Hoping to preserve German language and culture in the New World, a group of wealthy German-born Milwaukeeans founded the German-English Academy in 1851. The school enrolled students through the twelfth grade, offering classes in manual arts for boys, domestic science for girls, English for both, and physical education based on the German Turnverein (Turner) system. The schoolhouse consists of two cream brick structures set on rock-faced limestone foundations and joined by a small hyphen. The south building, built in 1890–1891 to house classrooms, features groups of windows in metal frames beneath corbeled cornices and diaper work in the front gable and tourelles at the corners. The north portion or “Turnlehrer Seminar” was built in 1892 to house a gymnasium. Above its three arched windows, terra-cotta spandrels sport depictions of Indian clubs, fencing foils, and other athletic equipment favored by the Turnverein. The extensive use of terra-cotta is characteristic of German American architecture in the 1890s.
During World War I, anti-German sentiment compelled the institution to change its name to the Milwaukee University School. The academy left this building in 1927 and relocated on the Downer College campus to become the University School, which moved to suburban River Hills in 1985. Extensive rehabilitation in 1982 restored the academy building’s original facade and remodeled the interior for office space.