Historic Properties – “Shawano has History”

Franklin School


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A Brief History

  Franklin School
210 South Franklin Street
Shawano, Wisconsin

by Jane Glenz

In 1876, Shawano was granted a city charter and the city fathers, led by Henry Nabor and L.D. Roberts, saw as one of their major responsibilities the development of a 1-12 grade school system. In 1879, they began formalizing Shawano’s educational system. In that year, on July 14th, the Shawano City School District was officially created by the State of Wisconsin. However, it was under the jurisdiction of the county superintendent until 1920, when its own superintendent of schools position was created.

The first high school classes were held in 1879 in the second floor of the McCord Building located on the corner of Main and Green Bay Street. The hall was rented for classrooms at five dollars per month. The balance of the upstairs was used as an opera house, a skating rink, and a general meeting place, while the downstairs was a general store. Thirty-one young people applied for admission as students; twenty-nine passed the admission examination, two failed.

L.D. Roberts was chosen as the first principal of the district which included grades 1 – 12. The first high school class graduated in 1881. There were four graduates that year: Edward Farnsworth, George Martin, Clarence Mann, and Marietta Munn.

Soon the number of students outgrew the building and the facilities proved inadequate. The high school was then moved to Lincoln School with the upper half of the building holding the high school classes and the lower half the grade school.

In 1887, a new brick building was built to replace the old Lincoln School at a cost of $8,000. The high school remained here until 1902 when a separate high school was built.  With increased enrollment in both elementary and high school, it was decided to build a separate high school.  The building was on the corner of Franklin and Presbyterian Streets and named, Franklin School.

In a May 1902 newpaper article, the new high school was described as follows:  “The contract is being let for a handsome new high school building to cost $12,000. The design is a very complete one. The building will be 40×81 feet in size with two entrances, south and west. The basement will contain boys’ and girls’ toilet rooms, with play rooms connected with each; furnace room, engine room and fuel room. On the first floor there will be one large grade room, 25×36 feet, and three recitation rooms, respectively 17 ½ x 20, 20×20, and 14×20 feet in size, with laboratory 9×17 feet, recitation room, 20×20 feet, president’s office, 14×20 feet and all necessary cloak rooms.  The interior finish will be of Georgia pine.  The architects are Chandler & Park, of Racine, Wisconsin and when the building is complete it will be one of the most complete school buildings in the state. Shawano is destined to be double her size in a short time.”

This remained as the high school until 1916 when a new Franklin School was ordered due to increased enrollment.  In 1917, the new building was constructed just to the north of the old high school.  It was vacant after that and was finally torn down in 1932 after serving the community for 30 years.

Below is part of an article from the Shawano County Advocate (March 3, 1917) which describes this new $100,000 high school.

The new high school will be one of the most complete in northern Wisconsin and many new conveniences not found in other schools have been installed. The main part of the building is 154 by 160 but this is not solid as it is built in a T shape. The exterior is dark red with white mortar and looks attractive. The stone work gets the building off in nice shape. There are practically three stories to the building, the basement and two other floors, but the basement being all above ground makes it light as any of the other floors.

On the south side of the basement the manual training department will be situated, and the rooms will consist of a drawing room, bench room, stock room and a small room for the instructor . . . On the other side of the basement is the domestic science department. On the first floor will be the principal’s office commercial and typewriting rooms and one or two recitation rooms. The second floor will be found the large auditorium.

Many at first glance do not like the looks of the small windows in the building, but it is said that all of the modern school buildings are built that way at the present time, claiming that the small glass is much better accustomed for school purposes.

In 1933, an addition was built to the high school. This was a PWA project when the gymnasium was extended to Washington Street. Two new classrooms on the second floor and new shower rooms were also installed. Two stories were also built over the boiler room. In 1958, there were other improvements. The main study hall was shortened to provide for a library and two classrooms. Another addition was completed in 1963. This included a suite of offices for Joint District #8, the Board of Education room, office and supply room for the superintendent, kitchen and cafeteria, two guidance offices, three classrooms and a music room.

Beginning in the 1940’s the State of Wisconsin began the movement to consolidate the rural and urban schools. In 1948, Shawano became a part of this process. Shawano and surrounding rural grade schools became Joint District No. 8. The new district included 22 branch schools and two central schools — Gresham and Shawano. District No. 8 became one of the largest integrated school districts in the State of Wisconsin. It had an enrollment of 2300 students and a teaching staff of over 100.

The school board realized with the increased enrollment; a new high school would have to be built. After much discussion and investigation they made this recommendation. On July 11, 1953, after the need for a new school had been stressed repeatedly in the newspapers, over the radio, and at public meetings, the citizens voted to bond the district $725,000.

On September 1st, the site was chosen by the electors. According to the sketches prepared by the architect, the new school would include a practice football field, a half-mile track, parking lot, three softball diamonds, one baseball diamond, five tennis courts, and sheltered bus loading facilities next to the building.

Construction was started in the spring of 1954 and in 1955, the high school was moved to the new school on Union Street which was made up of grades 10-12. In 1968, the ninth grade was moved to the high school and Franklin Junior High became Franklin Middle School, included grades six, seven and eight. With the construction of a new high school, the middle school was moved to the “old” high school on Union Street and Franklin School was left vacant and razed in 1998. Today, the block has been transformed into Franklin Park.