Then and Now:
First Wichita High School
First City High School Was Downtown
THEN: Wichita’s first high school building, built in 1884, was located
between Second and Third Streets on the east side of North Emporia.
(Wichita Public Library Photograph Collection. Repository:
Wichita Public Library)
The first public school opened in Wichita in 1869, not far south from the
current North High School location.
The building was a dugout made of cottonwood logs and sod, and when the children
stepped outside the dugout, they could see Indian tepees in the distance.
William Finn, a surveyor, taught this first school for one dollar a month.
Shortly thereafter, the school moved to the rooms of a Presbyterian Church at
the corner of Wichita and Third.
In 1871, a Board of Education was formed, and a combination grade and high
school was built at Third and Emporia. That small wooden structure burned down
New Year’s Eve, 1879.
It was insured for $2,500 and was replaced, at a cost of $41,500, in the spring
of 1884, by a separate brick high school building with a handsome bell tower. It
was located on the south end of the 300 block of North Emporia.
The high school opened, Sept. 16, 1884, with an attendance of 34 students. By
December, the enrollment had increased to 42.
As enrollment increased, the tower was removed and extra rooms were added in
In spite of that addition, the structure was soon too small again, and a new
building was built, on the north end of the 300 block of North Emporia. It was
finished in 1911, at a cost of $250,000.
Wichita’s student population was increasing rapidly, however, and, by June 18,
1912, the new building was too small to accommodate all the pupils. The first
floor of the old high school building was prepared for the use of high school
students, and, by the fall of 1913, the entire old building was being used as an
While the “new” structure still stands, at 324 N. Emporia, and is used for Board
of Education meetings, because of the need for more classrooms, plans were soon
made to construct an even larger high school. That building cost almost $1
million and opened in the fall of 1923 at the corner of Douglas and Grove. The
first brick high school was torn down in August 1923, and where it had been is
now a parking lot for the BOE.
(Notes for the above article were gathered, in part, from the
Tihen Notes, Special Collections, Wichita State University and the Wichita East
High Messenger, May 24, 1978)
NOW: The site of the first high school is now a parking lot for the
Wichita Vocational Technical School.
(Photo credit: D&V Churchman, 2005)