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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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Ca. 1928 (WHS. WHi(X3)18865)

First Kindergarten after restoration (J. Draeger 2004)

First Kindergarten after restoration (J. Draeger 2004)

First Kindergarten
919 Charles Street, Watertown, Jefferson County

In 1856 Margarethe Schurz started a kindergarten in the Schurz's Watertown home for her young daughter and four of her daughter's cousins. When more children wanted to join, Mrs. Schurz opened a school in this small building. This was the first kindergarten in America.

While living in Germany, sixteen year old Margarethe had been influenced by a series of lectures by the noted educator Friedrich Froebel. Froebel's course was on the "the new education," of which kindergarten was the first step. She later assisted her sister, Madame Ronge, in running a kindergarten in London. After moving to Wisconsin in 1856, Margarethe Schurz applied these ideas to her school.

Until the mid-twentieth century this building stood in the commercial area of Watertown. Faced with demolition in 1956, the Watertown Historical Society moved the building to the grounds of the Richards Octagon, where it is operated as a museum. After its move the building was restored to its original appearance, with clapboard siding and plain board trim.

The property is open seasonally.


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