I have trouble walking past Downtown's plague of surface parking lots without thinking about what was razed to create each drab, and in almost every case, underutilized lot.
In some cases, I remember what was there, having seen it with my own eyes. I think of the Randolph Hotel on 4th and Wisconsin and on the same block, the old Big Boy and the former Starship rock and roll club. Across the river, I can still picture the YWCA on Jackson Street and the gas station on Kilbourn and Van Buren.
In other cases, like the lot on the southwest corner of Kilbourn and Milwaukee, I've never really known what was there. (Yance Marti's great "Missing Milwaukee" provides insight in a number of cases.)
On a recent visit to Old St. Mary's, which abuts the plot, I discovered the land was once home to a lovely three-story cream city brick Romanesque Revival schoolhouse. Among an array of historical photos in the church are two of the school.
Soon after the church was built in 1840s, the first Catholic school "in the west" was opened on the lower level. Opening in 1851, that school proved popular enough that Father Leonard Blatz had a dedicated school building erected south of the church, on Broadway, in the 1860s.
In 1894, the church built the brick schoolhouse, with its arched windows, diamond motifs running between the second and third stories, and cut stone foundation.
I haven't been able to determine who the architect was, but it's possible that it was Henry Koch, who was working on a lot of schoolhouses at the time and designed many with similarly gabled roofs (Park Street, 18th Street, the original Cass Street, etc.).
But the school's features were popular at the time, so they're not really enough to go on. One could make an equally valid argument for Ferry & Clas, for example, based on their Jefferson Street School a few blocks awat. And a number of architects who specialized in church work may also have designed the school.
Based on the photographs, it looks like the building had eight or 10 classrooms and the de rigueur third floor "German gym."
The school graduated its first class in 1900, but by 1969 the program was shut down, due to what a later newspaper report described vaguely as "financial issues," though the building continued to be used as a site for youth activities and a meeting place for Catholic groups.
A February 1978 article in the Sentinel proved prescient when it said, "the expense and upkeep is becoming prohibitive for the parish," and by the dawn of 1979, the schoolhouse had vanished.
Since the building was razed nearly 40 years ago, the site -- in the heart of Downtown -- has provided parking for 25-30 cars.
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 Sept. 27, 2016
Driving past, you might not really notice the changes at the Elite Sports Club-River Glen, 2001 W. Good Hope Rd., in Glendale, which was built as Le Club in 1972 and purchased by Elite in 2012. But on the inside, it seems that everything is changing.
Published Sept. 26, 2016
You know the old saying, "it takes a village." Well, that village is what's currently fueling the Milwaukee Public Museum's push to get its vast collections digitized and online. That and some funding from grants, too, of course.
Published Sept. 26, 2016
One of the oldest watering holes in the city, the White House, 2900 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., is celebrating its 125th birthday on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 1-2 with drink specials, games, raffles, food and more, as well as a food drive for Hunger Task Force.
Published Sept. 22, 2016
There was a time when removing a building was a dramatic affair: buildings imploded with a boom or were pounded by a wrecking ball. These days, thankfully, there's a growing approach that seeks to keep as much waste out of landfills and reuse and recycle as much material as possible.
Published Sept. 21, 2016
Did you know Milwaukee Public Schools has what might be the largest group of public Montessori schools in the world? Now, led by school board member Tati Joseph, there's a push to add a new South Side dual-language program to that group.
Published Sept. 20, 2016
Even in a neighborhood full of vintage architecture, there's no mistaking it. The Italianate Cream City Brick building at 1704 N. 4th St. looks old. If the area has had a long, varied history (and it has), then Baasen House is perfectly at home here.
Published Sept. 18, 2016
There's no better way to get a peek inside Milwaukee's most interesting - and often most historic - sites, many of them typically off limits to the public, than Historic Milwaukee Inc.'s annual Doors Open Milwaukee event. Here are 10 must-see sites.
Published Sept. 15, 2016
This is Brew City, so it should come as no surprise that we value Milwaukee's beer-soaked history. And Regano's Roman Coin has been a part of that tradition for five decades. In honor of it Regano's is throwing a party and we asked Teri Regano about it.
Published Sept. 13, 2016
Yesterday morning, a group of kindergarteners from Milwaukee Public Schools' Rogers Street Academy visited BMO Harris Bank to judge auditions by local sports mascots for roles in the upcoming production of Milwaukee Ballet's "The Nutcracker."
Published Sept. 12, 2016
This past weekend a Tosa resident staged a huge party at Red Dot on North Avenue in East Tosa with Public Enemy, Run-DMC, Sir-Mix-A-Lot, Rakim, EPMD and others. I was there for the first night of the two-day jam. Here are some images.