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Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history
(1998)

8. Education,   pp. 147-164


Page 155

specialized classrooms. In 1893, the school board formed a committee to select a site for a new
high school building. The Romanesque-style Janesville High School was completed by
December 1895 at 58 S. High St. (not extant). (Cadman 1959:24-26)
After only 20 years, the new high school, too, was overcrowded. Interest in the high school
program and a general population increase in Janesville caused the same overcrowding that
had occurred in the old high school building. A 1918 educational survey of Janesville,
conducted by the State Superintendent of Schools, reported that the 1895 high school, built for
about 400 students, currently had 530 students. The school's physical plant was overtaxed, and
the site did not allow for expansion. (Cadman 1959:31; Cary 1918:11, 17-18)
The report suggested two alternatives to relieve the overcrowding. The first was to construct a
new junior-senior high school at a site that would accommodate future growth and large
playgrounds and/or athletic fields. The second was to construct only a new high school and
build a large addition to the Lincoln elementary school for use as a junior high school. Adding
urgency to the decision was the announcement in 1918 that the General Motors Corporation
intended to build a large tractor factory in Janesville. The new factory would bring new
families to the community, rapidly increasing the student population. (Cary 1918:11; A School
and Community 1985:1-7)
To begin to solve the problem Janesville citizens in early 1919 voted to build a new high school.
The Milwaukee architectural firm of Van Ryn & DeGelleke was hired to draw the plans. The
school board purchased a site at 408 S. Main St., and the new high school building was
completed in 1923. Like the previous two high schools built in Janesville, the new building was
a showplace. The exterior of red brick with cut Bedford limestone trim was modestly decorated
in the popular Collegiate Gothic style. But the interior of the building was lavish, with fine
woodwork, marble fountains, an auditorium, and two swimming pools. (A School and
Community 1985:23-24)
The raised basement of the new school included pools for boys and girls, locker rooms,
vocational shops, a cafeteria, and a modem physical plant. The first floor featured the main
attraction of the building, the auditorium. Seating 1,600, the beautifully appointed
auditorium included a balcony, a theater-size stage, a scenery loft, dressing rooms, and a
projection booth. Other facilities on the first floor included offices, a lecture hall, home
economics rooms, and separate boys' and girls' gymnasiums. The second floor featured a library,
music rooms, classrooms, and study halls. The third floor housed all of the science, commercial
course, and art rooms. After a few years, a junior high school program was also housed in this
building. The new Janesville High School served the community until after World War II, then
became a junior high school. Most recently, the building housed Marshall Middle School before
a new middle school building opened in January 1997. (A School and Community 1985:24)
After World War II, increased enrollment crowded the high school building. In 1948, the
school board decided to build a new high school for grades 10-12, convert the old high school
into a three-year junior high school, and continue the seven-year elementary schools. A site on
Randall Avenue was purchased in 1949, but a controversy over this plan delayed construction of
the new high school until 1955. That year, the new Janesville Senior High School opened at
401 S. Randall Ave. (Cadman 1959:35-38)
During the 1960s and early 1970s, more emphasis was placed on secondary education in the
Janesville School District, as the baby boomers entered junior and senior high school. The result
was the construction of a new senior high school, completed in 1967-1968. Now that there were
two high schools in Janesville, they needed new names. Retaining the great Americans theme
and focusing on important industrialists in Janesville's history, the two high schools became
Education
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