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History of McCormick Avenue School


Located on the corner of McCormick and Martinson streets, McCormick School is a proud landmark of the community it has served since 1890.  It began as a four-room, two-story structure designed by well-known architects, Willis T. Proudfoot and George W. Bird, and was constructed by William Dunscombe. Workmen used block and tackle with chains to lift native limestone from the Middleton quarry of Augusta, KS into place around a brick and wood-frame structure.

McCormick was completed in November, 1890 and was the seventeenth elementary school built by the Wichita Public Schools.  It was named for its location on McCormick Avenue, after the John McCormick family who were early settlers, and is the only remaining school of eight designed by the architectural firm of Proudfoot and Bird.

The front entrance is framed by twin towers, with a stone arch over the main entrance.  In the foyer are two alcoves built into the wall for water buckets and dippers. The original stove room was in the dirt floor basement to the south. A dirt wall partitioned off the coal bin. To the north of the building, a shed was provided for horses which some students rode to school.

McCormick opened in the fall of 1890 with 33 students and four teachers: Hattie M. Edgar, May W. Pearce, Laura Laughlin, and Lucy Booth, principal.  Jesse Lee Laner was the first custodian.

In 1910, an addition was placed across the back or west side of the building, giving the structure eight rooms—the construction methods and stone matching the original. The front façade remained unchanged, but indoor plumbing and electricity were added.  Originally, the school had a Bangor slate roof which was removed in December 1944, and a composition roof installed.

In 1930, increased enrollment resulted in the construction of a separate brick building of four classrooms, with an auditorium, boiler room/kitchen and two small offices.  A notable exterior feature which surrounds this newer structure is the Carthalite frieze made from crushed, colored glass.  The original intent was to raze the old building and expand the new, but the Great Depression proved too costly for this plan.

Both buildings stood apart until 1951, when a third and final addition joined the two structures with a hallway and restrooms.

For many years, McCormick Elementary has had the distinction of being the only school in town with a bell tower and a large school bell.  While school was in session, the bell was rung every day for over a century.  The original bell tower was removed in the mid-1930s for safety reasons, but the bell remained.  On August 9, 1983 - through the efforts of Dr. Alvin Morris, Superintendent of the Wichita Public Schools at the time—a reproduction of the original 1890 bell tower was raised and set in place.

McCormick Elementary has been a source of pride for many Wichitans and a familiar landmark in southwest Wichita.  On August 30, 1978 McCormick School was accepted by the Wichita Historic Landmark Preservation Committee and the Kansas State Historical Society as a local and state historic site and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Due to declining enrollment, McCormick was closed as an attendance center in June 1992.  In August of that year, it was reopened as the McCormick Museum and Science Center, with Paul Oberg, Supervisor of Museum Programs as the designated building principal.

When Museum Programs was cut from the USD 259 budget in June of 1997, the building was closed and the contents reassessed.  In December of that same year, the Wichita Retired Teachers Association voted to accept the challenge of re-opening McCormick School Museum as a community service project.

Kansas State Heritage Grants received in 2004 and 2011 repaired the foundation of the limestone building and restored all the windows to their original condition.

Today, the Wichita Association of Retired School Personnel encourages a few dedicated volunteers to maintain collections and interpret the past as a public service for all those interested in the history of the Wichita Public Schools.

McCormick Elementary School Principals

1890-91 Lucy Booth

1891-92 Lola Graham

1892-94 Bertha C. Daugherty

1894-95 Florence Flower / Emily B. Fowler

1895-96 Florence Horton

1897-99 Anna Leichardt

1899-01 Amy Burd

1901-05 Mary Shaw

1905-06 Agnes C. Blakely

1906-09 Mary McCormick

1909-10 Frankie Hill

1910-12 Clara O. Rebstein

1912-13 Minnie A. Stuckey

1913-17 Gertrude Houseworth

1917-18 Leal D. Berger

1918-48 A. B. Robison

1948-52 Fred W. Doepke

1952-54 Zelma Zimmerman

1954-77 Buel M. Smith

1977-83 Lea Patterson

1983-86 Marjorie Morgan

1986-88 C. Eugene Osborn

1988-90 Curtis LaPorte

1990-92 Janet Jump