Cedar Rapids School District ponders future of buildings
Dec 2016

Cedar Rapids School District ponders future of buildings

Arthur Elementary School was built in Cedar Rapids in 1914 and opened for the 1915 school year. The school, along with Garfield Elementary,  celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

The Cedar Rapids Community School District is examining its facilities master plan, with changes, and potentially school closures, on the horizon.

Mark Stoffer Hunter, Cedar Rapids historian and a board member of Save CR Heritage, offered the following insight into the history of each of the schools in the district:

Two of the four schools built in 1914 in Cedar Rapids are still in use as a school. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

1.Arthur School, 2630 B Ave. NE: original structure built in 1914-1915. Had 100th birthday celebration last year; original structure has unique “fortress” style architecture.

2.Garfield School, 1201 Maplewood Drive NE: original structure built in 1914-1915. Had 100th birthday celebration last year; original structure has very unique Egyptian style columns on either side of the front doors.

3. McKinley Middle School, 620 10th St. SE. Built 1921-1922.

4. Roosevelt Middle School, 300 13th St. NW. Built 1922

5. Franklin Middle School, 300 20th St. NE. Built 1923

6. Wilson Middle School, 2301 J St. SW. Built 1924

Save CR Heritage board member, Patty Soukup, provided this photo of her father Marvin Soukup and his cousin Arlene Cilek, sitting on the steps of what was then Wilson High School around 1928 or 1929. Her dad Dad enlisted in 1943 and never graduated. His brother Arnie did graduate from Wilson in the 1950s and played on their championship football team.

All four of these are splendidly designed in the “Gothic Revival” style of revival architecture of the 1920’s.

All four middle schools were doubled in size with 1934-35 additions in preparations for them to be six year high schools from 1935-1957.

Renowned artist Grant Wood taught at McKinley School when it was new in 1922.

7. Harrison School, 1310 11th St. NW: only elementary school built by the Cedar Rapids School District between 1921 and 1949. Harrison was opened in 1930 and had to be built after the Old Harrison School was burned in a fire at a different location. Harrison is very unique with its wonderful English Tudor design and interior murals created by artist William Henning, a contemporary of Grant Wood.

8. Kenwood School, 3700 E Ave. NE. Built 1949.

9. Cleveland School, 2200 1st Ave. NW. Built in 1950.

10. Grant Wood School, 645 26th St. SE Built in 1950.

The original sections of Kenwood, Cleveland and Grant Wood School maintain much of their circa 1950 architectural character.

11. Hoover School, 4141 Johnson Ave. NW. Opened 1955. President Hoover was here for the groundbreaking of this in 1954.

12. Erskine School, 600 36th St. SE. Opened 1955. Named for Dr. Arthur Erskine, Cedar Rapids doctor who pioneered radiology technology.

13. Wright School, 1524 Hollywood Blvd. NE. Opened 1955. Shaped like an airplane when seen from above to honor the memory of the Wright Brothers and their three year history of living in Cedar Rapids from 1878-1881.

14.Hiawatha School, 603 Emmons St., Hiawatha. Also from the mid 1950’s.

15. Washington High School at Forest Drive SE. Opened 1957

16. Jefferson High School at 20th Street SW. Opened 1957.

The following Cedar Rapids schools all date to 1961:

17. Grant School, 254 Outlook Dr. SW

18.Madison School, 1341 Woodside Dr. NW

19.Truman School, 441 West Post Road NW

Truman School is architecturally significant with a very 1961 look and is identical to the old Fillmore School at E Avenue and 11th Street NW that is now owned by Linn County government.

Last year, three Cedar Rapids schools that opened in 1965 became 50 years old, making them eligible for historic status:

20. Pierce School, 4343 Marilyn Drive NE (just off 42nd Street NE)

21.Harding Middle School, 4801 Golf St. NE (Noelridge Park)

22. Taft Middle School, 5200 E Ave. NW

Taft and Harding Middle Schools were designed by the Cedar Rapids architectural firm of Kohlman-Eckman-Hukill and are famous for their domes.

Next year, in 2017, two more schools opened in 1967 will be eligible for historic status as well:

23. Coolidge School, 6225 1st Ave. SW

24. Kennedy High School, 4545 Wenig Road NE

That leaves the following schools whose primary structures are less than 50 years old:

-Metro High School(formerly Tyler) and Johnson in the SE quadrant

-Taylor and Van Buren in the SW quadrant

-Jackson in the NW quadrant

-Polk, Nixon & Viola Gibson in either NE quadrant or Hiawatha

Garfield Elementary in Cedar Rapids, which opened in 1915, featured unique Egyptian-style architecture in a park-like setting when it was built. (photo/Cindy Hadish)



Thanks for sharing Cindy and Mark. I look forward to seeing what the creative people of Cedar Rapids will do with these “majestic” buildings as they become available for other uses.

    Cindy Hadish

    Thank you, Jeffrey, though we do hope they stay in use as schools!

Jean Gilmore

This can’t be correct. The original structure of Polk school was quite old and housed a bench that was rumored to have been used for detention. The Wright brothers supposedly sat on the beach.


    That was the old Polk. The new Polk was quite new when I was a kid in the 70s. CR has had a number of schools that replaced older structures with the same name.

      Susan Snow

      I went to the old Polk School for first grade in 1970-71. Kindergarten was already in the new building in 1969-70. The old school was then torn down and we moved into the new building. It had a unique classroom set up with no walls – IMC in center with classrooms on outside. Classrooms were separated by moveable blackboards.

    Mark Stoffer Hunter

    The first permanent Polk School building was built in 1893 and was destroyed after a new 1970 Polk structure was opened near the same site. Not sure yet about that bench. Just to clarify: the Wright Brothers lived in Cedar Rapids from June 1878 to June 1881 according to their father’s diary, US Census and CR city directories. They lived in three different houses and rented each one a year at a time. We know Orville Wright went to the old Washington School in 400 block of 4th Avenue SE by what is now Greene Square before it became a full high school later. Because of where they lived, Orville and Wilbur would have also attended the Old Adams School at 624 Fifth Street SE (closed as a school in 1935) and at the very old Jefferson elementary school at 716 A Avenue NE (opened 1868, closed in late 1920’s, later used by the Knights of Columbus).

      Cindy Hadish

      Thanks for the information, Mark!


      Mark – would you know the name(s) of the contractors that built McKinley, Franklin, Wilson & Roosevelt High schools 1921 – 1924? I am trying to determine if Rinderknecht’s predecessor, Stark Construction Company built one or more of these schools. Thank you.
      Kerry DeYarman for Rinderknecht Associates, Inc.

Amy Davis

I attended Nixon Elementary, starting Kindergarten in fall of 1973. In the school’s IMC(library) we had a tall wooden structure with colorful shag carpeted cubbies for kids to climb into and read. It was called the Habitat, and I have never seen another one in a school since.
We all loved it, but it was eventually taken out, probably because somebody thought it was too dangerous.
I really wish there were pictures taken of our school in the 1970’s, Nixon was the only school I truly loved. My parents did not purchase my Kindergarten, first, or third grade school pictures. I would love the opportunity to look at them some time.

Steve weir

I always wondered if the large piece of land behind Garfield adjacent to Daniels Park always belonged to the school.


Wash and Jeff didn’t open in the same year. JHS was first.

    Cindy Hadish

    Hmm… we have different information and if you look up the schools, it appears that Washington actually opened first.


Be cool to hear about other schools we had that closed. Gilmore school and Monroe


Filmore school

Kirk Schobert

Looking at Wright, I’d say “shaped like an airplane”
is a tough sell, Erskine, which I was always told is it’s sister school looks about the same to me even allowing for additions to both schools

Mark Stoffer Hunter

Kerry DeYarman,

I am currently researching in more detail the construction histories of McKinley, Roosevelt, Franklin & Wilson Schools as they all get very close to the 100 year mark. I got confirmation that Franklin was built by Stark Construction. Checking on McKinley & Roosevelt… on those two started in late 1921 and were opened in Fall 1922. I know Bert Rugh was architect on McKinley & Roosevelt and I’m reading lots of controversy in early 1922 articles about Rugh’s competency. Will also contact you by email.

Mark Stoffer Hunter

    Cindy Hadish

    Thank you for the information, Mark!

Richard Pohorsky

This is a great site. Thanks for the information and research. I can’t believe the school board’s direction for the middle schools.

    Cindy Hadish

    Thank you for your note, Richard! We need everyone to speak out to let the School Board know that demolishing Wilson Middle School means erasing an iconic building for SW Cedar Rapids. It’s absolutely sturdy and able to be upgraded inside.

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