Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
State Library of Iowa

068_Callanan Junior High School


068_Callanan Junior High School


This is a page from the collection "Bicentennial Reflections: History of Des Moines Public Schools, 1876-1976" by Dr. Robert R. Denny, published by the Des Moines Public Schools in Des Moines, Iowa in 1976.

File Name



66 CALLANAN JR. HIGH SCHOOL 31st and Center Grades 7, 8, 9 James Callanan came to Des Moines in 1863. He took the Rock Island to Iowa City, its terminus, and then came the rest of the way by stage. A complete sketch of Mr. Callanan appears later. Insofar as education is concerned, Mr. and Mrs. Callanan started an academy on the site of the present Methodist Hospital. In fact the central wing of Methodist Hospital that faces Pleasant, with few changes is the former Callanan College. In regard to the present Callanan Junior High School it is noted that on October 3, 1921, the Des Moines School Board purchased from Dr. Doo- little, for $55,000, a plot of 20 acres lying between 28th and 31st fronting on Center. Smouse School is on the northeast corner of this tract. The entire tract of 40 acres had been the homestead of Mr. and Mrs. James Callanan. In December, 1926, a general contract for building the junior high was let to Arthur Neumann Company. The cost of the building and equipment was $400,000. The corner stone was laid in 1927 and the school opened in February, 1928. For many years the building housed some lower elementary grades as well as the junior high classes. An addition to the building consisting of a beautiful auditorium, a boys1 locker room, two classrooms and a new heating system was formally opened for use late in the spring of 1954. The enrollment moved from 584 in 1928 to 1051 in 1934-35 and maintained a high level until the construction of Franklin in 1951. Callanan Jr. High Biographical Sketch of James Callanan The history books describe James Callanan as one of the most prominent people in Des Moines in fifty years. Mr. Callanan was born in Albany, New York, in the year 1822, where he also was admitted to the bar and began to practice law. He was always very interested in the business world and participated in many ventures from which he hoped to become wealthy. Some of his business deals led him far from his native home to Des Moines, Iowa. In the late 1850's he found it necessary to come to this prairie land—and in 1860, he and his wife decided to move here. From then on his business became more prosperous. Many people thought of him as being a man of two personalities. In the vast world of business he was very methodical, specific, and exacting. All business deals were promptly and accurately fulfilled, while in private life and below his supposed hard crust, he was a man of great kindness, generosity, and sincerity. Quite often he would drop all obligations and agree whole heartedly to forget the entire matter of a person who was unable to repay borrowed money to him. Through this kind gesture he unawaringly contributed thousands of dollars to those who needed it desperately. Never once was he known to refuse to wade in the high mud of unpaved streets to help a horse who had been left by its heartless owner to suffer. Besides these many things, James Callanan was a shy timid man who preferred to go unnoticed, and work in a small, drab office away from others. He died at the age of 84, after being ill for nearly a year, but his memory will live forever in Iowa history books. From many land holdings, Mr. Callanan elected to build a suburban home on a forty acre tract west of the city of Des Moines. Callanan Junior High School now stands on what was the northwest corner of that estate. The forty acres was the property now bound by Center Street on the north, 31st Street on the west, Woodland on the south, and 28th Street on the east. This land was completely covered with beautiful trees, largely oak and hickory. Those you see standing on the campus now are some of the very same trees! Callanan built a large home, a carriage house and housing for his horses and other animals. Mrs. Callanan chose to name the new home Inglebrae. They were very proud of their country home, which it was at that time. In fact, the streetcars of that day only ran to 15th and Woodland, from there on was considered to be out in the country! Mr. Callanan, not being a party lover or one liking to stay indoors, spent as much time as possible at Inglebrae. He would often bring his office wrork home from downtown and work at Inglebrae. Mrs. Callanan was more given to social affairs and often entertained groups of prominent women at her home. She was quite active in several women's organizations, especially those having to do with the temperance movement and with efforts to obtain social and political rights for women. When the National Women's Suffrage group met m Des Moines, Mrs. Callanan entertained such famous women as Amelia J. Bloomer, who advocated freedom for women to dress differently, and Susan B. Anthony, who was leading the fight to obtain the right for women to vote in elections.