building of the week – Wisconsin industrial school for boys




Key Project Information

Address:                              621 & 627 West College Avenue, Waukesha WI

Year Built:                            1911 & 1936

National Register of Historic Places Designation:                1987



621 West College Avenue

Architectural Style:          Twentieth Century Commercial

Historical Use:                   Education

Current Use:                      Education




627 West College Avenue

Architectural Style:          Collegiate Gothic

Historical Use:                   Dormitory

Current Use:                      Education



The state authorized a House of Refuge in Waukesha in 1857.  In 1859 the name was changed to the State Reform School; the school opened in 1860 and served both male and female juvenile delinquents.  After 1870 the school accepted only boys and accordingly changed its name to The Industrial School for Boys.  The name was again changed to the Wisconsin School for Boys in 1945.1

The original school complex included the Bethesda mineral spring, a 233 acre farm, and factories to manufacture such items as boots and shoes, mittens and socks, and brooms and chairs.  The farm and shops not only allowed the student/inmates to create items needed at the school, but also items for State profit.  The system of manual labor was intended to provide the boys with marketable skills as well as discipline.2

The buildings at 621 & 627 West College Avenue were built as part of the Wisconsin Industrial School for Boys in the early 1900s, and remain in place today as a reminder of the school’s long history on the site.


1              https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Article/CS2367

2              https://www.linkstothepast.com/waukesha/scindboy.php           







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