Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
State Library of Iowa

012_West High School


012_West 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.


State Library of Iowa - First floor book collection, 371.01 Den 1976

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Curtis School (Photograph) E. 6th and Raccoon Street Elm Grove, (Photograph) Army Post and Indianola Road magnificent structure was West High. The original West High had a large bell tower and called for a huge clock that would strike every quarter hour. However the neighboring residents in the fashionable homes that were in the area strenuously objected and the works to the clock were never installed. Nevertheless the four sides of the huge timepiece were adorned with the idle faces of the clock until after a fire in the teens caused the entire tower structure to be razed. The architects, Foster and Lieebe, visited schools in Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Paul in order to secure ideas and information regarding the most modern methods of heating, lighting and ventilation for this new structure. The office of the superintendent and the board offices were all included in the new West High when it opened. All the rooms were beautifully and luxuriously furnished with fashionable woodwork, furniture and "rugs of good quality". The most modern and complete science equipment was installed, $1,000 being spent upon chemical apparatus alone. Reports state that noteworthy among these was a Kershoff and Bunson spectroscope and Becker balance made in Rotterdam. The new building was the show place of the state and hundreds of visitors and educators came from all over to look at the building and to get ideas to take back for schools they were constructing in their home areas. The library, for example, had a collection of some 460 volumes. Ralph Waldo Emerson School (Photograph) E. 16th and Maple Evergreen School (Photograph) (Bly School) Evergreen Avenue It is interesting to notice that they called this West High and Industrial School. Courses of study offered were, English, Latin, scientific, classic and business. All of these with the single exception of the business course required four years of study and led to a diploma of graduation. The business course demanded only two years of endeavor of work and upon completion of their hard work the student received a special certificate but no diploma. The classical course was the regular college preparatory course and included Greek. In the fall of 1889 manual training and home economics were added to the curriculum. These two subjects were introduced to the schools by Mr. and Mrs. R. H. Miller who had been recruited from a similar position where they had taught in Toledo, Ohio, prior to coming to Des Moines. Also in 1889 shorthand and typewriting were introduced to the curriculum by Mr. Clay Slinker. History ol East Des Moines School District The schools of the city of Des Moines were first under the control of one board of education. Among the items in the reports of the officers of the district appear claims that they settled for rent and fuel for rooms "used in East Des Moines." Children of the East Side were accomodated with school facilities in rented roms. The first house in East Des Moines for school purposes of which we have definite information was a small frame building that stood near the corner of East 9th & Grand. The records also show that there were also several private schools operated in the eastern part of Des Moines. One of the private or subscription schools of the city of Des Moines was first under the control of one district on land now occupied by the Jewett Lumber Company. Independent District Organized The Independent School District of Des Moines, East Side, was organized in 1859. The organizational meeting was held at the state capitol building. Facilities were rented in the Griffith block in the East Des Moines central district and operated there for several years, then it was moved to a building south of the Northwestern Depot on East Fourth. After being there for a year or two the school went back to the Griffith Block where it remained until a school building could be financed and erected.