Franklin Middle School celebrates 100th anniversary in Cedar Rapids
May 2024

Franklin Middle School celebrates 100th anniversary in Cedar Rapids

Franklin Middle School’s auditorium ceiling is a reproduction of one in Gilling Castle in England. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Note: Save CR Heritage is hosting a walking tour of the Harrison Elementary School neighborhood, led by Cedar Rapids Historian Mark Stoffer Hunter on Friday, June 14 and Saturday, June 15, 2024. Find details on Facebook at Harrison Walking Tour 1 and Harrison Walking Tour 2.

By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Jennifer (Kriz) Slauson, Amy (Kriz) Ackman and Carrie Kriz recall walking from their home on 30th Street Drive SE to Franklin Junior High School in northeast Cedar Rapids in the 1970s.

Their late father, Dick Kriz, also attended Franklin, so the three sisters were thrilled to find a 1952 yearbook with his photo during a 100th anniversary celebration of the school on May 23, 2024.

Jennifer (Kriz) Slauson, Amy (Kriz) Ackman and Carrie Kriz (left to right) display a 1952 yearbook that includes a photo of their late father, during Franklin Middle School’s 100th anniversary celebration on May 23, 2024. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

The Kriz sisters were among visitors who enjoyed tours during the event at the school, which was constructed from 1922 to 1923 and opened in January 1924.

Other visitors included 1950 graduate Marjorie Hahn Fletcher, who later served as a substitute teacher at Franklin and elsewhere; Cindy Lundine, who remembered sock hops, gym classes and performances on the school’s stage during her time as a student in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and later researched Franklin’s artwork; and Mary Ann Kucera, who served as director of the Cedar Rapids Board of Education, and whose mother was on the school board when Harrison Elementary was built in northwest Cedar Rapids.

Mary Ann Kucera was director of the Cedar Rapids Board of Education when Franklin Junior High received the prestigious national Excellence in Education Award. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Franklin was among four junior high schools financed by a 1920 bond issue in Cedar Rapids, along with Roosevelt and McKinley, which opened in 1922, and Wilson, in 1925. Franklin cost about $514,000, including the site, at B Avenue and 20th Street NE, the building and furniture.

Architect Bert Rugh, who also designed the other junior high schools, was trained in the Beaux Arts tradition, using English Gothic as the dominant architectural style of all four of the schools, according to “The Art and Architecture of Benjamin Franklin Junior High School,” published in 1987.

In 1934, voters approved converting the junior high schools into six-year high schools, with W.J. Brown chosen as the architect for the expansion. The publication notes that Franklin’s addition blends so well with the original brick building that careful examination is needed to distinguish the addition from the original, something that student tour guides pointed out during the 100th anniversary celebration, including just a slight variation in texture of the terrazzo floors.

More than 1,500 students were enrolled at Franklin during its peak years.

Architectural ornamentation was constructed in terra cotta glazed clay to look like cut stone, with gargoyles, owls and plant-like motifs, according to the publication. Franklin and the other three schools built in the same era are considered outstanding examples of Beaux Arts architecture, serving as points of pride in their neighborhoods.

Terra cotta gargoyles and owls are among architectural ornamentation features at Franklin Middle School in Cedar Rapids. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Read more: Wilson endangered as School Board ponders demolition

Plans for indoor pools at all four of the schools were sidelined due to the cost of materials after World War II.

Artwork by renowned artists, including Grant Wood and Marvin Cone, inspire students on nearly every wall inside the school.

The student tour guides noted Franklin’s Abbott Auditorium was influenced by English castles, with the ceiling a reproduction of one at Gilling Castle in England.

Similarly, the ceiling of Franklin’s library is a reproduction of one at Bromley Palace in England.

Franklin’s library ceiling is a reproduction of a ceiling at Bromley Palace in England. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

The students also pointed out charging stations for tablets and other devices and Franklin’s modern gym, where classes and competitions are held. The school includes elevators for ADA accessibility.

Carrie Kriz remembered her role in changing the school’s dress code at Franklin after being called into the principal’s office for wearing nice jeans and a blouse, when girls could not wear denim and had to wear a matching vest.

“I was a straight-A honor student,” she said, making the trip to the principal’s office an unusual situation for her. “But my mom defended me and the dress code was changed to allow jeans.”

Take a look back at Garfield and Arthur elementary schools, which are closing at the end of this year, and see more photos from Franklin’s 100th anniversary, below:


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