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Uncovering decades of hidden history at Marquette University High School

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A cepia-toned historical photo of a three-story school building with barren trees around it.
Marquette University High School / OnMilwaukee

Every week on Urban Spelunking, Radio Milwaukee’s Nate Imig and OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo dig into the buildings and architectural features that help retain the city’s sense of history while it builds for the future.

On this week's episode, we head to the hidden corners of Marquette University High School to find surprising student history dating back generations.

Immediately upon his recent visit, Bobby's guide took him to the auditorium to see where hundreds — if not thousands — of students have left their marks. Handwritten graffiti bearing their' names line every surface of the walls in the theater's backstage area, continuing high into the fly area above and surrounding the stage. The colorful and striking graffiti goes back decades.

“These signatures go all the way back,” social studies teacher and alum Chris Lese told Bobby in his OnMilwaukee article. “The oldest I found is the ‘50s. It's just become a tradition that you do. When I was a student here, you had to do three shows to get your name on the wall. Now we've lightened it up. You need to do one.”

In this episode, Bobby shares more about how the tradition has continued. Then, we discuss an impressive archive of student work locked away in the basement and an upcoming group trip for students to experience Wisconsin's connection to World War II history.

Listen to this week's episode, be sure to subscribe to Urban Spelunking so you never miss an episode as we explore notable Milwaukee architecture, and visit OnMilwaukee for Bobby's complete story and even more photos.

Director of Digital Content | Radio Milwaukee