Wisconsin Historical Society: 15th District School listed on the State Register of Historic Places

Milwaukee, WI. – The Wisconsin Historical Society placed the 15th District School (Milwaukee, Milwaukee Co) on the State Register of Historic Places on May 14, 2021.

The 15th District School, also historically referred to as the Cold Spring Avenue School, and commonly known today as the William McKinley School is significant as an early example of school design in Milwaukee.  The school was constructed in three phases in quick succession: 1884, 1888, and 1898.

The first two parts are the earliest Milwaukee public schools constructed in the Romanesque Revival style; the 1898 addition is a rare example of the High Victorian Italianate style within the Milwaukee public school context. The Romanesque Revival portions were designed by renowned architect Henry C. Koch and Company and exhibit steeply pitched gable ends, facades with regular and symmetrical fenestration, brick corbelling at the roofline, and prominent hipped roofs with dormers and pyramidal roofed cupolas.

Expansive population growth in the neighborhood necessitated another addition in 1898. Uniquely, this addition was constructed in the High Victorian Italianate style by architects Mollerus & Lotter. This 1898 addition is the only late 19th-century public school building in Milwaukee to be designed in the High Victorian Italianate style, popular from the 1870s through the 1890s.  This style is more ornate than earlier Italianate buildings and was very rarely used for public school architecture in Milwaukee.

As was typical of this more ornate version of the Italianate style, the school’s west addition has tall and narrow windows, some of which are topped by transoms; an entrance flanked by Doric pilasters with a bow window above; prominent iron roofline cornice with modillions; and a low hipped roof with polygonal cupola. The school reflects early school design in Milwaukee and despite being in poor condition, is an excellent example of design from this era.

The State Register is Wisconsin’s official list of state properties determined to be significant to Wisconsin’s heritage. The State Historic Preservation Office at the Wisconsin Historical Society administers both the State Register and National Register in Wisconsin.

To learn more about the State and National Register programs in Wisconsin, visit www.wisconsinhistory.org