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 July 6, 2015
A year before it is slated to open in the former Pabst Brewery's Building 29, the new international student housing development under construction at 10th and Highland was open Monday for peek into the progress.
Published July 4, 2015
As the 11-day music blowout was about to get underway, we caught up with the Big Gig's Talent Buyer and Production Supervisor David Silbaugh - who explained his work as Summerfest drum tech back in 2008 - to learn a bit more.
Published July 1, 2015
As the 11-day music blowout we all call Summerfest was about to get underway, we caught up with the Big Gig's associate booking director Scott Ziel to get a peek behind the scenes.
Published June 29, 2015
Thanks to my co-worker Jill Jensen-Matelski, I saw this cool Summerfest 1970 poster that you can see above. She found it on the Facebook group "You know you are from Milwaukee WI if you remember..." My eyes immediately went to "Roland Kirk" and I was blown away. Then I saw Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Sarah Vaughan and so many other amazing acts.
Published June 29, 2015
As the 11-day music blowout we all call Summerfest was about to get underway, we caught up with the Big Gig's associate entertainment director Vic Thomas to get a peek behind the scenes.
Published June 28, 2015
How on Earth does one explain the ongoing success of The Flaming Lips? Don't get me wrong, frontman Wayne Coyne and company make interesting and engaging music and put on a hell of a show, but since when has that been enough? We found out Saturday night at Summerfest.
Published June 27, 2015
Saturday night marked Maritime's first Big Milwaukee Gig since it released its paean to its hometown, "Milwaukee," in April. So, did Brew City turn out to return the love?
Published June 26, 2015
U2 is in the midst of an eight-day, five-gig run at the United Center in Chicago as part of its iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour. We went down to have a look and a listen.
Published June 24, 2015
Living rock and roll legends the Rolling Stones took the stage at the Marcus Amphitheater Tuesday night for what may well be their last Milwaukee appearance. Here's what happened when the Zip Code Tour steamed into 53202.
Published June 23, 2015
When Paul Weller came to Chicago's Vic Theater last week I had to go. And, because Weller is so defined by Britishness, I decided to make the jaunt an English themed trip.