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How did those schools get their names?

April 19, 2011

Last month, this column discussed the reasons behind the names of four of Waukesha's 14 elementary schools. Of the remaining 10 schools, many of the school secretaries and officials contacted for information were able to offer educated guesses about the provenance of their school's names, but weren't absolutely confident their theories were accurate.

Two schools were likely named after geographical and landscape features. Hillcrest is on the crest of a hill, and the land surrounding Prairie Elementary School was probably once a prairie.

Bethesda Elementary was most likely named for the "healing waters" for which Waukesha was once famous (Bethesda was the name of a pool in Biblical Jerusalem fabled for its healing powers).

Staff at three elementary schools were sure of their name-origin stories. Lowell Elementary School was named for James Russell Lowell, an American Romantic poet associated with the Fireside Poets, a group of 19th-century New England writers. The original Lowell School was built in 1960, with additions put on in 1965, 1978 and 1987.

Whittier Elementary School was also named after a 19th-century poet, John Greenleaf Whittier. When the school was built in 1954, naming it after the poet proved controversial, as Whittier was the first school in Waukesha named for someone other than a prominent Waukesha resident.

One of those schools named after a Waukesha resident was Hadfield Elementary School, which opened in 1888. Hadfield was named for Joseph Hadfield, who owned several local quarries as well as the land on which the original Hadfield School was built.

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