Eschweiler Buildings – Wauwatosa, WI

 

The Eschweiler buildings sitting on top of the hill on Swan Blvd in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin have been around since 1912. As of February 2016 these buildings look nothing like the pictures depict. They’ve been developed into condos now with now leasing signs. I shot the inside of these buildings several years ago in 20 degree weather. All of them very dark with little to no light. I used a generator and large sodium vapor lights in order to capture as much as possible. You’ll see them in some of the pictures along with 500ft of extension cords.

In 1912 Milwaukee County had the largest rural populations in the state and opened the School of Agriculture and Domestic Economy. To build the school the county purchased 206 acres of  land five miles west of downtown Milwaukee for $72,100 (or $350/acre). Milwaukee architect Alex C. Eschweiler was tapped to design the main campus Neo-Gothic style facilities. Structures for the school include four class buildings, one administration building, a dormitory, power house, barn, greenhouses, poultry sheds, and other smaller buildings.

The high school focused on areas of study specific to agriculture. Students were given hands-on technical training, such as this practical example of how to build a farm shed. Graduates of the school were given a leg up for enrollment in the University of Wisconsin System thereafter. Milwaukee Country residents could attend the school free of charge, while non-residents paid $27 for tuition. Heavy advertising and early momentum lead to strong enrollment for the 1912-13 school year with 243 students. By the next 1913-14 school year, however, enrollment dropped to 206.  1914-15 saw enrollment precipitated further to 191. Average class attendance rates were even less than that ranging from 118-146 (source). Attendance dwindled continuously until 1928 when Milwaukee County concluded that it could no longer justify the cost of operating the school.

While researching this location online sources mention that these buildings were later used as a tuberculosis clinic and/or mental hospital. The location is often conflated with the Muirdale Sanitorium, which is now a part of the Milwaukee County Research Park. Groups interested in preserving the location make no mention of the location being used for medical activities when writing about the history. Another general misunderstanding about the former School of Agriculture buildings involves the closest structure to the site, which is currently occupied by the Milwaukee County Parks Department. This structure actually used to be the location of the the Milwaukee Home for Dependent Children in the 1940’s. These mistakes are forgivable, but the websites that claim the School of Agriculture is haunted do this location a severe disservice to its history.