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Whitewater’s 20th Century Schools

In 1927, Whitewater citizens approved building the first 20th century school building, a high

school. Unlike 19th century schools, this “modern” school reflected a new emphasis on physical education and vocational training and included a large gymnasium and classrooms for agriculture, shop, business, and home economics classes. The building also included eight

classrooms for west side elementary school students who had been taught for over 30 years in an old house.

Whitewater High School, built 1927, later the Franklin Junior High School. Image from the collections of the Whitewater Historical Society.

The new high school was a showplace and served Whitewater for decades. But the post-World War II “baby boom” put strain on this building as well as the east side elementary school (Washington School). As early as 1947, the school board began talking about building new facilities for an elementary west side school, freeing up the elementary school rooms for high school classes. In 1953, the new West Side Grade School was completed. This school, with additions and remodeling, still serves the community as the LINCS or Lincoln School today.

West Side School, later Lincoln School, original appearance. Image from the collections of the Whitewater Historical Society.

The East Side or Washington School was originally built in 1857 and added to in the 1870s. It

was too small and outdated for the “baby boomers,” and in 1955, a modern wing was added. In 1966, the old school building was removed for a large addition to the 1955 wing. The 1955

wing, was in turn, demolished and the Washington School that is in use today is an enlarged and remodeled version of the 1966 school building.

East Side School, later Washington School with 1955 addition. Image from the collections of the Whitewater Historical Society.

Lakeview School resulted from the school consolidation movement of the 1950s. Up to that

time, most rural schools were run by their own local districts and tightly controlled by the farm

communities that supported them. As early as the 1910’s and 20s, some rural districts merged to build newer multi-room schools with better facilities, but most rural districts clung to their local control and one-room schools.

In the 1950s, funding for schools became dependent on state revenue and with this funding came new rules from the state superintendent’s office. Most one-room schools could not meet state standards. But many rural families still wanted local control, so they began consolidating with other rural districts to build facilities that would meet state criteria, but with which they could retain local control. In 1956, this consolidation effort resulted in eight individual districts in the Towns of Whitewater, Richmond, and La Grange to merge into a new Joint District #1 to build a modern school building, which they did that year on the west side of Whitewater Lake.

The baby boom affected rural areas as well, and within two years, an addition was made to

Lakeview School. By 1961, the state of Wisconsin demanded that all elementary school districts be attached to districts with high schools. Parents of Lakeview School had to determine which district they would attach to and chose Whitewater since most of their students went on to Whitewater High School.

To absorb all of Lakeview’s students, the Whitewater School District would have had to make

major additions to their elementary schools or build a new school in town. Because Lakeview

was a modern school that met state standards, it was determined to maintain this facility as an

elementary school in the Whitewater School District. It has remained so since that time, being

updated and enlarged along with other schools in the district.

By the end of the 1950s, the old high school was again overcrowded and as baby boomers were flooding the elementary schools, the school board determined that a new high school was needed along with the transformation of the old high school into a junior high school. This was accomplished in 1959-60, when a new high school building was completed. It still serves today as the Whitewater Middle School.

Whitewater High School, built 1959-60, now the Middle School. Image from the collections of the Whitewater Historical Society.

The baby boom generation created a small population boom of their own, and a new high school was built in 1994. The old 1959-60 high school building became the “middle school” for 6ththrough 8th graders, and shortly afterward, the 1927 high school (Franklin Junior High School)

that started the modern school era, was demolished.

*If using this article, please cite, Carol Lohry Cartwright, “Whitewater’s 20th Century Schools,”

2016, Whitewater Historical Society website, Whitewater, WI.

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