Sunday, March 11, 2007

Visiting the former site of Wisconsin High School on Henry Mall -- or, at least Madison Central alumni still have an arch

Today was the last day to see the exhibit of paper dresses at the Design Gallery in the UW-Madison School of Human Ecology (formerly known as Home Economics) Building on Linden Drive -- and since I once owned a couple of these dresses, I decided to indulge in a bit of nostalgia.

While I was in the vicinity, I decided to indulge in some more nostaliga by walking to Henry Mall (see photo below) to take a look at the building that replaced Wisconsin High School and try to locate any clues (plaques, markers) that the school, which merged with Madison Central High School when it closed in 1964, had ever existed.

Looking up Henry Mall (from University Avenue) towards Agricultural Hall

The building that housed Wisconsin High School for 49 years (1915-1964) was first remodeled to provide space of the UW School of Journalism and the Library School. In 1972, it become home to the School of Social Work. It was demolished in August 1993, to make way for the construction of a new Biotechnology Center.

Genetics Biotechnology Center at 425 Henry Mall, former site of Wisconsin High School

There was no plaque or marker indicating that Wisconsin High School had occupied this location for half a century, although there are three historical markers across the street They commemorate the "Treatment of Iron Deficiency Anemia," "Pioneering Bacterial Genetics," and the "Discovery of Vitamins A and B."

The Cass Gilbert-designed building that housed Madison Central High School was razed in 1986 to make room for an MATC parking lot, but at least the Central arch remains on Wisconsin Avenue, a visible reminder of the school's long and noteworthy history, albeit one that remains threatened.

When I began to search for images of Wisconsin High School this evening, it took me a while to find one. While I knew that Jeff Mattox had one on the Wisconsin High School web site he maintains, I thought there might be at least one photo of the Wisconsin High School building among the thousands of images the Wisconsin Historical Society has posted on its web site. No success. I finally found an excellent collection of images of Wisconsin High School in the UW-Madison Collections. Including these two:

The construction of the Wisconsin High School building in 1913

Wisconsin High School in 1933 (the street on the right is University Avenue)

To see more photos of Wisconsin High School, as well as read a brief history of the school and the building that housed it, click HERE (if you haven't already used the link above). You'll also find photos of the razing of the building if you use the link.


D Strand said...

Growing up on the 900 block of East Mifflin Street in the 50's and 60's, I went to all of the high school football games across the street at Breese. I always felt kind of sad for Wisconsin High. They played their games on Sunjday afternoons since all the other schools took the field on Friday and Saturday nights. They had to compete with the Packers on TV. The Pack had quite a bit better team as I don't think that I ever saw Whiskey High win a game. But I remember that their colors were blue and white!

Anonymous said...

Hi Nadine,
Are you aware that there are several wall cases (ground floor, right) in the new building that trace the history of WHS with photos, etc. An excellent display.

WHS '59

Chris said...

Definitely check out the display cases on the ground floor of the Biotech center. There are over a hundred old photos of life at the school as well as memorabilia.