In #RaiseMKE

Milwaukee's West Side High School, later West Division, was replaced in the 1950s with the building that is now home to Milwaukee High School of the Arts.

A peek inside an 1890's Milwaukee high school

When Milwaukee's West Side High School graduated its first class in 1898, it published "Hesper," its yearbook. A copy of the book is preserved in the stellar local history collections at Milwaukee Public Library and it opens a window into one of Milwaukee's earliest high schools.

The book has images of all the graduating seniors as well as a wide variety of clubs. There are also photos of the interior of the building, offering a rare peek inside a 19th century Milwaukee schoolhouse. While a fair amount of exterior photos and drawings survive of old schools, pictures of the inside spaces are harder to come by.

West High School (later West Division) began in 1895 and was housed in the Plankinton Library Block on Grand Avenue while a permanent home was constructed on 22nd and Prairie (now Highland), at a cost of $80,000.

The building drew acclaim for its stately neoclassical design, with one newspaper writing, "there is no great amount of gingerbread work, but the harmony of the lines and angles relieve it from plainness and make it a work of architectural art."

Spencer Tracy and Gen. Douglas MacArthur went to school in the building, which was demolished in 1960 after being replaced with the current building, which became Milwaukee High School of the Arts in 1984.

Here are a few of the then-brand new building, designed by Herman P. Schnetzky and Eugene Liebert, with the latter typically receiving credit for the school's appearance.

"A work of architectural art."

Handsome from this angle, too

The office

The assembly hall with the teacher's desk on the rostrum

The drawing room

The gymnasium

A very rare photo of the boiler and its operator

A (hopefully) light-hearted page

The descriptions of the female third-year students on this page are mostly harsh -- and they get harsher as toward the bottom of the page. But, hopefully, they are in jest. Surely, future MPS assistant superintendent Dorothy Enderis -- who has a park, neighborhood and UWM building named in her honor -- could not have been "found wanting."


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