I can't tell you when P.S. 199 in Brooklyn was built, but when I look at Milwaukee schools like Neeksara and Fernwood – both built in the 1920s – I'm reminded of the stately, boxy, brick school that I went to daily for seven years, from kindergarten through sixth grade, and I'd be willing to make a guess.
After spending time looking at much older public school buildings in Milwaukee – ones that were generally more ornate and featured more peaks and valleys, more florid decoration – Neeskara, 1601 N. Hawley Rd., especially, caught my eye.
It is solid and stately, but there are some lovely details on the exterior of Neeskara – originally Nee-Ska-Ra and named for a spring that was on the site.
Check out the terra cotta tiles above the entries, for example. Interspersed are blue tiles with whales and swans, and other interesting features, like open books and lamps.
Fernwood has a similar – though less decorated – entrance design that, as at Neeskara, integrates into the upper floors with sweeping, blocky columns.
Especially beautiful and, I suspect, often overlooked at Neeskara is the sleek and majestic tapered and fluted smoke stack on the north side of the building.
Inside, there are solid terrazzo landings in the stairwells. Checkerboard tile work adds a regal touch. And although the hallways aren't especially noteworthy now (maybe details have been removed over the years), the woodwork in the stairwells is sturdy and eye-catching.
Best as I can tell, Nee-Ska-Ra was built in 1924, the same year that MPS created its own in-house Bureau of Buildings and Grounds to design, build and maintain its properties. While MPS buildings records suggest it was built in '26, the district's own history lists a principal there from '24 on.
That would mean it could have been designed by Van Ryn and De Gelleke, the architectural firm that served as part-time MPS architects from 1912 until 1924 (and designed Juneau High in 1931). But Guy Wiley, who designed Rufus King (1932) and Lincoln High (1928) and became full-time MPS architect with the creation of the bureau, is also a possibility.
I haven't found figures for Neeskara, but Fernwood cost $375,000 to construct.
The first principal at Nee-Ska-Ra was Edwin G. Luening, who had previously been chief administrator at Weil Street, Walker Street and Maryland Avenue Schools and stayed on at Neeskara until 1952, when he was replaced by Annette Garnier (nee Bartz), who was principal until 1961. By the time the school celebrated its 50th anniversary it had had just four principals.
Some older folks may remember Neeskara as Neeksara-Binner School.
Paul Binner School of the Deaf was incorporated into MPS in 1885 and Binner was principal through 1895. In 1950, the district decided to take an inclusive approach with its deaf elementary students and moved the Binner School classes to Neeskara from Lincoln and Cass Street Schools on the East Side.
These days, Neeskara serves about 435 kids in Milwaukee's Washington Heights neighborhood.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published July 31, 2015
Last week, I got a message from Paul Walter, a co-facilitator at the Slinger Authors' Camp, a youth program that's part of the Fox Valley Writing Project (which is, in turn, affiliated with the National Writing Project). The 17 kids in the program are suburban spelunking in their town.
Published July 30, 2015
There's no need to massage the statistics: men are hitting spas across the country - and right here in Milwaukee - in bigger numbers than ever before.
Published July 28, 2015
Some details of the plan for the new development in the trio of National Ace Hardware buildings on 4th and McKinley have emerged, right as plans for a new arena and entertainment district across the street have taken steps forward.
Published July 25, 2015
One of the Milwaukee area's most interesting parks is a bit off the beaten path, but it's worth making tracks to Lizard Mound County Park in Farmington, just north of West Bend in Washington County. A wooded path twists and turns through 28 Native American effigy mounds, including the one shaped like a huge lizard which gives the park its name.
Published July 24, 2015
Green Lake is a place of superlatives. Here are eight of the many reasons to fall in love with Green Lake, which is an easy 90-minute drive from Milwaukee.
Published July 24, 2015
What a long strange trip it was. While theaters like the Downer and Oriental have venerable histories as long-running cinema houses, consider, if you will, the the more varied history of the now-dilapidated State Theater, 2616 W. State St. Originally a movie theater, the State has served a number of purposes - rock venue, prudish dance hall and strip club - in its nearly 100-year history.
Published July 22, 2015
There were about 500 people on hand to watch U2 at The Palms on April 15, 1981. The show was part of the Irish band's first U.S. tour. Here's a look back...
Published July 21, 2015
Come with me to see the progress on the restoration of The Pabst Mansion's third floor and also peek into the basement and attic, and experience the view from the roof of this Milwaukee landmark.
Published July 17, 2015
Milwaukee neighborhoods were once awash in movie theaters, as hard as that may be to imagine these days when you can count the number of non-googleplex cinemas in the city limits on one hand. While many are lost, a few remain. At 3804 W. Vliet St. is a former longtime carpet store that's been closed the past few years. But, originally, the building was home to The Lyric Theater, which operated from 1917 to 1952.
Published July 14, 2015
In 2012, I toured the surviving Alexander Eschweiler-designed Agricultural College buildings on the County Grounds, when their roofs gaped open to the stars - and the elements - and weeds encircled their exteriors. Despite talk of tearing them down, and an ongoing battle to save them from demolition, four of the buildings survive, even as six new apartment buildings are rising around them.