The Architectural Atrocity of my Childhood: Lane Intermediate

I attended Lane Intermediate school in West Allis from 2014 to 2017. The experience was similar or close to, I’m assuming, a typical one. Just like any other middle school, kids were lost either mentally or literally, including myself, as far as I don’t remember. I do not recall it all; many memories and moments have been blurred to my discretion. But, I do recall a generalization of my years there, and the defining characteristics that make me miss the school. Sometimes.

We first lead up to my years there with a historical overview, as I, along with the rest of the class of 2021 who were there with me, are part of its history.




 

1921

Lane School, as named back then, was built.

Well, not all of it.

The middle section, the heart of the entire present building, was the first part of the school to exist. It served as an elementary school to the future silent generation.



As demonstrated by the green line, Madison Street used to run across the property, connecting both sides of the school.

The origins of Lane came out of necessity, as West Allis was incorporated as a city 15 years prior in 1906. The property was built on the edge of the Milwaukee area almost a century ago. It served young children of West Allis, as well as surrounding townships. One hundred years later, the school is now in the midst of the urban municipality. The school was built with future expansion in mind, as in future neighborhoods; the school itself, not so much.


The origin of the name ‘Lane’ is largely unknown, although I’m sure someone at the west Allis historical district could tell me otherwise. Perhaps it is due to the highway it stands next to; Then United States highway 45, now Wisconsin 100, was originally named Lovers Lane Road. The road still holds this namesake in both Franklin and Milwaukee.


The very original building is not encapsulated in the photo, as additions came in 1936, 1942, 1949 and 1951.


1954

Lane school served portions of the towns of Wauwatosa and Greenfield until the land was annexed to the city of west Allis in 1954.

1960

Lane school was given a new, large southern-end addition, and the former then-northern section was entirely remodeled.



As the old building was merely classrooms and a surface lot(as far as I know), the addition gave the school a cafeteria, a gym, an auditorium, and numerous rooms.


1970-1973

My dad attended Lane school, as Lane now became a middle school from the previous addition.


1982

The building closed, as demand was low for public school students of the age range. Middle schoolers of the 80’s already had multiple options, such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Lincoln. The building was then sold and became Heritage Christian School, a sort-of religious cult private school... thing.


2006

The north end of the school was now 85 years old, and Heritage Christian demanded restitution. They got it in the form of a new addition.



The school was now in its present form, with a resurfaced parking lot, new playground to the far north, and a pizza parlor stuck in the middle of it all. The new addition was made out of fire resistant materials such as anything not wooden.


The northern end supplied 2 new offices, more classrooms, a brand new gym, and fake windows(more on that later).


2014

The West Allis-West Milwaukee School District announced that they had purchased the building back from defunct Heritage Christian, and was converting it back to a middle school. It was announced that future 6th graders in the class of 2021 would be the first class to return, with the classes of 2022 and 23 following soon after in 2015 and 2016 to refill all three years.



The patriots were picked to be the new mascot for the school, simply to fuel preteen’s angst against the Packers.

In short, I was in the first class to return to Lane after it’s reopening, and I think that’s pretty interesting.

2020, present day

Lane serves as a middle school in the WAWM school district online, and will return to physical services when the COVID-19 outbreak terminates.


 

Lane’s history isn’t very interesting among the most interesting things on earth, yet it is most likely more interesting than any other school’s history.

For example, Nathan Hale High school was built in 1965, 55 years later, same thing. What a fantastic lesson.


It was fascinating to attend this school, due to the people, the classes, the environment. But, most of all, the fascination of mine lies in the building’s obscene, unusual architecture.


Walking through the building is like a travel through time. Nearly 100 years of adaptation in architecture can be seen and contrasted quite literally simultaneously, as one can stand in both the old and new additions at the same time.

The newest addition gives cold, uninviting feelings, as the lockers are shades of masonry red, and the walls are lined with brown molding and tan cement bricks. A few classrooms have no windows, as they are pressed against the hallway and walls of the new gymnasium.




All 3 phases and styles can be seen from the view along Wisconsin 100.

The new addition consists of typical school amenities, and is pretty cohesive in its layout and design.

Walking down the second floor hallway, one is led into the oldest part of the building, as the walls are wood,the floor is dark, the windows are dirty. Some rooms aren’t even serviceable, as they are still being remodeled to this day. This section of the building is the most inviting, in my opinion, as the section evokes warm, vivid feelings and perhaps even nostalgia, justified by the stained ceiling tiles, the wooden floors and chalkboards, the aged wooden window trims and molding. Or maybe it’s warm just because this section isn’t air-conditioned.





For the middle-aged section of the building, the southern portion, one must head downstairs, as it is purely one story.


Where Madison street once traveled was now a yellow hallway, with shades of white and blue sprinkled in. It is somewhat clear what the intentions were for this part, as it is bright, yet it appears aged. Light is seen at each end, as glass doors mark the eastern and western ends of the school.


West end

East end

The cafeteria is bright and spacious and full of windows; it is the best designed part of the school in my opinion.



The gym and auditorium show their age extremely well. Although recently revitalized, the carpeted, textured walls are straight out of the fault of the 60’s, as well as the exterior tiling that adorns the southern exterior  wall in blue, chipping off bit by bit.


Towards the southern ends of the school are abandoned rooms and service areas and amenities, sections that no students shall enter. Ever (again, that is).


The yellow hallway swings right and heads south towards the very depths of the school, reaching towards the music rooms and 2 doors that no one knows what holds.




 

Well that’s really boring. It sounds like a school. It’s boring to the adult, and pointless to the kid going there right now. One would find no quirks or design flaws after one visit.


After spending three years here, this building is one of the most unique I have ever been in.

The northern addition, the most recent, has only one ‘atrocity.’ I am convinced I’m the only one who knows about it.


On the northern exterior wall, above Alfonso’s, there are windows. They look a little more dark than they should be though.


On the inside, the northern interior wall is the wall of the gym. There are no windows. The windows on the northern wall of Lane are fake.




Like what the hell?

Moving onto the middle portion again, a closer look reveals all sorts of mysterious architectural ineptitude. Although not really the fault of the designer, and more so the staff, you learn the middle has not 2 floors, but 3.


There is a full basement underneath the oldest portion, as a part of the original 1921 school. It is nearly an identical copy of the first floor, minus some windows. Yet the vibe of the basement is quite creepy and mysterious. Plumbing and pipes and electrical lines adorn an off white ceiling, as walls and doors wrap around each end.


While touring the basement back in 8th grade, a door happened to be opened. What was assumed to be empty rooms were fully furnished classrooms. They had typical shallow basement windows and short ceilings. What became a mere glimpse of the basement classrooms would become an endearing memory, as the sight of a seemingly empty classroom evoking a lost spirit was literally sitting a foot below an active one upstairs. All of them were like this. They most likely still are; this was 4 years ago.


One room in the back of the basement hall remains unfinished, as the floor is dirt, the walls cement, the ceiling full of holes. There is one amenity in case someone was planning to stay for a while— a toilet.

The most fascinating part of this basement is none of these things— swing left to the north end of the basement, and you will find an auditorium.


The beginning of the stage is marked by the red line.

The room is not used currently; I’m not sure when it was last used at all. Regardless, it is in perfect condition, albeit a bit dusty. The room is large and has plenty of seating, as well as a full on stage where literally any band could perform.

The stage is, well, as of June 2017, full of chairs and props that look like they belong to The Wizard of Oz. We aren’t in Kansas anymore, we are in the basement of Lane Intermediate.


Maybe it’s just the rumors of the basement being haunted, but the underutilization and low ceilings of it evoke an architectural mystery.


I mean, who puts an auditorium in the basement? I understand some bands are underground, but...


Who left the lights on?

The real atrocities lie in the southern third of Lane. They are not obvious to see, but they are prevalent.


One would be the doors in the old gym, that seemingly lead nowhere. Open them up, and it leads into a locker room born in the 50’s.


It was born in the 50’s; I could tell by the colors and style of lockers. Yet they appeared new and clean, for they haven’t been used since 2008.

I got in there once in may 2018, never got in again. I dragged some friends in there, and showed them what they were missing. Those doors will never open again.

The lockers not being obviously accessible are maybe why they aren’t used.


Down the old yellow hall, we recall that the rooms are devoted to band, orchestra, and chorus.


All are expansive and old and dingy, yet one sticks out. The chorus room is adorned in pale blue walls and a seperate room resembling a recording studio.


One of the walls has a ladder, towards the left rear corner. Follow this ladder with your eyes, and it eventually leads up to a hole.


There is a hole in the wall. Ah, but it is no mere hole, for it is a tunnel!


This tunnel is 2 by 2 square-foot atrocity that gives the chorus room direct access to the stage. It appears revolting to enter and exit, but seemingly fun too. It’s like a wall-mounted air viaduct for people.


Those 2 blue doors mentioned earlier lead into a wrestling room, as far as I have heard. While I was still attending the school, the room was abandoned, and featured all sorts of old equipment. As far as I’m concerned, the fact that the wrestling room isn’t connected directly to the gym baffles me.


The most fascinating, the most interesting, the most captivating, mysterious part of the school is a part that I haven’t even seen.


It is known as The Tunnel.

Well, the second tunnel; this one is much cooler.


I haven’t seen this tunnel. I haven’t seen the entrance way, nor do I know the way there. This tunnel is reportedly accessed from the back of the basement, and it runs in a longitudinal direction. The tunnel is dark, black, dripping with cold water. It is finished in a rough coating of concrete, resembling a freshly dug hole in the ground. The door states ‘keep out,’ which is an incentive for a curious middle schooler to enter. When entering, all the elements are absorbed as one, creating feelings of epic proportions.

In reality, the tunnel is most likely, if indeed real, a fallout shelter of some sort derived from fears of the Cold War. The tunnel runs under the southern third, built and designed in the 1950s, after all. Mother Russia won’t find Jimmy in there.


Other sources like the stoners tell me that the tunnel has either an ending, an exit, or a loop that goes back to the start. I would like to find out for myself, but at the same time, I really don’t.


 


Maybe it’s just the old, unconditioned air that has brainwashed me, or perhaps it’s the nostalgia that surrounds the mysteries of the building. Perhaps it’s my fascination with architecture in general that has led me to point out these details. But I’d be lying if I said Lane wasn’t an interesting building. Lane is, in fact, among the craziest places I have been in.


Lane is odd, quirky, and off putting in its design. The numerous additions and phases that the school has gone through gives no signs to a concrete identity. Yet, these features are what gives the building its identity and character, it’s uniqueness and fascinating details.


That’s why I miss that place. The oddities and atrocities of it are what make Lane so special.


I’m positive that Frank Lloyd Wright is not nearly as interesting.



Shoutout Tandoor restaurant.






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