Historic Properties – “Shawano has History”

Lincoln School


Photo Gallery

A Brief History

  Lincoln School
237 South Sawyer Street
Shawano, Wisconsin

by Jane Glenz

Lincoln School is significant in the development of the Shawano school system because it was the first school built for the purpose of educating students after Shawano incorporated as a village in 1871. Before this, there were rural schools but no organized school system. There have been three schools where the current Lincoln School is located on Sawyer Street and all have been named, Lincoln School.

The first public Lincoln School building was constructed on the present Lincoln school site in 1871, and used as a school until 1887. This first school was a wooden two story building consisting of two rooms and a recitation room. Caroline Magee was the first teacher. The building was later moved to Main Street so a new school could be built. Later it was moved to South Main, next to The Farmers Brewery, where it was used as a furniture store but was torn down in 1990.

In 1887, a new brick building was built to replace the old Lincoln School at a cost of $8,000. Along with elementary classes, the high school remained in Lincoln School until 1902 when a separate high school was built. The second Lincoln School was destroyed by fire in 1924. Fire was a common occurrence in schools at this time.

The following is a description of that fire taken from the Shawano County Advocate (March 4, 1924):

At about two o’clock Friday morning the fire alarm sounded and it was soon learned that it was the Lincoln school building. Some neighbors living near first saw a fire in the northeast corner of the building and gave the alarm . . . It was fifteen or twenty minutes before the fire fighters got to work as they could not get a team or truck to take the hose cart over to the school building . . . The fire spread rapidly. It was thought that the new addition might be saved and the fire department had a number of streams on the building within a short time, but the fire had too good a start and not a thing was saved from the entire building. We have been informed that the insurance on the building is $36,400 as the loss was total.

In 1925, a third  Lincoln School was built on the same site.  It cost approximately $130,000 and was considered, at that time, to be one of the “most up-to-date school buildings in any city in Wisconsin.”  The fire that destroyed the original Lincoln School in 1924 presented city leaders with an opportunity to expand their approach to education.  They planned a school that would serve children from kindergarten through eighth grade in the burgeoning progressive model.

The 1925 Lincoln School, designed in the Collegiate Gothic style, embodied the most current philosophies in education and school design at the time it was built. Educators believed in a diverse curriculum that would provide children with a broad foundation of knowledge and skills. To foster these goals, school buildings were designed with specialized spaces including a library, manual training and domestic science rooms, and a gymnasium with shower rooms.  The architectural firm of Parkinson and Dockendorff, a specialist in modern school design, created a school with modern amenities such as central heating, electricity and indoor plumbing. Classrooms were large and expansive windows provided abundant natural light and ventilation. Perhaps most charming is the kindergarten classroom, which in an effort to project a home-like environment for very small children, included a fireplace and built-in window seats around a large bay window.

The Lincoln School is the oldest surviving school building in Shawano, and is the only remaining school building constructed in the city prior to World War II. The building served as the district elementary school until 2011 when it was sold and developed into apartments.

Lincoln School, located at 237 South Sawyer Street in Shawano, Wisconsin was listed on the National and State Historic Registers in 2013.