away. Fifth Street has since been returned to the MPS portfolio.

Walnut Street did not enjoy the same longevity. It was lost to fire on July 25, 1978. Arson was the suspected cause.

"It's definitely a suspicious fire," acting assistant fire chief Richard Seelen told reporters. Fifth 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 flammable has been used."

Sobczak added that there were separate fires in the basement and on the second floor.

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