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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Ward Schools

Ward Schools

GRHC - June 13th, 2012

From 1856 to 1860 Grand Rapids constructed four small wooden schools, one in each ward on the east side of the Grand River, for primary school children. Thus the name, Ward Schools.



The District No.1 Union School at Barclay and Lyon, also known as the Stone School, housed pupils of all ages. Built in 1849, by 1855 it had become so crowded that drastic measures were needed. Removing the youngest children seemed the most practical plan. Between 1856 and 1860 the city built four small wooden buildings, one in each of four wards on the east side of the river. Thus the name, Ward Schools.

First Ward school, painted white, stood on the west side of Division Avenue at the corner of Bartlett. It opened in 1856 under the supervision of Principal William L. Gillman, one of the few males, if not the only one, to oversee or teach children in the city’s primary schools before World War II.

Second Ward school, at the SW corner of N. Division and E. Bridge, (now Michigan St.), was also constructed in 1856.

Third Ward school, built in 1858 stood directly west of the present Central High School on Fountain St.

Fourth Ward school was constructed in 1860 to accommodate the growing population at the southern boundaries of the city. Located at the NW corner of Wealthy and Prospect, it was the final Ward School built to reduce congestion at the Stone School.

Only one known image of an early Ward School exists, a photograph of the building on South Division taken after basement classrooms had been added in 1865.



Full Details

TitleWard Schools
KeywordsWYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; schools; children; primary school; wards; Grand River
Pubdate StringJune 13th, 2012

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