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West High

Cleveland Builds its First Public High School on the West Side

After Cleveland annexed Ohio City in 1854, educators on the city's new west side who wanted their own high school on their side of the Cuyahoga River struggled to find a way around a problematic state law that permitted only one public high school to exist in Cleveland. A. G. Hopkinson, principal of a grade school for advanced students in the former Ohio City, found the solution.

There was a time when there were no public high schools west of the Allegheny Mountains. When children living in the Midwest could only obtain a college preparatory education by attending private academies, the tuition for which only wealthy parents could afford. That all changed, however, in 1846 when Central High School, the first free public high school west of the Alleghenies, was founded in Cleveland. At first located in the basement of a Universalist church on Prospect Street (Avenue), it was afterwards for many years located in its own building near the intersection of Euclid Avenue and Erie (East Ninth) Street, just west of Scofield's boarding house.

While Central High School was accessible to all Cleveland children in its first few years of operation, it was not, after the annexation of Ohio City in 1854, very accessible to Cleveland children who lived west of the Cuyahoga River. Especially in an era when there were no motor vehicles to transport children to school and the bridges that crossed the river were far and few between. West siders petitioned Cleveland City Council for their own high school, but a state law restricted the city to only one public high school. According to several newspaper accounts, including one that appeared in the Cleveland Leader on June 12, 1910, it was A. G. Hopkinson, formerly principal of an Ohio City grade school for advanced students, who came up with the idea that building a "branch" high school on the west side would not violate the state law. City Council was apparently persuaded and, on April 7, 1855, it passed legislation creating east and west "divisions" of Central High School. Hopkinson became the first principal of the new west side high school, serving in the office until 1870.

Branch High School, as the west side division of Central High School was initially called, held its first classes on the top floor of Kentucky School, located on Kentucky (West 38th) Street near Terrett Avenue. In 1861, West High School-- by this time everyone had dispensed with the fiction that it was a branch of Cleveland's east side high school-- moved to a new building, constructed on a small parcel of land at the intersection of Clinton Avenue and what is today West 29th Street and Dexter Place, not far from Franklin Circle. It remained at this location for twenty-three years until a growing west side population created the need for a larger school, resulting in the purchase of land and the construction in 1884 of a large two-story red brick and stone school building at the intersection of Bridge and Randall Avenues. The west side's school age population continued to grow rapidly in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, in large part as the result of the annexations to the city of West Cleveland and Brooklyn Village in 1894. The City responded, first in 1900, by building a second west side public high school--Lincoln High School-- at the intersection of Scranton Road and Castle Avenue, and then in 1902, by relocating West High School further to the west, on a larger site and into a larger three-story brick and stone building on Franklin Boulevard near what is today West 68th Street. (The school building at Bridge and Randall later became a commerce high school, then a junior high school, and was finally home to Lourdes Academy, a girls Catholic high school, from 1944 until 1971, the year the building was razed.)

West High School remained at its Franklin Boulevard location for the next seven decades. During these years its teachers and students preserved and continued many of the traditions and school organizations which had roots in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Organizations like the Dorian Literary Society (1881), the Castilian Literary Society (1898), the Thespian Dramatic Society (1902) and the Clionian Historical Society (1902). At the end of every school year, the outgoing Class president passed to the incoming Class president a small wooden box called "The Casket," which contained metal tablets listing the names of graduating students from classes dating back to 1881, when the high school was still located on Clinton Avenue near Franklin Circle.

In addition to its peculiar traditions and organizations, West High was also notable as the alma mater of a number of locally and nationally prominent Clevelanders. For example, Mary Quintrell (Class of 1858), the first woman to run for public office in Cleveland--School Council in 1895. James Ford Rhodes (Class of 1865) and Albert Bushnell Hart (Class of 1870), both prominent historians and both honored with Cleveland schools named in their honor. Linda A. Eastman (Class of 1885), who, when named Librarian of Cleveland Public Library in 1918, became the first woman in the United States to hold this position in a library of such size and significance. Alwin C. Ernst (Class of 1899), founder of the accounting firm Ernst & Ernst, today Ernst & Young. Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd (Class of 1902), the highest ranking military officer to die in the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Lillian M. Westropp (Class of 1903) and her sister Clara (Class of 1904), pioneer women bankers who founded Women's Federal Savings and Loan in 1922. And New York Metropolitan Opera star Mildred Miller (January Class of 1943) and her husband University of Pittsburgh Chancellor and retired Air Force Brigadier General Wesley Posvar (June Class of 1943).

In 1970, West High merged with Lincoln High, creating Lincoln-West High School, a new high school with its campus on West 30th Street in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood. After the merger, the old West High school building on Franklin Boulevard continued to serve as home to West Junior High for an additional seven years until 1977, when it was torn down to make room for Joseph M. Gallagher Junior High, a new school named after a long-time member of the Cleveland Board of Education. With the razing of the old school buildings at the Franklin Boulevard site, and the razing of all of the other buildings that once served as its home, there no longer exist any buildings in Cleveland that stand as a memorial to West High, the city's first west side public high school.

Images

West High School Located on Franklin Boulevard near West 68th Street, this building, which was constructed in 1902, served as West High until the school merged with Lincoln High to form Lincoln-West High School in 1970. After the merger, it was home to West Junior High School until it was torn down in 1977 to make room for the new Joseph M. Gallagher Junior High School. This photo was taken in 1955. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Alanson Granville Hopkinson (1823-1896) At one time principal of an Ohio City grade school for advanced students, Hopkinson was the driving force behind the effort to found a public high school on the west side after the annexation of Ohio City to Cleveland in 1854. Largely as a result of his efforts, West High School was founded in 1855. Hopkinson, who lived on Franklin Boulevard for most of his life, became the new high school's first principal, serving in the office until 1870. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Kentucky School No. 1 Built in 1850 and located on Kentucky (West 38th) Street near Terrett Avenue, its third floor served from 1855-1861 as home to Cleveland's first west side public high school, initially called Branch High School, but later known as West High School. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Mary Corinne Quintrell (1840-1918) The first woman to graduate from West High School (1857), Quintrell also became the first West High graduate to serve as a Cleveland public school teacher. Mary went on to become a civic activist in Cleveland, spearheading efforts in the 1880s and 1890s to clean up the streets of Cleveland. In 1895, Cleveland passed legislation authorizing the vote for women in School Council (Board of Education) elections. In that same year, she ran (unsuccessfully) for a seat on School Council, becoming the first woman in Cleveland to run for elective office. Her older brother, Adelphius, also a member of the first West High graduating class, was a promising law student, before the Civil War broke out in 1860. He died during the Seige of Petersburg in 1865. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
The first West High School Building In 1860, A. G. Hopkinson, the principal of West High School and also a member of Cleveland City Council, successfully sponsored legislation to construct a separate school house for West High which, at the time, was holding its classes in rooms on the third floor of Kentucky School No. 1. The new West High school house was constructed in 1861 on a parcel of land between Ann Street (Dexter Place) and State (West 29th) Street, facing Clinton Avenue. It served as the home of West High School from 1861 until 1884. This photo was taken by famed local photographer George Ketteringham in 1902 when the building housed the Cleveland Manual Training School. The building was razed during the period 1937-1951. Source: Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery
The Second West High School Building In 1882, the Cleveland Board of Education purchased land on Bridge Street (Avenue), near its intersection with Randall Street (Road), where it constructed a large two-story brick and stone school building. The new West High School opened to classes in 1884. West High was located in this building until 1902, when it moved to a new, larger campus on Franklin Boulevard near Browning (West 68th) Street. The old school building on Bridge later was home to West Commerce High School, then to William Dean Howell Junior High, and finally (from 1944-1971) to Cleveland Lourdes Academy. The building was razed in 1971. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Linda Anne Eastman (1867-1963) A 1885 graduate of West High School, Eastman was a school teacher before joining the staff of the Cleveland Public Library in 1892. She rose through the ranks and became the Library's Librarian in 1918, the first woman to serve as the Librarian of a Metropolitan Library system in the United States. She served in the office until her retirement in 1938. The American Library Association selected her as one of the country's 100 most important librarians. The Eastman Reading Garden, the small park located between the Cleveland Public Library's two downtown buildings on Superior Avenue, is named in her honor. This photograph was taken circa 1918, at about the time she became Cleveland Public Library's Librarian. Source: Ohio History Connection, Ohio Memories, Digital Photograph Collection
Class of 1908 On the left a photo of the West High football team taken in the year 1908; on the right, on June 15, 1978, Class members Olga Sauer Barth (left), Charlotte Human Covert (right), Theodore Boutall (top left), and Robert Nelson (top right), celebrating their 70th reunion. Source: Raymond L. Pianka and Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Overcrowding leads to new addition In the 1930s, classes were so crowded at West High that students often had to stand in classrooms. This 1932 photo shows a typewriting class with only enough seats for two-thirds of the attending students. Overcrowding was alleviated in 1937 with the construction of a four-story addition to the original West High school building. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Building a Wireless West High students Robert Fellows, Bernard Bright, and Harry Kirby listen to an early era radio set that they built at the school. The photo was taken on June 4, 1937. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Mildred (Mueller) Miller (b. 1924) A 1943 graduate of West High School, Mueller, who changed her name professionally to Miller, is a former mezzo soprano who became a star of the Metropolitan Opera Company in the 1950s. In 1950 she married Wesley Posvar, also a 1943 West High graduate, who rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force and later served as Chancellor for the University of Pittsburgh. This publicity photo from the Metropolitan Opera archives, taken in 1951, is from her debut performance in Le Nozze di Figaro. Source: Sedge LeBlang The Metropolitan Opera.
The cafeteria In this June 1959 photo, Class President Al Hill and Joy Miller enjoy a light-hearted moment in the school cafeteria. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Scwartz Library, Special Collections
School Organizations and The Auditorium Key Club member Dennis Morgan offers a program booklet to 11th grader Greta Olsen for a play in the West High School auditorium on February 2, 1962. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Mission Impossible Actor Visit On October 10, 1969, proclaimed by Mayor Carl Stokes as "Greg Morris Day," the then popular television star and Cleveland native visited West High School as part of a fund-raising effort for children from low income families. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
West High's Last Homecoming Queen Senior Karen Olson receives her crown and flowers at the school's last Homecoming held during the 1969-1970 academic year. In 1970, West High merged with Lincoln High to form Lincoln-West High School. Source: West High School 1970 yearbook

Location

Metadata

Jim Dubelko, “West High,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 13, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/772.