Built in 1930, the Deer Lake School is steeped in rich local and architectural history – and today serves as TAP Architecture’s St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin office.

Deer Lake School’s Architectural History

The Deer Lake School is a prime example of modern 20th Century one-room school architecture. This style was meant to help rural schools conform to city standards, providing students the same quality of school building available to Wisconsin’s urban population. The structure offered students large, adequately ventilated and lit classrooms with indoor plumbing and electricity.

The hip-roofed, Craftsman-influenced structure is finished with brick. Its main floorplan includes a large classroom with 12-foot ceilings, built-in library nook and small room with a storage closet, which served as the teacher’s office. In the basement, there’s a large open room used for indoor recess, lunchroom and physical education classes, in addition to restrooms and a small utility room.

Previously, schools were “Little House on the Prairie”-style log buildings, often small and cramped for space. According to the Madison Department of Public Instruction biennial report on education in Wisconsin, in the early 1900s, educators became concerned about the sanitary condition of these structures and the quality of teaching available there. To address the issue, the state legislature passed a series of laws aimed at improving the quality of education throughout Wisconsin, especially in rural areas. In 1901, the state legislature created “state-graded schools” and authorized financial incentives to rural school districts to meet the standards in teaching, buildings and equipment. To qualify as a state-graded school, the site had to have more than one classroom to divide children up by grades, and it had to include a library, and equipment for the boys’ manual training and the girls’ domestic science studies.

For over 30 years, the Deer Lake School served the children and families of Balsam Lake Township. In the late 1950s, it was closed when the township was consolidated into the St. Croix Falls school system. In its last year, it supported 36 students. For the next few years, the site was used as a community center by the Town of Balsam Lake.

Deer Lake School Today

In 1987, one of TAP Architecture’s principals, John Van Dyke, and his wife Jane purchased the property and used it as their stained glass artist studio.

In 2017, TAP principals Troy Prosa and John Van Dyke renovated the structure, which now serves as their Wisconsin office. Designing collaborating, and meeting with clients the school provides an open energetic environment to carry out a variety of the firm’s functions. It also hosts the company’s annual picnic and summer retreats.

TAP Architecture’s St. Croix Falls WI office is located at 1632 US-8, just east of Deer Lake on the south side of the highway.