Chapter Fourteen- The Eschweiler Buildings


Located on Watertown Plank Rd. in Wauwatosa, these vacant buildings hold a lot of wonder.  It’s hard to find concrete records on what exactly they were used for after their original purpose, and rumors say the campus was anything from a TB sanitarium to an insane asylum.  But here’s what I do know: Alexander C. Eschweiler designed five buildings in 1912 to be the county’s School of Agriculture and Domestic Economy.  The school’s enrollment was good for a year or two, but dwindled down and eventually the school closed in 1928.  Since that time, it’s reported that it served as The Milwaukee Home for Dependent Children, Milwaukee County Children’s Home, A DNR Headquarters, a space for SWAT training (perhaps adding to the apparent vandalism?), and also as the Milwaukee County University Extension Office.  It appears that some of the buildings have been occupied and some not throughout the years.

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At any rate, there is and effort to Save the Eschweilers and the Monarch Butterfly Habitat, as well as interest by the Mandel Group, Inc. to demo at least some of the buildings and construct new apartment complexes.  There is also an effort and plan for a Forest Exploration Center, serving grades 6-12 (more here).  I haven’t done enough research to say my piece on any of these plans besides my initial thoughts…it would take an insane amount of money and time to update/repair these buildings, but the thought of more huge and unimaginative apartment complexes makes me want to vomit.  And the butterflies?!  We all know how important insects are, right?

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I put filters on the above photos to create a creepy feel, which is what I had imagined this post looking like.  However, I have to admit that the campus was beautiful and the nature surrounding was peaceful.  There were a few trails with signs about treading lightly because of the butterfly habitat.  Huge trees shaded nice lawns, flowers were blooming, and I even saw a deer in the trees.  This really was a nice place to walk around, and it was cool to view the buildings from outside.

All of the windows are boarded up, and there is a serious amount of vandalism in the buildings.  I had zero desire to enter the structures because the one broken window I looked in had a COLD and WET and MOLDY WIND bellowing out of it.  Not a “damp draft”.  Cold and constant wind that gave me the shivers.  Plus it appears the buildings have had such serious neglect and damage, I wouldn’t want to dishonor them any more by treading on them.

I’ll participate by walking around, taking photos on a foggy day, doing research into the future of the grounds, and imagining what this place could be.  For now, it’s a neat place to see some wildlife and feel like I’ve gone just a bit back in time.

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I hope whoever ends up taking care of these grounds has community (including the animals and insects that are a part of it) into consideration.  Cause that’s sort of my thing.

See you next week!

A. Storm

Write us your thoughts about this post. Be kind & Play nice.
  1. jamie says:

    Amber, these are awesome photos! Has Will been here? It seems like a nice backdrop for a film. It also seems like it has huge potential to be someplace very cool… if only money wasn’t an obstacle.

    • amber says:

      Thanks Jamie! I don’t think he has yet, but I know he’s been talking about it for a while. And yeah, stinkin’ money 🙁

  2. smudge says:

    A friend and I want to walk around here and take pictures but we are not quite sure how to get up by the buildings where would you recommend we walk from?

    • amber says:

      It’ll be a bit of a walk, but you can park near the Hanson Golf Course (Swan Blvd and Underwood Pkwy in Wauwatosa) and make your way to the buildings. Hope this helps and thanks for reading!

  3. Tom says:

    You can also park at the Milwaukee County Parks Department parking lot on Watertown plank rd. You can walk from there to the old School of Agriculture and Domestic Economy. Be careful of the construction going on there.

  4. Paul Ayala says:

    I was one of the children at the children’s home cottages
    from 1965 to 1968

  5. Susan watson says:

    I was in the children’s home 1958 to 1963 they were so nice. The building you show is where I had my confirmation .the church was in the attic they would open the door on the fire escape it was hot in there there were lilac bushes in the front. We would sing and crown the Mary statue in may. All the rest of those buildings were already empty then

    • amber says:

      Wow, thanks for sharing, Susan! It’s so great to have first hand account and hear stories about the buildings. Your memories of the lilacs and traditions are so valuable.


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