Madison Street was an early example of an adaptive reuse of a former school

As Milwaukee continues to look for ways to re-purpose moribund schoolhouses, we turn an eye toward the old Madison Street School, 930 W. Madison St., in Walker’s Point, which offers an early example of a creative re-use for a shuttered schoolhouse.

Milwaukee Public Schools erected what became Madison Street School in 1879 on the corner of Madison Street and Fifth Avenue (now 10th Street), at a cost of $48,820 for the land and the building.

It was designated District 8-2. Other Eighth Ward schools – under the old ward lines – were Kagel (8-1) – which is still open on 12th and Mineral, and Eugene Field (8-3), which was on 7th and Scott, until it burned in 1975.

(PHOTO: MPS’ “Where We Go To School”)

From 1893 until 1899 – when its own building was finally complete and ready – the South high school program was located in Madison Street (and for a few years in Field, which was then called Second Avenue School).

A 1927 MPS publication noted that the school at that time had an enrollment of 438 students in 10 classrooms.

By 1940, Madison Street School had closed and Milwaukee Fire Department took it over, moving its Training Bureau there on April 29, 1942.

In his book, “10-19 Return to Quarters: A History of Milwaukee’s Fire Stations,” Jim Ley wrote that “the Fire Department exchanged this building (at 3100 W. Lloyd St.) with the School Board for the Training School Building located at South 9th and West Madison Streets),” though it appears MFD housed Engine 24 in the Lloyd Street quarters until 1949. (Note: The Lloyd Street building was likely used as a social center before being razed in 1962. The site is now a small park.)

According to Ley, the Madison Street building was remodeled to suit MFD’s use as a training center. A wooden tower was built and a garage added.

During World War II, the former school was used to train hundreds of factory workers,…

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