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The student news site of Cedarburg High School

Common Sense

the student newspaper site of Cedarburg High School, Cedarburg, Wisconsin

The student news site of Cedarburg High School

Common Sense

The student news site of Cedarburg High School

Common Sense

Established in 1896: the roots of CHS

Ellie Lisiecki
This 1926 “Cedariel” yearbook is displayed at the Cedarburg History Museum.

Educational Roots, 1840s-1890s

Although it is obvious CHS has changed since its establishment over a century ago, we probably do not stop to think about how much it has evolved. 

According to Cedarburg History Museum director Joel Willems, in the early days of Cedarburg, its residents, primarily German and Irish immigrants, had no central school. However, education was far from forgotten.

The first building serving as the general school for all the kids to attend was Trinity Lutheran Church,” Willems said. “After the Civil War, the first public school house, a one-room structure, was built where Advent Lutheran Church is now.”

There was a spread of one-room schoolhouses throughout the area. Private homes were also common locations for classes before the construction of the first Cedarburg Grade School in 1894.

In Wisconsin, school attendance was not mandatory until 1879, and high schools in particular were quite rare. Because children would typically only attend classes until they were deemed old enough to work full-time, high school was viewed as unnecessary for students unless they were planning to go to university. 

Framed against this backdrop of minimal education, Cedarburg residents decided to start providing high school level education in 1896.

The “First” CHS, 1896-1908

“Laying of Corner Stone of High School Building” ceremony program, 1908

Last year, I noticed an emblem just outside of the front office, on the wall near the ceiling: Cedarburg High School, Est. 1896. Wait, 1896? This school doesn’t look that old I thought in my ignorance. I later learned that the Evergreen Boulevard building was not the original 1896 schoolhouse. Instead, that title goes to the old Cedarburg Grade School, now the Senior Center. 

Apparently, the first generation of CHS graduates shared the Grade School with the younger kids until construction of the official Cedarburg High School was completed in 1908. That building still stands and is now the City Hall on Washington Avenue. If you ever happen to be near it, look up high above the main double doors, near the roofline, and you’ll see the words “High School” chiseled into the stone facade. 

In the 1926 “Cedariel” yearbook I came across a passage by Florence Filitz, a member of the yearbook staff at that time. She wrote, “The first class to begin its high school career in the history of Cedarburg began its studies in the fall of 1896… When the first commencement exercises took place in June, 1899, there were just twelve graduates anxiously waiting for their diplomas.” While a graduating class of a dozen may not sound like a lot now, that was an important stepping stone toward our current school population of over 1,000. 

Switching It Up, 1955-1957

Students attended school at the “City Hall” building for about 60 years. Eventually, the decision was made to construct a new building for the high schoolers on Evergreen Boulevard. 

Construction began in 1955 and was finished a couple years later, with the first classes in the new building starting in 1956. 

Willems said that several older residents of Cedarburg remember carrying books and other materials between the old and new school in preparation for its opening. 


Modern Day, 2023

Generations of high schoolers passed through the doors of the current building before any additional major changes. After the addition of a new gym, swimming pool and other amenities and rooms, there was still more in store for the building. 

Extensive renovations began after a $59.8 million plan to renovate the school district in 2018. According to the Groth Design Group’s portfolio, some of the new and improved spots were the cafeteria, the commons, and the addition of “extensive STEAM areas.” 

Henricksen, the company that won the bid to create new furniture for the school, said that the district wanted to “update some of their old furniture to more ergonomic and flexible options.” 

With construction finished in August of 2020, the renovation was ready for its next generations of students. 

No matter the location or appearance of the building itself, our school will aim to keep its spirit of learning and progress alive for years to come.

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