Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Forest Exploration Center Considers The Eschweilers

Construction Projects, County Grounds, Eschweiler Buildings, FEC Charter School, Forest Exploration Center, Historic Preservation



Photo - Wauwatosa Historical Society

For those who have an interest in saving the Eschweiler buildings on the county grounds there's reason for hope.

While far from certain - the Forest Exploration Center (FEC) is considering the reuse of one or more of the Eschweiler buildings for its planned charter school.  The FEC has set into motion a study of project costs for renovation and reuse as a school.

Some of you already know that the FEC has been planning a unique community center that includes an extraordinary school.  It would be located on the historic Milwaukee County grounds in Wauwatosa.  Our hope is for it to become an integral community resource for learning and technological advances.  You're probably also wondering what any of this has to do with historic preservation.

If you think about it - the greenest building is the one you already have.  Furthermore, the reuse of an old school - as a school - makes some sense.  If the numbers can be made to work.  It is also helpful that the Eschweilers are conveniently located directly across Swan Boulevard from the 67 acre woodland connected to the FEC.

If you put your mind to it there's plenty of possibilities.  Old buildings saved.  Doors are opened to a broad donor base.  There's plenty of room for classrooms, offices, a community center, a fabrication lab, a wood lab, a science center and a theater.  Room to expand as enrollment grows.  Much more too.

On Monday a number of us - along with architects, engineers and consultants - put on our work boots and grabbed our flashlights to tour the five remaining structures.  The administration, dormitory, dairy, engineering and power plant buildings. 

Tile roofs

Huge concrete foundations and load-bearing walls enveloped in red brick.

Robust supports

And once you get your mind beyond all the broken glass, beer cans and graffiti the bones of these buildings are in remarkable condition. 

I'm told that the lime-based mortar used in the construction of the Eschweilers has suited them well.  Allowing for expansion and contraction of the brick walls and avoiding the spalling and crumbling found in some old buildings.

The power plant building isn't completely boarded-up.  And it offers a hint of what large expanses of windows offer on a sunny day.

And there's no dank, musty smell.  Of course there are still plenty of holes to let the great outdoors in.  There are even creepy underground steam tunnels that connect the buildings.  I think vampires and zombies live here.

Above ground the view to the east is quite remarkable.

The next step is to crunch the numbers and continue talking with interested parties.

Stay tuned.

Go here to learn more about the Forest Exploration Center.

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