Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
State Library of Iowa

031_Elmwood School


031_Elmwood School


This is a page from the collection "Bicentennial Reflections: History of Des Moines Public Schools, 1876-1976" by Dr. Robert R. Denny, published by the Des Moines Public Schools in Des Moines, Iowa in 1976.

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29 ELMWOOD SCHOOL 31st and University Grades K-6 Dates of construction 1886 One-fourth 1900 One-fourth 1923 One-half Site 1.7 acres The north part of Elmwood was built m 1886 when it was a part of the Oakdale School District. About 1900 the Oakdale District merged with the West Des Moines Schools, and the high school students housed in Elmwood were sent to the West High building at 15th and Center. Elmwood then became an elementary school with kindergarten through the eighth grade. In 1901 there were six teachers employed as the Elmwood faculty. In 1910 some old records indicate that there were 179 pupils and eight teachers. With the development of University Place and the western part of Des Moines m general, the school population increased. Citizens then, as now, were faced with the problem of school housing. In the Spring, 1921 issue of Elmwood Scraps we note that the Independent School District of Des Moines had definite plans for more rooms: "The process of the house moving is interesting to all ages. The pupils at Elmwood are having the opportunity to see this done since the houses at the south of the school on Bratdeboro Avenue are being moved to make room for the new building." The dedication exercises for a new two-story brick building south of the old Elmwood structure were held on Tuesday, January 15, 1924. Both buildings were separate and complete. However, a wooden shed was placed on the east side to join the two schoolhouses. The shed or covered corridor was an icy tunnel during the winter and pupils had to put on winter coats and hats before passing from the old building to the new one. As might be anticipated, this runway was noisy. It was no small inconvenience to walk from the second floor of the old building down to the shed and up to the second floor of the new one. In 1937 the present brick corridors were constructed to make the present day Elmwood building that begins on University and extends to Brattleboro. In the 1920's Des Moines embarked upon an ambitious program of building separate junior high school buildings. In 1928 the seventh and eighth grade classes at Elmwood were sent to Callanan and the present elementary school of kindergarten through sixth grade emerged. The first record of Elmwood participating m the organization which later became known as the P.T.A. was notes found many years later by Hazel Hillis, daughter-in-law of Mrs. Isaac Hillis, founder and first president of Iowa Congress of Mothers. One note stated: "In 1900 was organized the Des Moines City Union of Mother Clubs which I served as President for five years. The seventeen clubs of the union included two W.C.T.U. units, one kindergarten association, two churches and twelve public school groups." In another note we know that Elmwood was one of the members since it read: "City Union met Saturday, May 19, 1900 Oakland, Bird, Elmwood, Kirkwood, Cooper, Oak Park, Webster, Longfellow. Gary, Capitol Park, Bremer, Forest Home and Washington." Many achievements were made by the City Union and the State Congress so it must be assumed that Elmwood parents had a very definite part in all of the progress. For example, a free ward was established at the new Methodist Hospital which was a forerunner of the State University of Iowa Hospital. During this period the mothers were trying to influence legislation for compulsory education. Child labor laws and conditions surrounding women and children in city, county and state institutions were being investigated. Former Vice-president Henry A. Wallace attended Elmwood in the early 1900's. In 1955 he wrote the following letter to the Elmwood P.T.A. Dear Mrs. Kernahan: September 28, 1955 "Replying to your letter of September 21 about my connection with Elmwood School, I recall that I first attended the school m the fall of 1898 or the spring of 1899 when we moved to 38th and University. "I entered the fifth grade. Graduated from the 8th grade in June, 1902. The boy of my class whom I most vividly remember was Cole McMartin who is still living but very sick. His grandfather, old Judge Elmwood (Photograph) Findley (Photograph) Ft. Des Moines (Photograph) Garton (Photograph)