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 Oct. 23, 2014
You've met Milwaukee Art Museum chef Micah Kaufman in the pages of OnMilwaukee.com before, talking about how he creates menus for specific exhibitions at the museum for Cafe Calatrava. In honor of Kaufman's promotion to executive chef, we asked him about his background, his work at Milwaukee Art Museum and how his role is evolving there.
Published Oct. 23, 2014
The high performing International Baccalaureate middle school program that MPS board members and administration has been promising for the former Malcolm X Academy, 2760 N. 1st St., is an existing program. The plan is to move Rufus King International Middle School, currently housed in the former McNair Elementary, at 4950 N. 24th St., in time for the start of the 2016 school year.
Published Oct. 22, 2014
Bavette la Boucherie's Karen Bell has teamed with former Colectivo director of coffee George Bregar to open Company Brewing in the Stonefly space at 735 E. Center St., in Riverwest.
Published Oct. 21, 2014
I've been watching with interest as New York rolls out its first phase of $340 million statewide universal early childhood education plan this autumn, and as Chicago debates how it will get its version off the ground next year. By watching others, we can see what works and what doesn't. We can learn the best ways to create and more smoothly implement universal pre-K that is effective and helps close the achievement gaps and boost the success of all children.
Published Oct. 20, 2014
Hip-hop trio Clipping is headed to Milwaukee as part of the tour for its latest record, "CLPPNG," out now on Sub Pop. The three -- Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson -- will open for Busdriver on Thursday, Oct. 23 at the Cactus Club. In advance of the Milwaukee gig, we caught up with Snipes and Hutson, to ask about the new record and the whole idea of genres and the limitations they might impose from outside.
Published Oct. 20, 2014
This week, the Council of the Great City Schools hosts its 58th annual fall conference in Milwaukee, hosted by MPS, and some big names in the world of education and beyond will be on hand for the event, which runs Oct. 22-26. The conference -- "Fresh Water, Fresh Thinking in Urban Education" -- takes place at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center and will bring about 1,000 school superintendents to Milwaukee.
Published Oct. 18, 2014
It seems to always happen in a farm field. A kid sees the mother of God, a white buffalo is born, an astonishing cave full of prehistoric paintings is accidentally uncovered. That's where Wisconsin and the world stumbled upon one of the state's most stunning natural attractions, Cave of the Mounds, too, in 1939.
Published Oct. 17, 2014
This week, Karl Paloucek is one of a number of Milwaukee musicians taking part in Betty Blexrud-Strigens' Patti Smith tribute -- "Smith Uncovered" -- at Alverno College on Saturday, Oct. 18, at 8 p.m. He's also riding high after the release of his second record, "Sail," recorded over 20 years and issued by Brew City's Latest Flame imprint. As he preps his contribution to "Smith Uncovered," we asked Paloucek about "Sail" and what comes next.
Published Oct. 16, 2014
A locally produced book featuring the writings of local teens is certainly notable, but what's even more noteworthy about "Milwaukee: A Collection of Work by Local Teens," published in a small run by Hidden Color Press, is that it was also edited, designed and produced by an area teenager. Hidden Color Press is the work of 14-year-old Jack Hietpas, a student at St. Robert School in Shorewood. He started the press as a means to publish art and writing by area teens from all backgrounds.
Published Oct. 14, 2014
For a mere $40, you can get a silhouette of the Milwaukee skyline immortalized in wax. In PVC that is.