Wyandotte High School
Anecdote: As you can see from the above picture, Wyandotte has twin towers which were given names by then principal J.F. Wellemeyer: the West Tower (on your right) represented knowledge and the East Tower (on your left) represented character. According to Wellemeyer, “The west was a land of pioneers, eager and ambitious to achieve and acquire, and they were true pioneers in arts and sciences as well as many newer branches of learning. The east suggests maturity, stability of character, refinement, culture and inspiration.”
On January 3, 1928, a name distinctive of the city and its history was chosen for what was formerly Kansas City KS High School. The board ordered that all records from that date carry the name Wyandotte. It was a happy choice, for the school has carried the name through the years in two different buildings and locations.
1886-1889 – First public high school held in rooms at Riverview School.
1889-1899 – Held in Wyandotte Academy (formerly Parlmer Academy) and name changed to Central School.
1899-1925 – High school at Kansas City, Kansas High School (9th & Minnesota)
1925-1928 – School called Central High School (9th & Minnesota)
January 1, 1928 – Name formally changed to Wyandotte High School (9th & Minnesota)
March, 1934 – Wyandotte High School at 9th & Minnesota burned.
1937 – High school held in various buildings
1937 – Wyandotte High School at 2501 Minnesota built by the WPA and KCKs Board of Education – Still in operating serving students today.
We are sincerely grateful to Mr. Larry Hancks and the KC Planning Commission for the information they have provided.
2501 Minnesota Avenue
Hamilton, Fellows and Nedved (Chicago), Architects
Joseph W. Radotinsky, Associate Architect
Hare and Hare, Landscape Architects
Emil Zettler ( Chicago ), Sculptor
Kansas City, Kansas Historic Landmark: March 28, 1985
Register of Historic Kansas Places: November 23, 1985
National Register of Historic Places: April 30, 1986
Wyandotte High School is the most notable public building in Kansas City, Kansas. As an example of school planning and design it would seem to have few if any equals in either the Kansas City metropolitan area or the State of Kansas. It was the latest in a series of landmark school designs by the firm known at the time as Hamilton, Fellows and Nedved, and a superb example of the “middle road” in architecture between academic eclecticism and International Style modernism, as exemplified in the work of the noted Finnish-American architect Eliel Saarinen. As fine in detail as in overall concept, the designs of the noted sculptor Emil Zettler were executed by highly skilled craftsmen. The building and its campus became the immediate focus of civic pride in the midst of the Great Depression, and it remains so to this day.
The public school system in Kansas was established by the state legislature in 1867. The first public school in Wyandotte City, the Central School in the town square called Huron Place, was completed the following year. No high school was established, however, until 1886, the year Wyandotte consolidated with two smaller cities to form the present Kansas City, Kansas. According to school records, the Kansas City, Kansas High School was organized in “several unused rooms at the Riverview Elementary School, 7th and Pacific Avenue, and several of the smaller classes convened at the home of the principal nearby.” The first graduating class, in 1887, consisted of eleven girls.
It was not long before the high school got its second location and its first Teal school building. The school was relocated to the former Palmer Academy building on the southwest corner of North 7th Street and Ann Avenue. President Grover Cleveland had signed the Consolidation Act, which was intended to make education available to everyone through free schools. The Palmer Academy had been a private secondary school which closed due to lack of enrollment -ironically due to the Consolidation Act; people would no longer pay for that which was being provided for free.
The Palmer Academy building soon proved to be inadequate to the district’s needs, leading to a proposal by the Board of Education to demolish Central School and erect a new high school building in the center of Huron Place. The City immediately went into court and asked for an injunction restraining the Board from erecting the proposed building. The City alleged that the ground known as Huron Place had been dedicated by the town company for park purposes only, and that the Board of Education had no rights there. The case ended up in the Kansas Supreme Court, which held that the Board of Education was entitled to a tract marked ” Seminary Place ” on the original plat of 1857 and that the ownership of Huron Place was therefore divided between the Board and the City. The Carnegie Library was eventually built on this tract, but in the meanwhile another location had been chosen for the high school.
In 1897 a bond issue was passed which funded the erection of anew building for the Kansas City, Kansas High School on the west side of North 9th Street, from Minnesota Avenue to State Avenue. The building was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style by W. W. Rose, and included a great peak-roofed tower that dominated the downtown skyline for many years. The building was completed in 1899, with substantial additions in 1905 and 1910. In addition to high school classes, the school also provided space for a junior college beginning in 1923.
The next expansion came in that same year, when a gymnasium and laboratory building was erected across the street on the southeast corner of 9th and State. A tunnel underneath 9th Street connected the two buildings. This new addition was only vaguely Romanesque in style, being designed by Rose and Peterson in a manner quite similar to the elementary schools they were doing at the same time. The building still stands, and is presently owned by the boilermaker’s union.
The 1920s saw a general expansion in the school district’s facilities, including the construction of major additions to the Argentine and Rosedale high schools. As the former cities of Argentine and Rosedale were now part of Kansas City, Kansas, it was decided that it would be appropriate to change the name of Kansas City, Kansas High School to Wyandotte High School. This was finally approved by the Board of Education on January 3, 1928.
Because of downtown development, it was not possible for the high school’s athletic field to be located near the school. The Board therefore acquired property at 16th and Armstrong, where the Carnival Park amusement park had previously been. This separation of facilities, together with the other limitations of the downtown site, eventually prompted the Board to start planning for a completely new high school. Accordingly, on February 16, 1928, the Board acquired some 28 acres of land on the south side of Minnesota Avenue between North 22nd Street and North Washington Boulevard from Jesse A. Hoel, who had previously operated a golf club there for residents in his Westheight Manor development. In addition to a purchase price of $125,000, the old athletic field was traded to Hoel, who subsequently sold it to Ward High School following the failure of a residential development scheme.
The nationally known landscape architecture firm of Hare and Hare was retained to develop the overall plan for the new site. The grounds as they subsequently developed followed the master plan very closely, including the placement of the high school building at an angle across the northwest corner of the site, its front oriented toward the intersection of North Washington Boulevard and Minnesota Avenue. The one deviation was in the southwest quadrant, where the master plan called for a junior college building that was never built. The first elements of the plan to be completed were anew stadium and athletic field designed by H. T. Caywood, engineer, and built at a cost of $62,500. These facilities were dedicated in October, 1929. The stock market crash that month brought an abrupt halt to any further construction, and under the circumstances it was decided that the old high school building was adequate for the district’s needs.
This situation suddenly changed on March 3, 1934. A fire, thought to have originated in burning trash in a janitorial storage room, swept through the timber-framed, brick-walled school building. The first alarm came at about 6:30 p.m., but efforts to halt the blaze were futile. The fire was the most spectacular in city history; people can still recall seeing the blaze from many miles away, the flames shooting through the roof of the three story building and the brick walls glowing like a blast furnace. No one was seriously injured, but the estimated loss was $750,000 when the building was insured for only $336,000.
The Board of Education was faced with no alternative but to proceed with the new high school building in the depths of the Great Depression. Students were divided among three schools for the remainder of the term. The junior college students held classes in the gymnasium and laboratory building, which was unharmed by the fire. (This would remain the home of the junior college for many years, until the construction of the Kansas City, Kansas Community College in 1972.) Freshmen and sophomores attended classes at Central Junior High School, while juniors and seniors attended Northwest Junior High School.
It was felt to be critical that construction commence within a year, and the Board acted with great rapidity. By March 6, a demolition contract had been awarded, on March 12 the Board agreed to try to obtain P.W.A. funding, and on March 22 a Special Committee was appointed to assist in the selection of an architect. In the short time available to them, the Special Committee interviewed a number of prominent architectural firms, and visited several schools around the country.One of these schools was the Evanston Township High School of 1923-24 in suburban Chicago, designed by the noted Chicago firm of Hamilton, Fellows and Nedved. The principal of the school expressed great satisfaction with his building, and the committee was very favorably impressed when they subsequently interviewed John L. Hamilton.
The committee, which included Superintendent F. L. Schlagle and Board President Frank Rushton, reported back to the Board on March 30 with a unanimous recommendation of Hamilton, Fellows and Nedved. On April 2 the Board voted 4 to 2 to pick Hamilton, Fellows and Nedved over Joseph W. Radotinsky. Radotinsky, a local architect, had not been interviewed by the Special Committee. He had just resigned his position as State Architect (an office he had held since 1928) and returned home in hopes of securing the Wyandotte contract, and his inclusion at the last minute smacks of local politics. He was subsequently named associate architect on the project, but his contract was with the Chicago firm rather than directly with the Board. The contracts were signed on April 5, just 33 days after the fire. Ground was broken fifteen months later, on July 19, 1935.
Radotinsky is sometimes credited by local citizens with the design (a belief he did nothing to discourage), and it does seem to reflect some of his predilections, but it is more probable that he functioned as local coordinator and job supervisor, with the design remaining the responsibility of the Chicago firm. The Board minutes, the surviving architectural drawings, the design’s antecedents in the Evanston school, and even the plaque installed at the school’s entrance all make clear that the Chicago firm was the principal architect on the project, with Radotinsky in a secondary position. This view is further reinforced by the hiring of the noted Chicago sculptor Emil Zettler to supervise the decoration. Zettler’s most notable previous work in Kansas was the sculpture for George Grant Elmslie’s Capital Federal Building in Topeka of 1922 (now sadly demolished). Like Zettler, the firm Hamilton, Fellows and Nedved had ties to the Chicago School and the Prairie School, being the successor firm to Perkins, Fellows and Hamilton, the architects for a number of landmark school designs in the Chicago area.
Numerous histories about Wyandotte High School have been written in the past years. Some facts are stated the same and other facts are different, depending on the author. We have attempt to provide you with links to as many of those online histories as possible below.
A History of Wyandotte High School
by Marjorie Sallee (.pdf)
History of Wyandotte High School by Ferne Vesecky
Editor of the Wyandotte Pantograph
Written circa 1931-32
(includes a picture gallery)
1928 Wyandotte “Quivirian”
The following excerpts are from District Archives:
Prior to 1882 – There was no free public high school in Wyandott City. The only higher education facility was the Palmer Academy, a subscription school.
1882 – First public high school opened in Riverview School (at current day 7th & Pacific area).
Addition to Riverview School built. High school organized in two rooms of Riverview with John Wherrell as principal and Eugene Rust, assistant.
November. Normal Training department established.
1886 – Wyandotte, Armourdale and old Kansas City, Kansas, consolidated.
1887 – Eleven girls in first graduating class. Increased enrollment. Five extra teachers.
1888 – September. Former Palmer Academy building rented to house some Central School pupils and the high school. Ten-room brick. High school had 246 enrolled. This building was also known as Wyandotte Academy.
December 3. Palmer Academy purchased from trustees of Masonic lodge, Number 3, AF and AM. Property consisted of Lots 1 and 2, part 6, Block 150, Old Wyandotte. Had 82 feet on Seventh Street and 150 feet on Ann.
December 17. Purchased from Dr. George M. Gray. Lot 3, plus 41 feet of Lot 6, Block 150. Frame house on site. This was used as an office for the Board of Education.
1889 – Building overcrowded. Rooms rented in store building for classrooms.
July 8. Architect submitted plans for four-room addition to high school on south and west.
1891 – Board out of funds. Teachers taught until January, 1892, without salary. High school students paid two dollars a month tuition.
1894 – Plans by architect W.W. Rose for addition.
1896 – Enrollment 380. Rooms in neighborhood rented.
1897 – Bond issue for new high school failed.
1898 – December 3. Special election. People voted $75,000 for new school to be located north of Ohio Avenue.
1899 – February 28. Site chosen at northwest corner of ninth and Minnesota. Bought from Therese and Charles Hains about nine or ten lots, Block 119. Survey by J.H. Lasley.
March 13. Contract to J.W. Ferguson for three-story buff brick building, first of three units.
May 19. Corner laid.
October 2. School occupied. Had 16 teachers and 535 students. G.W. Rose, principal. December 5. Dedication.
1900 – November. K.B. and C.H. Armour, packers, gave $1500 to equip manual training room.
1904 – April 14. Closed several days account of killing of white boy by colored (not a student).
1905 – Colored and white to high school at different periods.
1906 – Colored to Sumner
1907-08 – Addition on north. Fred Meyn, architect.
1910 – Addition on south.
1911 – January 4. ” Kansas City, Kansas High School” chosen as name. (Later, there was opposition to the name as some felt it made it sound as though this was the only high school in Kansas City, Kansas and the Argentine High School and Rosedale High School were in existence.)
1920 – First honor society.
1921 – PTA organized. Mr. Henry Dean, president
1923 – New gymnasium and laboratories on southeast corner, Ninth and State.
March 21. State basketball championship.
April 8. National basketball championship won in Chicago.
1924-25 – Name unofficially changed to Central High School (following annexation of Argentine and Rosedale, each having high schools).
1927 – Site for a new school was looked at on the old Westheight Golf Club Grounds, located 25 th and Minnesota . The option from J.A. Hoel included the Kansas City High School athletic field at 14th and Armstrong (the old Carnival Park location) and contained a trade in for the future Wyandotte High School. (Westheight Historic District)
1928 – January 3: Name formally changed to ” Wyandotte High School.” (The school was formally called Kansas City , Kansas High School and unofficially Central High School in the past.)
1929 – October 26: Stadium on 28-acre site dedicated.
1934 – Fire consumed Wyandotte High School (still being referred to as Kansas City High School by many). After this, high schools students attended in different buildings. The March 4, 1934 K.C. Star article refers to the high school as “Wyandotte High School.” On Saturday, March 3, 1934, fire broke out in Wyandotte High School, located at 9 th and Minnesota . The blaze spread through the air shafts to all parts of the building. Through the efforts of Superintendent Schlagle and others, records and valuable articles were rescued. Although plans for a new Wyandotte High School were in the making, the board was not ready yet to build. Problems of housing and finances had to be met. Classes at Central Junior and Northwest Junior were placed on half-day sessions so that high school students could use the buildings in the afternoons. The gymnasium across the street was damaged and junior college students attended there. After a week’s vacation, the high school resumed on March 12th. A Citizens Advisory Committee was appointed to assist with plans for a new building.
1937 – September 10. New building dedicated at 25th and Minnesota. Cost $2.5 million. Governor Walter A. Huxman and Harry A. Woodring, Secretary of War, were speakers. Built under the auspices of the WPA.
1951 – July 10 – Arrangements with both day and night shifts at the building to be ready on call to accept flood evacuees. It developed later than Wyandotte was not the most suitable place for housing. We had pictured large open rooms like the gymnasia being used for bunk areas. It later became evident that better housing could be provided by dividing evacuees into separate rooms. The large proportion of fixed furniture at Wyandotte made it less advantageous than elementary schools having movable furniture.
Mr. Karl A. Reuter of the telephone company was granted permission to use the parking area north of the stadium at Wyandotte High School for telephone service trucks brought in from outside this area. Perry Motor Company, on July 19, was granted permission to park cars in the area west of the stadium and any place not used by the telephone company in the north lot.
Saturday, July 21, the Board of Public Utilities was granted permission to use the space under the stadium for storing electrical supplies.
1961 – March 15 – Dedication of new flag pole.
April 27-28 – Diamond Jubilee program celebrating 75 years as a school.
1975 – New stadium lights, seating and press box.
1976 – New all-weather track.
1985 – December 4 – Wyandotte High School approved by the Kansas historic Sites Board of Review for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. Listed in the Register of Historic Kansas Places.
1986 – Entered onto the National Register of Historic Places on April 30, 1986. Underground watering system installed in athletic fields, tracks reconstructed to metric system. District Athletic field renamed for Roy A. Edwards, former president of Board of Education.
1993 – Began a Business, Entrepreneurship, Technology Magnet Program. First years serves only grade 9. Program ended in 1997-98/
2003 – Voters approved a proposed $120 million bond issue at the Municipal Election Tuesday (April 3, 2001) to air-condition schools, improve technology, and make other upgrades to schools and public libraries. Wyandotte was part of Phase III, which was completed in the summer of 2003.
2004 – April 8 – Wyandotte hosted a dedication ceremony which included the name of its track after the late Francis (Ted) Swaim, track coach at Wyandotte.
Received a “Great IDEAS” grant (funded/sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Fund) for the 2004-05 school year, which encourages teachers in SLC’s (Small Learning Communities) to work together to develop innovative programs and projects to improve student learning. Received $2,474.
1886-90 – John Wherrell (resigned 5 Apr 1890), Eugene A Meade elected / 1890-93 – Eugene A Meade / 1893-1903 – George Rose / 1903-05 – Ward C McCroskey, J M Winslow / 1906-09 – J M Winslow / 1909-12 – H L Miller / 1912-15 – E A White / 1915-19 – W A Bailey / 1919-24 – Clarence T Rice / 1924-26 – J F Wellemeyer / 1946-62 – R C Johnson / 1962-73 – G W Corporon / 1973-84 – Thomas J Rone / 1984-86 – Warren Mason / 1986-91 – Willie Johnson / 1991-96 – Jeffrey Stewart / 1996-2007 – Mr. Walt Thompson; 2008-Present – Ms. Mary Stewart
During the 1930’s, America witnessed a breakdown of the Democratic and free enterprise system as the US fell into the worst depression in history. The economic depression that beset the United States and other countries was unique in its severity and its consequences. At the depth of the depression, in 1933, one American worker in every four was out of a job. The great industrial slump continued throughout the 1930’s, shaking the foundations of Western capitalism.
The New Deal describes the program of US president Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933 to 1939 of relief, recovery, and reform. These new policies aimed to solve the economic problems created by the depression of the 1930’s. When Roosevelt was nominated, he said, “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.” The New Deal included federal action of unprecedented scope to stimulate industrial recovery, assist victims of the Depression, guarantee minimum living standards, and prevent future economic crises. Many economic, political, and social factors lead up to the New Deal. Staggering statistics, like a 25% unemployment rate, and the fact that 20% of NYC school children were under weight and malnourished, made it clear immediate action was necessary.
In the first two years, the New Deal was concerned mainly with relief, setting up shelters and soup kitchens to feed the millions of unemployed. However as time progressed, the focus shifted towards recovery. In order to accomplish this monumental task, several agencies were created. The National Recovery Administration (NRA) was the keystone of the early new deal program launched by Roosevelt. It was created in June 1933 under the terms of the National Industrial Recovery Act. The NRA permitted businesses to draft “codes of fair competition,” with presidential approval, that regulated prices, wages, working conditions, and credit terms. Businesses that complied with the codes were exempted from antitrust laws, and workers were given the right to organize unions and bargain collectively. After that, the government set up long-range goals which included permanent recovery, and a reform of current abuses. Particularly those that produced the boom-or-bust catastrophe. The NRA gave the President power to regulate interstate commerce. This power was originally given to Congress. While the NRA was effective, it was bringing America closer to socialism by giving the President unconstitutional powers. In May 1935 the US Supreme Court, in Schechter Poultry Corporation V. United States, unanimously declared the NRA unconstitutional on the grounds that the code-drafting process was unconstitutional.
Another New Deal measure under Title II of the National Industrial Recovery Act of June 1933, the Public Works Administration (PWA), was designed to stimulate US industrial recovery by pumping federal funds into large-scale construction projects. The head of the PWA exercised extreme caution in allocating funds, and this did not stimulate the rapid revival of US industry that New Dealers had hoped for. The PWA spent $6 billion enabling building contractors to employ approximately 650,000 workers who might otherwise have been jobless. The PWA built everything from schools and libraries to roads and highways. The agency also financed the construction of cruisers, aircraft carriers, and destroyers for the navy.
In addition, the New Deal program founded the Works Projects Administration in 1939. It was the most important New Deal work-relief agency. The WPA developed relief programs to preserve peoples skills and self-respect by providing useful work during a period of massive unemployment. From 1935 to 1943 the WPA provided approximately 8 million jobs at a cost of more than $11 billion. This funded the construction of thousands of public buildings and facilities. In addition, the WPA sponsored the Federal Theater Project, Federal Art Project, and Federal Writers’ Project providing work for people in the arts. In 1943, after the onset of wartime prosperity, Roosevelt terminated the WPA. One of the most well known, The Social Security Act, created a system of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance, which is still around today. Social security consists of public programs to protect workers and their families from income losses associated with old age, illness, unemployment, or death.
he Fair Labor Standards Act (1938) established a federal Minimum Wage and maximum-hours policy. The minimum wage, 25 cents per hour, applied to many workers engaged in interstate commerce. The law was intended to prevent competitive wage cutting by employers during the Depression. After the law was passed, wages began to rise as the economy turned to war production. Wages and prices continued to rise, and the original minimum wage ceased to be relevant. However, this new law still excluded millions of working people, as did social security. However, a severe recession led many people to turn against New Deal policies. In addition, World War II erupted in September 1939. Causing an enormous growth in the economy as war goods were once again in great demand. No major New Deal legislation was enacted after 1938. The Depression was a devastating event in America, and by regulating banks and the stock market the New Deal eliminated the dubious financial practices that had helped precipitate the Great Depression. However, Roosevelt’s chief fiscal tool, deficit spending, proved to be ineffective in averting downturns in the economy.
With gratitude to those person who so graciously donated items from the past, the items have been turned over to the archives in the “Kansa Room” at the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library located at 625 Minnesota Avenue:
The Jayhawker Senior Annual – May 25, 1906
The Quivirian – 1926
The Quivirian – 1928