History of Highland Park Central Elementary

Highland Park Central

Highland Park Central, 1953

The Highland Park School District Number 35 was organized on March 7, 1862, under the direction of Peter McVicar, who was then county superintendent. The district was first called "Flanders," but the name was later changed to "Highland Park." When the district was organized, it comprised five and three-fourths square miles. The boundaries of the district were north to Fifteenth Street, west to Adams Street, south to Dustin Road, thence east to Vinewood Road and north to Fifteenth Street (Potter and Potter, 26).

On June 25, 1863, at the school meeting, a committee of five members was appointed to find a site for a schoolhouse. Because of postponement of school meetings, objection to location, and inability to raise funds for the purchase of bonds, the first school house, which was built of stone at what is now 27th and Indiana streets, was not built until 1868. Up to this date the district had rented a house in which to hold school.

The first session of school in the new stone building was on September 14, 1868, with Miss Adelia E. Hunt as teacher. After a period of 21 years, this stone schoolhouse was sold at public sale to the highest bidder. Major J. K. Hudson bought it for $81 on June 10, 1889.

Joseph Kennedy Hudson took title in June, 1886, from George W. Veale, to the land which he platted as a fine residential section, He and his wife were given credit for naming this beautifully elevated district "Highland Park." Major Hudson had bought four farms and laid them out into lots, and as he was most anxious to have the new school building erected on the best possible site, he traded the school house he had purchased for property across the street.

In 1889, a new, brick, six-room school building was completed. However, only two rooms were needed for classrooms so the building was used as a community center. Church, Sunday School, socials, debates and lyceums all were held in this building. It was not equipped with modern conveniences as our schools are today. It was lighted with coal-oil lamps and heated by stoves. Water was supplied by a well, which had been dug, and water was drawn by a rope and bucket. Two buckets were kept, one in each room, to supply the water. Major Hudson received severe criticism for being influential in building such a large school. He was a man of vision and ahead of his time.

In 1909 a two-year high school course was added to the elementary school program by the Board of Education as a result of popular demand from the community. The classes of "higher learning" were held in the upper story and Glenwood E. Jones, who was principal of the grade school, also acted as the high school principal. In 1915, the third year course was added. Because of drought and hard times, the fourth year was not added until 1916.

The old brick grade school building that had been erected in 1889 was destroyed by fire on April 13, 1926. In November of that year, a new one-story brick grade school building, costing $32,000, was completed. The original plans were to add an additional story later, but the structure proved inadequate. At the same time, an adequate sewage disposal plant was constructed and numerous improvements made to the high school and the grounds. The new grade school building was unique in that it was of the California bungalow type with one story and no basement. The modern system of lighting and inside arrangements were carried out, and Highland Park's new grade school of ten rooms ranked with the best. The building faced a court with no exits on the streets. This gave a maximum of safety and convenience in handling the children. The welfare of the child was the chief consideration in the design and construction of the new building. Slate blackboards, unilateral lighting, and the best seating were among the items included. This building was still in use as an elementary school in 1959.

By the 1930's a new high school building was needed, so the school board sent in the first application to the Federal Loan and Grant Boards, under the Public Works Allotment, in October, 1933. From that time on they were busy answering questionnaires, filling out forms, signing applications, and doing everything to forward the project as quickly as possible. There was great rejoicing when Uncle Sam decided to help gain a modern and adequate educational institution.

In 1935, a modern, brick, two-story Gothic style building was constructed at 27th and Indiana streets on the site of the original stone grade school. The land had been sold, but the school held an option on it. The original cost of this building was $113,000. Located just south of the grade school building, it was organized as a Barnes high school and was Highland Park's first high school building. The new auditorium gymnasium was a frame building located east of the high school building and south of the grade school building. Eventually this building was moved across the street to the north, a basement added, and the building used as the "shops" for the new high school.

On February 23, 1935, the high school moved into this new building. Two new subjects were added to the school program: manual training and vocational agriculture. In 1939, when Rural High School District, No. 10, was organized by special legislative action, the elementary school district, No. 35, agreed to share the use of their building for the maintenance and the insurance. The elementary school and high school systems remained under separate official boards, with one member chosen from the area outside the Park, namely the Tecumseh district.

Again the population outgrew the building and facilities, so on October 16, 1943, voters of the Rural High School District, No. 10, authorized the issuance of bonds to be used in purchasing a site and constructing a building for high school purposes. Contracts were let on September 26, 1949. The site chosen was at Twenty-fifth and California Streets, adjoining the stadium which had been built for the school in 1937.

In the spring of 1957, as had happened each year for several years, there was talk of annexation. But this year, action resulted. Highland Park area became a part of Topeka; Highland Park High School and Elementary School were to become a part of the Topeka school system. But, according to the law, the school systems would have two years to prepare before becoming part of USD 501, Topeka Public Schools. Therefore, Highland Park continued its own schools until July, 1959.

In 1966, as a part of USD #501, Topeka Public Schools, construction of a new grade school known as Highland Park Central Elementary, was completed. The modern structure of two stories and a basement was located at 27th and Indiana streets, across the street from the site of the first stone schoolhouse built in 1868.

History of Highland Park community

The earliest days of Highland Park began in June of 1886, when a man named Joseph Kennedy Hudson took title to a section of land on a hill just southeast of the Capital City. Joseph Hudson was born in 1840, in the town of Carrollton, Ohio. His father was publisher of several newspapers throughout Ohio, and was a strong Abolitionist whose home became a well-known station along the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. In 1861, Hudson was stationed at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas and eventually rose to the rank of General before his retirement. At the time of his promotion, Joseph Hudson was one of only two Generals serving in the Army. In 1879, he founded the Topeka Daily Capital, which was soon recognized as one of the most influential newspapers throughout the Midwest and espoused the cause of prohibition.

Highland Park was established in 1887 outside the Topeka city limits by Major Joseph K. Hudson. A civil war veteran who had started the Topeka Daily Capital in 1879, Hudson purchased an L-shaped area in 1886 bounded by Adams St. on the east, 29th St. on the south, Indiana Ave. and California Ave. on the west, and 23rd St. and 26th St. on the north. He platted the streets and alleys, naming the north-south streets after states and naming the east-west streets after birds. These names, Oriole (23rd), Falcon (24th), Canary (25th), Swan (26th), Goldfinch (27th), Eagle (28th), and Jay (29th) were later changed to the numerical names we have today. Hoping to set the standard for the homes in his newly platted neighborhood, he built five 2-story Victorian-style model homes to serve as examples (2518 SE Massachusetts, 2424 SE Pennsylvania, 2726 SE Pennsylvania, 2430 SE Ohio, and 2527 SE Ohio). Major Hudson's wife Mary had rows of trees such as ash, catalpa, elm and box elder planted along the development's streets.

Hudson acquired all rights to the land from a fellow Topekan and architect named George W. Veale, and filed the plat known as Highland Park in March of 1887. The design of this plat was complete with 25' wide lots, streets, alleys, and even a dedicated right-of-way for the Highland Park Circle Railway to connect his "distant" suburb with the City of Topeka, proper. Early settlers were limited to a minimum purchase of 6 lots, so as to spread out the construction of homes. Several prominent citizens built homes in the fledgling neighborhood before the City's building boom crashed, which halted progress until long after his death.

Electricity was the first "service" to be provided (1900) followed by water (1918), pavement of the neighborhood's first road (1920), and finally gas service (1928). Sewer service was eventually extended by the City of Topeka to the Highland Park area in 1948 and 1949, greatly increasing the neighborhood's prospects as a suburban residential destination. In fact, most of the physical fabric of modern day Highland Park was built after that time.

Many of the larger and more stately homes within the interior of the neighborhood were built between the years approximately 1880-1940, several of which were envisioned by Joseph Hudson himself as part of his model home concept that sought to market the neighborhood's suburban character with modest homes on large lots. During this period, housing styles varied from ranch, bungalow, homestead and Victorian era houses. Over time, however, one of the most abundant housing styles in the neighborhood became minimal traditional (post-World War II style), which were designed with affordability in mind. Central Highland Park has a traditional grid street pattern because many of the blocks were platted in the early 1900's before the widespread use of the automobile. SE Maryland Avenue, in fact, was intended to be the main streetcar thoroughfare in the neighborhood, which never came to fruition.

Compiled and written by F. Tasker, ©2017

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