By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jul 13, 2017 at 8:32 AM


For years I've been eager to see inside the former McKinley Elementary School, 2001 W. Vliet St., which was shuttered and sold by MPS nearly 40 years ago. After a 2013 fire, the private daycare and school that operated there also closed for good.

Since then the schoolhouse has been rapidly deteriorating, in some cases at the hands of vandals, other times thanks to forces of nature. But while the city was facing obstacles in obtaining it, the building faced the threat of demolition.

Now, the sprawling 19th century schoolhouse – which was built in sections from 1885 until 1898 (not counting a shoebox-like addition from the 1960s), and looks like no other in the city – has received historic landmark designation from the city and was remediated thanks to federal superfund dollars.

And there's a plan to renovate it into apartments!

This makes me extremely happy, as you might surmise from the many links here to articles I've written on this building (and based on the photo at right). I encourage you to read those for more on the history of the building and what's transpired there in the past few years.

"The city has granted Gorman until the end of 2017 to secure financing for the project," David Misky, of the City of Milwaukee's Redevelopment Authority, told me in June.

"They submitted an application for funds from the Federal Home Loan Bank last week, which is the first step. They are also looking at Historic Tax Credits and Low Income Housing Tax Credits and will likely be submitting those applications later this year and into 2018. The financing really will need all of these credits to make this project doable.

"Meanwhile, EPA is done with their piece and the city is looking to further clean up and secure the property. We continue to have people breaking into the building."

As part of this step forward, I was allowed access to the building, and I can finally share some photos with you of what McKinley looks like inside these days:

Cream city brick attic arch

The main stairwell

Barrel vaulted ceiling in 20th Street stairwell

A classroom with shattered blackboard slate

There are some spooky spaces

I don't condone breaking and entering or vandalism, but this is an artful tag

Third floor stage and gym

Remaining name tags in closed schools are very moving

Large corridor lockers

132 years of paint schemes at McKinley

The view from a roof scuttle hatch

A tree in the light court of the 1898 addition on 21st Street

Fingers crossed for McKinley's future

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.