Saying farewell – and hello – to Tosa’s McKinley School

Saying farewell – and hello – to Tosa’s McKinley School

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On this edition of Urban Spelunking, we’re bidding farewell to a 1930 Wauwatosa school building that was razed last week, and we preview the new school taking its place and bearing the same name.

McKinley School, 2435 N. 89th St., was built in the Art Deco style and served students for nearly 100 years, up until as recently as this June when the last students packed up.

As one McKinley school is being razed, another school takes its place. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee

While the building was showing its age, it did boast handsome terra cotta details on the exterior and interesting tile work.

Some of those details were incorporated into the design of the new school, including original colorful tile mosaics.

“They were designed to make schoolchildren feel welcome at school, to enjoy the learning environment, and to feel at home.  They were meant to capture student’s imaginations, nurture their creativity, and foster their appreciation for art.  Nowadays, these tiles can still teach students craft, beauty, and how to imagine creative ways to use wall spaces,” said terra cotta artist and expert and art teach Ben Tyjeski, quoted in

Tile mosaics preserved from the original school building. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee
Framed bits of terra cotta facade mounted in the new school. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee

The new school building is designed by Plunkett Raysich Architects and been taking shape around the original school. Construction is nearly complete, and the school will offer many modern amenities for students, including larger and more flexible classrooms and technology integrated throughout the school.

Listen to this week’s podcast to learn more about McKinley’s future, and more about how the school’s history was preserved for the community. And be sure to visit for more photos.

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