Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record

919 CHARLES ST

Architecture and History Inventory
919 CHARLES ST | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
NAMES
Historic Name:FIRST KINDERGARTEN
Other Name:SCHURZ KINDERGARTEN SCHOOL
Contributing:
Reference Number:7126
PROPERTY LOCATION
Location (Address):919 CHARLES ST
County:Jefferson
City:Watertown
Township/Village:
Unincorporated Community:
Town:
Range:
Direction:
Section:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
PROPERTY FEATURES
Year Built:1856
Additions: 1956
Survey Date:19862012
Historic Use:one to six room school
Architectural Style:Front Gabled
Structural System:
Wall Material:Clapboard
Architect:
Other Buildings On Site:
Demolished?:No
Demolished Date:
DESIGNATIONS
National/State Register Listing Name: First Kindergarten
National Register Listing Date:2/23/1972 12:00:00 AM
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989 12:00:00 AM
National Register Multiple Property Name:
NOTES
Additional Information:A 'site file' exists for this property. It contains additional information such as correspondence, newspaper clippings, or historical information. It is a public record and may be viewed in person at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation. Symmetrically designed facade; horizontal clapboards; two over two windows.

The first kindergarten program held in America was organized in the home of Margarethe Meyer Schurz in Watertown in 1856. Later, Schurz moved her classes to this building. Margarethe Meyer Schurz was a German who, in 1849, in Germany, attended a lecture series on education by Friedrich Froebel. He advocated a kindergarten program as an important first step in a new educational approach. In 1852, Margarethe Meyer was in London, assisting her sister in the operation of just such a kindergarten when she met Carl Schurz. They were married and came to the United States. In 1856, she and Schurz came to Watertown. In the fall of that year, Margarethe Schurz opened a Froebel-style kindergarten in her home for her daughter and daughter's cousins. Others wished to join and she moved her classes to this building that was at that time located on N. Second St. After a couple of years the Schurzs moved from Watertown and Carl Schurz went on to become an important German-American politician and government official. In failing health, there is no evidence to suggest that Margarethe Schurz held any other kindergarten classes in America but she is said to have promoted the idea to ther educators in the east. The kindergarten program did not become part of the elementary education until much later in the century, and until threatened with demolition in 1956, the site of the first kindergarten in America was little known. At that time the building was documented as the first kindergarten and moved to the grounds of the Richards' Octagon House where it was restored and is currently operated as part of the Octagon House museum and interpreted to the public.

The first kindergarten buliding is listed in the National register of Historic Places for national significance in the history of education. The location of the first kindergarten in America is significant because the kindergarten program has become, in the twentieth century, one of the foundations of the early childhood education movement. Aside from operating the first kindergarten classes in America, Schurz probably helped foster the moevment by her discussions with eastern educators who set up kindergartens later. Since the Schurz home was destroyed by fire, this building is the only resource remaining related to the first kindergarten in America. And, even though it had been moved, it still was listed on the National register because of its importance to the history of education in America.

Moved in 1956 from its original site on North second Street, the First Kindergarten Building is a gable roofed frame building featuring boxed cornices, horizontal clapboadr siding and simple rectangular windows and doors. Approximately 18 ft. wide by 24 ft. long, the building once altered to make a storefront has been restored to its original appearance.

Although historically significant, the First Kindergarten Building is not architecturally significant. Moved to the grounds of the Octagon House Museum in 1956, this building was placed in the National Register in 1971.
Bibliographic References:(A) National Register Nomination, First Kindergarten in America, Files, Preservation Division, State Historical Society of Wisconsin. (B) Margarethe Meyer Schurz entry, Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography, Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1960, pp. 320-321.
RECORD LOCATION
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

Have Questions?

If you didn't find the record you were looking for, or have other questions about historic preservation, please email us and we can help:

If you have an update, correction, or addition to a record, please include this in your message:

  • AHI number
  • Information to be added or changed
  • Source information

Note: When providing a historical fact, such as the story of a historic event or the name of an architect, be sure to list your sources. We will only create or update a property record if we can verify a submission is factual and accurate.

How to Cite

For the purposes of a bibliography entry or footnote, follow this model:

Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory Citation
Wisconsin Historical Society, Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, "Historic Name", "Town", "County", "State", "Reference Number".