There has been a school building next to the Sussex Creek on Main Street since 1867.
The first was a two-room cream brick structure which cost $16,833.41. The two rooms were for a lower class and a higher class with a male teacher for the upper grade and a female teacher for the lower grade. It was built on the far eastern border of the then-emerging Sussex (started 1842-43) at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Main Street, where the Cooling brothers started a community by opening a blacksmith shop and nearby general store.
In 1866, the town of Lisbon built a cream brick building a block west of Maple Avenue and used it until 1955 to do town business and as a community center. Today, this is the basis of the Terry Hughes and James Davis medical clinic. Using the services of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Jeffery Ollswang and Harvey Rabinowitz turned the old Lisbon Town Hall into a community-serving medical clinic.
Ollswang and Rabinowitz did an outstanding job with the conversion, and the Sussex authorities, headed up by Village President Paul Fleischmann, were in need of an expanded Sussex Village Hall. Ollswang and Rabinowitz took a tour of the then-10-years-abandoned Sussex Main Street School and they said it could be converted into a suitable new village hall
In the mid 1970s and 80s, there was a crunch as the Hamilton School District was going downhill with attendance and, in an economic wave, closed Sussex Main Street School and the adjacent Orchard Drive School.
The village of Sussex took over the maintenance of the abandoned school’s property, and eventually worked out a switch in ownership. The only reason why the Main Street School was allowed to live on was it had the heating plant via a tunnel to furnish heat for Orchard Drive School.
The Orchard Drive School had become the senior citizen nutritional dinner site, and the building was also used as the original Sussex Library when it started in 1980. The village got into a bind as the abandoned Main Street School was deteriorating from lack of use and very old piping. It was going to come down, and the village set a date of March 26, 1988, for anyone who wanted to visit and take anything they wanted, as destruction would come the following week. This visit by the community and former Sussex two-year high school students caused Save Our School (SOS) to be formed, and the village relented and called off the demolition. The site was remodeled during late 1988, all of 1989 and then on into mid-summer of 1990, when the conversion was completed. For 26 years, it was the Sussex Village Hall, until October.
Sussex had more than doubled in population and then redoubled to the current 11,000 and a new, modern village hall was needed. In October, the new village hall community center was completed — which indicates the third Main Street School structure (1922-2017) will shortly become only a memory. It will be replaced by green space.
There are still a lot of local people who can remember going to grade school here until 1978-79 (when they were shipped to Maple Avenue School). There is even a group of people still living that can remember attending the two-year high school from the start in September 1919 to its close in June 1947.
There was an obituary in the Milwaukee Journal on Jan. 18 for 86-year-old Karl Wittmann, a 1947 Sussex High School student. Wittmann died his retirement home in Three Lakes, in Wisconsin’s north woods. He left a wife, Claudia Kaderabek, who was also in the Sussex High School class of 1947, and their three children, who attended Hamilton High School when it was built, as the couple lived for many years adjacent to St. Alban's on Maple Avenue.
Claudia's mother was a teacher at the Sussex Main Street School and her father was a World War I veteran, village butcher, longtime village board member and the Sussex Fire Department Chief. He was also a charter member of the Sussex Lions, and president from 1943-44 (he died suddenly in 1948).
Momentarily, the school/village hall is up, but take your last look soon, as contracts for its demolition are set to be placed.