Have you ever wondered if children of the nineteenth century groaned when it was time to return to school after summer break? If they did grumble about such things the week of September 10, 1866 would have been the time–back to school time!
The city of an estimated 17,000 people contained one high school and six grade schools within its city limits in 1866. In June, one boy and six girls had graduated from Davenport High School. One of the young ladies was Alice French, who would later author books under the pen name Octave Thanet.
While many students were returning to older, overcrowded grade schools; the students at School No. 1 actually had something to celebrate that year. On October 5, 1866 School No. 1* was officially dedicated at its new location at Fulton Avenue and Mississippi (the old school had been located at Mound and Eddy Streets) in East Davenport. This two story brick school house was considered to have the most modern features of the time.
Mid-nineteenth century modern was defined by doors that opened outward instead of inward, numbered cloak boxes for garments, water closets, hat hooks, a cistern, hand rails on the stairs, three classrooms on each floor, ventilation from windows, and access in each room to the furnace for heat.
Each classroom contained desk space for 60 to 80 students, depending on the room. Rooms were also equipped with a green chalk board. The outdoor school yard contained planks for walking, a fence, and shutters for the windows. Lest we forget, a bell tower held a bell to call the students to school.
The grand dedication was held on a beautiful October day according to the Davenport Daily Gazette of October 6, 1866. The County Superintendent was present along with numerous other local dignitaries to honor the dedication of the citizens of Davenport in creating a fine educational edifice. And what were the 220 pupils in attendance that day thinking during the speeches? If they were like school children today, they were probably just happy to be outdoors and not in the classroom for a few hours!
*In 1908, the Davenport School Board had all city elementary schools renamed for presidents. School No. 1 became, appropriately enough, Washington Elementary.
(posted by Amy D.)