When writing my book, "Historic Milwaukee Public Schoolhouses," I recounted the story of the buildings that have been key players in educating Milwaukee children since the mid-1800s.
I made no bones about it, though, when it came to focusing on specific places. I especially love the buildings built in the waning decades of the 19th century. From the late 1870s through the turn of the century, the cream of Milwaukee's architectural crop was designing the city's schools: Henry Koch, Edward Townsend Mix, Ferry and Clas, Walter Holbrook, George Ehlers, Mollerus and Lotter, Schnetzky and Liebert.
So, you'll be unsurprised to see special attention paid to Koch schools like Eighth Street, Garfield Avenue, Eighteenth Street, Kagel and Golda Meir; to Schnetzky and Liebert's Fifth Street, Walnut Street and Maryland Avenue Schools; Mix's Dover Street and Wells Street Junior High; Holbrook's Trowbridge, McKinley and Mound Street buildings.
But I know a lot of teachers and school administrators and many of them work in places I didn't include. Whenever they mention one such building, I suggest – jokingly? – that I needed to save some gems for volume two.
Anyway, here are some places I didn't mention that might make a foundation for a second book ... someday.
James Whitcomb Riley, 2201 S. 7th St., on the South Side. I have a neighbor who teaches there and it's my grandmother's alma mater. This red brick building was built in 1916 and it looks a lot like the many other schools built in Milwaukee during this era. It's small, with a flat roof and a lovely decorative band that runs between the roofline and the second story windows. The story of how buildings of this period took on this simpler, more utilitarian look – but still with an eye to attractive detail – is worth deeper discussion. A building like Hartford Avenue School would work in this chapter, too, as would a 1930s era art deco gem like Tippecanoe (now Howard Avenue Montessori).
Humboldt Park School was built in 1929, replacing an earlier building on the site at Adams and Euclid. That earlier building was annexed by MPS in 1925 and by 1927 it had an enrollment over 500 and it was already clear to the district that, in the words of an MPS publication of the day, "the building has long outgrown its usefulness and will have to be replaced by a new building in the near future." Its replacement is a red brick building with an imposing tower and great stonework above one of the entrances. A few years ago, the school greened a chunk of its sea of concrete playground. Story School – in the shadow of Miller Brewing – was built six years later and is worth a deeper look, too.
Alexander Mitchell School. Built in 1894, Mitchell School on South 23rd Street, is right in my wheelhouse. It's lovely and I'm sorry, in retrospect, that I only mentioned it in passing. I'm not sure who the architect is, though I know that George Ehlers did an addition to it a short time after it was constructed. Third Street School – later Victor Berger and now MLK – is another survivor of this era that deserved a little more coverage than it got. A tad later, there's Fratney and Clarke Street Schools. If there's another book, I promise a deeper look at all of these.
Ninety-Fifth Street, Clement Avenue and Milwaukee Spanish Immersion (previously 55th Street) Schools. In the book, which pretty much ends at the close of the 1940s, I describe a number of schools built off the same plans. If "volume two" brings things more up to the current day, there will be other examples of twins and triplets. The first two of these three buildings, which are more or less identical, were built in 1953. Fifty-fifth Street was erected the following year.
There's more, of course, but I can't show my entire hand this early in the game, can I?
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