Cedar Rapids schools stand strong 100 years after start of construction
By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage
Alumni of a century-old Cedar Rapids school are trying to draw attention to the building’s milestone.
Roosevelt Junior High, now known as Roosevelt Creative Corridor Business Academy, was built beginning in 1921 at 300 13th St. NW.
The alumni donated banners to the school showing Theodore Roosevelt Roughriders images. The school was named for the 26th president of the United States.
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So far, the banners have not been displayed at the school, an alumnus noted.
The group also took out an ad in the Gazette’s Milestones section, calling on students, faculty, PTA, staff, neighbors and others to celebrate the centennial of the school, built at a time “when aesthetics, quality, class and detail all built with outstanding materials, construction and pride in craftsmanship still mattered.”
“Preservation of these wonderful buildings keeps the memories intact, with all of the stories, which keep our souls alive,” the notice stated.
Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter said both Roosevelt and McKinley Junior High, 620 10th St. SE, now known as McKinley STEAM Academy, started construction in 1921 and opened for the 1922 school year.
The buildings have served as middle schools in more recent years.
Cedar Rapids Community School District spokeswoman Colleen Scholer said a curriculum project at Roosevelt surrounding the centennial is scheduled to begin in a few weeks and the school district’s communications editorial calendars include coverage of the centennial this fall.
Stoffer Hunter said the centennials could also be marked in 2022 to coincide with the 100th anniversaries of the opening of the buildings, as the Cedar Rapids Community School District did with Garfield and Arthur elementary schools.
“Both (Garfield and Arthur) were started in 1914, but completed in 1915,” he said, with the centennials celebrated in 2015.
Both elementary schools are at risk under the school district’s facilities master plan, which calls for demolishing or closing the district’s historic elementary schools.
Bypassing a vote by district residents as would typically be required in such a large-scale project, School Board members voted in 2018 to close eight elementary schools, demolish 10 schools to build 10 new “mega” schools that would each house 600 students, and keep three newer schools.
Previously estimated at $20 million each, the board was told in 2019 that amount had increased to $25 million each, just for the first two schools.
Coolidge Elementary was the first school to be demolished under the plan. The new West Willow Elementary, which replaced it at 6225 First Ave. NW, opened this week for the 2021-22 school year while still under construction.
A wall of the new school blew over in the August 2020 derecho.
District leaders have indicated that middle schools will be the next target, though no timeline or plans have been revealed.
The three-story red brick and stone Roosevelt school, designed by architect Bert Rugh and later expanded by William J. Brown, was built in the “collegiate Gothic” style, with hexagonal towers flanked by a Gothic arched entrance.
McKinley follows the same architectural style, with both buildings constructed of solid, long-lasting materials and embellished with ornate carvings and other intricate detailing that is rare in modern architecture.
Stoffer Hunter noted that one school building that opened in 1921 is still in use in Cedar Rapids.
Kenwood School, at 35th Street and C Avenue NE, is now used as a church by Calvary Community Church. Constructed as a building for the independent Kenwood Park town school district, it was acquired by 1927 to become part of the Cedar Rapids School District.
In 1949, construction began on the current Kenwood School building at 37th Street and E Avenue NE, Stoffer Hunter said, and the 1921 Kenwood School building was repurposed for use by the Kenwood Park Presbyterian Church.
He added that the old Buchanan School building, at 2000 Mount Vernon Road SE, turned 100 in 2020. It later became the Ambroz Rec Center.
Stoffer Hunter cited the following school buildings that by fall 2022 will be 100 years or older:
Lincoln School (1910) 18th Ave/Ninth Street SW (now Sanctuary Church)
Old Grant High School (1915) 346 Second Ave. SW (later ESC and now housing and commercial restored structure)
Arthur School (1915)
Garfield School (1915)
Buchanan School (1920) vacant
Older Kenwood School (1921) (now Calvary Church)
McKinley School (1922)
Roosevelt School (1922)
He added that Franklin Middle School turns 100 in 2023 and Wilson in 2024.
“Harrison School is 100 in 2030 if it makes it,” Stoffer Hunter said, and the old Irving School in Marion is now 133 years old. Constructed in 1888 at Sixth Street and 10th Avenue, the building now serves as a preschool and for other uses.
Repurpose these beautiful architectural buildings. Don’t replace them with modern crap.
Couldn’t agree with you more, Carol!
This is the same thing that happened in Sioux City. It is funny to me that a school is suddenly deemed “unfit” for a school, yet they sell it to someone. One large school was made into apartments. They have torn down many old buildings which is heartbreaking to me. I have lived in old homes all of my life and I am healthy. I think this a progressive way of thinking … throw out the old and never look back. Very sad to me.
Good points, Karen. It changes the dynamics of a neighborhood when schools are turned into housing, and even worse, when they’re simply demolished.
Nothing that is being constructed now will live to see the 100 mark like these schools have. The workmanship just isn’t around anymore. They definitely could be repurposed. I do hope CRCSD will reconsider tearing them all down, but I won’t be surprised when they do just that. Sadly, it seems no one in this city has ever taken a trip to Europe to see centuries-old buildings still in use.
Thank you for your message, Pam. We hope they reconsider, too!
The renaming of the schools is stupid..bunch of liberal progressive change mongers. dumbest name I’ve ever heard
I think you’re barking up the wrong tree regarding the source of the name changes, but agreed that the school names don’t seem to have deep roots in the community.