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Thursday

August 2014

21

Fred H. Keller | Retrospect


Sussex High School building saved 25 years ago

Last week was part one of the story on Sussex Main Street School, which had a start in 1849, a continuation in 1867 and a disastrous fire that destroyed totally the Sussex Main Street School (Then also a two-year high school) on Jan. 30, 1922.

The fire consumed the school to leave only the bare walls of the two-story, four-room red brick building. There was no fire department in Sussex back then, but it immediately gave a reason to start a department (volunteer company), which by mid-May, 1922, was activated and initially called the Lisbon No. 1 Volunteer Fire Co., which evolved into the Sussex Volunteer Fire Company and later into the Sussex Fire Department.

Now with the pride of the great Sussex community in ashes, there was need for areas to use as classrooms. The two Main Street Sussex churches volunteered to loan space plus the loft area of the downtown Marsden-Lees General Store building was pressed into use, and the school year was completed.

The first order of business at the ruins of the school was to take down the walls left and save some bricks for new construction, and haul the debris away. Walt Steuwe was hired to do the job.

The next problem was finances. Only $20,000 was received from the fire insurance settlement. It was estimated that the replacement would cost $35,000 to $40,000, but finally some twisting and squirming resulted in a cost of $26,000 with L.F. Schroeder getting the bid. The new school was approximately one-third larger, as a double set of interior stairs were built in case of a future fire while school was in session. It opened in September 1922.

The high school of two years was retained (started in 1920), thus a first to tenth grade. The high school part would last until the state closed down these types of community two-year high schools in 1947. During the 1920 to 1947 era, if a student wanted to go onto a four-year high school, his or her main options were to go to Menomonee Falls, Waukesha or Pewaukee High Schools.

Even though the Sussex Main Street School dropped the two-year high school, the school with a vast increase of students, especially when the Lisbon country one-rooms schools closed, was growing by leaps and bounds, and in the 1950s, there were two major additions. Two construction periods added the Richard Drive School, even kindergarten was added in this period. Main Orchard School became so crowded that in 1962, a whole new school was constructed on the Bob Stier farmland on south Maple Avenue.

In 1958-62, the school systems in Sussex became part of the emerging Hamilton School District.

However, after a crescendo of school population and lower population per household (smaller families) hit in the 1970s Main Street School, and the adjacent Orchard Drive School closed for good in 1978-79, with the village taking over. New uses were found for the viable Orchard Drive School, as it became the Sussex Library in 1980.

Next week, this feature will continue at the 1988 mark when there is a drive by the Village to destroy the 1922-built Sussex Main Street School.

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