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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Franklin School
Graduation diploma (1922). Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
FRANKLIN SCHOOL. The original Franklin School was constructed in 1857 and named the First Ward School. It was renamed Franklin on December 23, 1889. In 1895 a crack in a wall led the board of education to hire the architectural firm of Guilbert & Littlefield to determine what should be done. The architects reported that the building was built with two walls--a twelve inch wall on the inside and a four inch wall on the outside separated by a two inch space used to conserve heat in the winter. The foundation was sound and the crack was only in the outside wall. They suggested no remodeling should be attempted. (1)

The building known in 2017 as Franklin School was constructed in 1906 and was one of the first public schools in the Cathedral Historic District. Designed by St. Paul, Minnesota based architects Buechner & Orth, the Classical Revival style school housed a range of students and served the Dubuque Public School system for many years.

The proposition to issue bonds for the construction was carried by a vote of 759 to 133. The original Franklin was vacated on March 9, 1906, and the students were transferred to the new building on the southwest corner of Fifth and Main STREETS where classes resumed on March 16. In 1907 a petition to change the name of the school to the O. A. Bronson School was filed with the Board.

During the 1961-1962 academic year, two rooms at Franklin were renovated to be used for classes for physically handicapped students. Franklin School at 39 Bluff Street was used an elementary school until 1968 when it was converted to a kindergarten center to relieve crowding in the district's other elementary schools. Students were bused to Franklin from throughout the district.

On February 26, 1973, the board of education, citing declining kindergarten enrollment, voted unanimously to close the 67-year-old building in June and return the kindergartners to their home schools. On August 30,1976, Franklin reopened as a center for the education of handicapped students. The school's program was planned to include nearly one hundred children ranging in age from 2 to 15 with mental, physical, or emotional handicaps. A pre-school program for children aged 2 to 5 was provided for those identified with some developmental handicap. Students in this class attended school four days each week with the teacher going to the homes of the students on the fifth day.

A program for moderately mentally handicapped children between the age of 5 and 15 included reading, writing, spelling, simple math and daily living skills. A third program was planned for students aged 5 to 12 years of age with behavioral disabilities. The purpose of this program was to help these students eventually return to the regular classroom.

With the closing of the old CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL, Franklin was renamed CENTRAL ALTERNATIVE HIGH SCHOOL and given new life. Handicapped students were given educational attention at HELEN KELLER SCHOOL. (Photo Courtesy: http://www.dubuquepostcards.com)

Shortly after its doors closed, Gary Carner purchased the former Central Alternative High School building with the intent of transforming his former school into upscale apartments. Recognized the appeal of the building was in its historic character, his approach was to preserve and incorporate as many historic features as possible.

Mr. Carner efforts on the building's interior focused on preserving and restoring wood flooring, plaster, trim, and doors. Grand public corridors and stairways were restored and became focal points of the interior of the building.

Mr. Carner was able to locate the original drawings prepared by Buechner & Orth, which set the direction for restoring the exterior of the building. All the windows and entrances were restored back to their original size and design. Aluminum was removed from the eaves and they were restored to their original appearance. Dormers once present when the building was constructed were reintroduced to the front of the building.



1. "Safe and Sound," Dubuque Daily Herald, January 24, 1895, p. 8

"11th Annual Ken Kringle Historic Preservation Awards Announced," Dubuque, IA-Official Website. Online: http://www.cityofdubuque.org/List.aspx?MID=2704