Black Hawk County IAGenWeb


Comprehensive History of Waterloo School Buildings

This little gem was discovered on the Waterloo Community Schools web page and makes for interesting reading.  It provides location details for many of the schools in history plus they are always looking for new information from visitors.  I will be searching for historical photos of these buildings as well as creating a similar history for the areas private and other county schools not located under the
Waterloo School District umbrella.  Karen Mar 2018

Editor’s note:  We are continually adding to the history of our District, not only as the years advance, but also as more is known about the past.  In some places below, you will see blanks if a date is unknown, and if there is conflicting information from different sources, that is noted.  Contributions are welcome.  Please submit them to School and Community Relations,

 In 1853, the first school was held in Waterloo. Over the decades since, each school’s opening and closing represents the pattern of growth of the city, the development of its railroads, industries and business. The location of these schools creates an intriguing mosaic that reflects the life of the city. The first school in Waterloo was held in a log cabin (16′ x 22′) on the northeast corner of Bridge and Main Streets, now the site of the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center. The cabin was built on land donated for that purpose by G. W. (‘Wash’) and Mary Hanna, serving all 17 homes in Waterloo! The school also doubled as a church for a Methodist congregation.

Waterloo’s first teacher was Eliza May, daughter of Samuel May, a pioneer hotel keeper.  The building was razed in 1877.The first school on the East Side of Waterloo was organized in 1854. Classes were held in a house owned by Myron Smith at the corner of Water and Fifth Streets. The teacher was O. I. Hardy.  Prior to 1858 (the year Waterloo was declared a city), schools in the village of Waterloo operated as a single school district. Click here to read a story about Mary Pratt, the first teacher to teach in the Black Hawk Township. 

In 1855, the first schoolhouse, Grout, opened at 8th and Sycamore.  It closed in 1862 and was razed in 1955.1858 saw the Stone Schoolhouse at 403 west Parker open.  In 1888 it closed, and in 1953 the building was sold to Four Square Gospel Church.In 1858, Waterloo was declared a City.In 1860, Central School on Washington between 6th and 7th Streets opened.  (This was later to be the site of the Sloane Wallace school.)  In 1866, it was fenced to keep out roaming cattle and horses.  The building burned in 1870.

In 1864, Union School, “Old Brick” opened at Mulberry and 6th Street as a four-room building.  Lou Henry (later, Hoover) attended here. A two-room annex was added in 1886.  The building was formerly (this could possibly be intended to mean ‘formally’) named the John G. Holland School.  In 1898 it was closed, and in 1907, it was razed to make way for the Manual Training School.


By 1858, sentiment had developed among the residents east of the river to establish two separate school districts. Residents west of the river (Waterloo Township) favored the unified district. On March 19, 1866, Election Day, high water and heavy rains prevented the West Side residents from crossing the unbridged river to the East Waterloo polling place. With the full support of the East Waterloo voters, the issue to establish two separate districts passed. The West Side became the Independent District of Waterloo; the East Side organized as the East Waterloo Independent School District. For the next 76 years until 1942, these two independent districts operated side by side as separate school districts.

At the turn of the century, industry was rapidly expanding in Waterloo. Watchful eyes were alert for talented, creative, educated personnel to help companies gain a competitive edge. Continued leadership in commercial and public service depended upon it.

By 1904, the number of public schools in Waterloo was not evenly distributed: eight public and three parochial schools were located on the East Side.  Four public schools served the West Side.

The construction and location of the schools reflected rapid industrial development and the related boost in population during the 1890s. Washington, Fiske, and McKinley Schools were all located in developing areas of the workingman’s housing by 1904. Children of immigrants working in factories and for the Illinois Central Railroad were among those attending the parochial schools. In addition, the Illinois Central Railroad operated a training school for teenage boys in the early 1900s.

West Side school locations and the paucity of them reflected the slower but steady development there. It was not until the creation of the Westfield industrial sector in 1903 that the West Side saw extensive factory-related development. In 1904 only Emerson School at Randolph and West Second Street and Lowell School at 1223 Washington Street extended educational facilities beyond the Original Town Plat.  The location of Emerson School reflected the residential development tied to the Third Street streetcar line.

Following is a timeline of schools in each of the two districts

East Waterloo Independent School District

1869–A two story, two room school opened at Walnut and Second Street; in 1893, the building was sold.

1874–East Side High School opened on High Street between Lime and Vine.  The building burned in 1915. This was later the site of another East High School, to be built in 1919.

1893–Louisa May Alcott School opened on Walnut between East 2nd and 3rd Streets. It closed in 1940 and was razed upon the completion of Longfellow.  The land was later the site of Immanual Lutheran School.

1897–East High School opened on Mulberry and 6th, beside the John G. Holland School on High Street.  The building became Hawthorne Elementary School.

1897–Washington Elementary, a two-room frame schoolhouse, opened on East 4th between Adams and Webster; it later moved to Broadway and Riehl and was re-named John Fiske Elementary School.  In 1908, it burned.

1901–Washington Elementary School opened on East 4th between Adams and Webster.  This was a large brick building replacing the relocated frame building at the same site.  It closed in 1940.  From 1943-1963 it served as the Waterloo Recreation Center.  In 1966, it was razed. (facts are not clear about the two Washington schools)

1903 — McKinley Elementary School opened at Franklin Street and Linden Avenue.  It was built on the same blueprint as Fiske.  It closed in 1920 when Francis Grout opened.  It was converted to an apartment building and later razed.

1909–Manual Training School opened on Mulberry at 6th, on the site of the Holland School.  In 1917, it was converted to the first junior high (8th and 9th grades) in Waterloo, perhaps the first in Iowa.  In the 1950s, it was razed to make way for the courthouse.

1909–McFarland Elementary School opened at Linden and Douglas; it closed in 1915 when Grant opened.

1909–Westfield School opened at Ballou and Avalon.  The building was moved several times, and it served as an annex to Edison, then Whittier, and the old Lowell prior to its final location at Hawthorne at Power Street (Riverview).

1912–Lafayette Elementary School opened at East Lafayette and Colorado; it closed in 1973 and was was sold in 1994.

In 1913 the first Lincoln Elementary School was opened at Parker and Westfield.  Additions were made in 1946 and 1954.   It closed at the end of the 2003-04 school year and was replaced by a new Lincoln Elementary on Cedar Bend Road.

Ulysses S. Grant Elementary School was built in 1915. Located on Mobile Street and Cottage Streets; additions were made in 1952 and 1957 and an annex was built in 1962. In 1970 the building was remodeled for the Bridgeway Project, an alternative educational program for elementary students. The Bridgeway program maintained minority and non-minority student enrollment percentages at 50:50 while attracting over 300 children each year from throughout the district. That building was razed and was replaced with the new Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence built at the same location, opening in August of 2002.

During the industrial development period of Waterloo’s history, the early 20th century, the district built grand new high schools to accommodate the many new students.  Designed by local architect Mortimer Cleveland, the present East High School opened with considerable fanfare in 1919.  It was built on High Street between Lime and Vine Streets, the site of the first East High School built in 1874.  Additions and extensive remodeling were done in 1939, 1955, 1956, 1962, 1965, 2002, 2006, and 2007.  You can read a history of East High by student Kris Oberheu which was published in the EHS student newspaper, The Orange and Black, in April 1990. *Link removed as redirected to web page not article.-KD3/18

Francis Grout Elementary School opened in 1920 at 330 Madison Street.  It closed in 1981 and was sold in 1994.

Roosevelt Elementary School at 200 Arlington Street was built in 1921. Asset page from National Park Service as a National Historic Place.  Construction of an addition and remodeling of the original building in 1954 created a unique enrichment room adapted to teaching art, music, and children’s literature. It was closed in  ______ and renovated into senior housing.

Longfellow Elementary School at 233 Edwards Street was completed in 1940 with several unusual features. Between each classroom is a workroom, and the school has a little theatre in addition to a large stage in the gymnasium. Longfellow replaced Alcott, John Fiske, and Washington Schools. In 1959 an annex was built to the school. Longfellow was closed as an elementary school at the end of the 2007-08 school year and re-opened in the fall of 2009 to house several district alternative programs.  It closed again in the middle of the 2010-11 school year when all alternative programs consolidated at Expo Alternative High School, located in the former McKinstry Elementary building.


The Independent District of Waterloo

1871–Central School, replaced the earlier Central School that had burned.  It housed grades 1-12, on Washington Street, between 6th and 7th Streets.  It was remodeled in 1920 and became part of Sloane Wallace Junior High.  It was razed in the 1950s.

in 1889, the first Lowell School opened at 1223 Washington Street.  In 1907 an addition was made.

In 1893, Emerson School opened at West 2nd and Randolph Streeet.  Additions were made in 1906 and 1916.  in 1973, it was used by Expo alternative High School, and in 1981, it closed.  It was later sold.

1901 saw Waterloo High School open on Washington beside the Central School.  In 1927, it was remodeled; Central was renamed Sloane Wallace Junior High School.  In 1955 it closed.

in 1906, John G. Whittier Elementary School opened at West 3rd and Sullivan.  Additions were made in 1909 and 1915.  It closed in 1981 and was later sold.

In 1913, the original Washington Irving Elementary School, Hawthorne and West 6th Street, opened.  Additions were made in 1948 and 1954.  It closed in 2003 when the new Irving opened at the site of the former West Middle School on West 5th Street.

In 1914 Edison Elementary School at 800 Rock Island Avenue, was built to replace the Westfield School. A prized possession of the school is a letter Thomas Edison wrote to the students when he learned that they had voted to name their school after him.  Edison Junior High was constructed in 1955 as one of several (1937, 1949, 1955, 1960) additions made to Edison Elementary School. For many years the building housed both elementary and junior high students. In 1988, as part of the district’s reorganization plan, Edison again became totally an elementary school. It continued to operate as a prek-5 until its closing in December 2011.   Its students were then served by Fred Becker Elementary School, which opened in January 2012, at 1239 Sheldon in Waterloo.

In 1919 Kingsley Elementary School, located at 201 Sunset Road at the intersection of Prospect Boulevard, was completed. There have been two additions to the school–one in 1952 and another in 1958. In 2005, Kingsley was closed for complete remodeling; it reopened in the fall of 2006.

In 1922 construction on the West Side high school was completed at 1115 West 5th Street. The unsettled times surrounding World War I had delayed its construction. Waterloo West High School exhibited the latest in school design, a reflection of the growing appreciation for education in America. Its architect, William ‘Bull’ Ittner of St. Louis, was a nationally known authority on school design. The dedicatory plaque carries this inscription: “Dedicated to the students of Waterloo High School who offered their lives to their country 1917-1919.”  Both junior and senior high students attended this school until 1955, when the present West High School was opened at Ridgeway Avenue and Baltimore Street.  The Fifth Street building served as a junior high/intermediate/middle school and was known respectively as West Junior High (1955), West Intermediate (1981), and West Middle School (1996) before it was demolished in 2001 to make way for the new Irving Elementary School.

Lowell (the second building to be known as Lowell) was erected at 1628 Washington Street in 1931.  It was named after American poet James Russell Lowell.  Because it was a W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) project, Lowell has a number of unusual features such as a lobby fountain, a fishpond, and a fireplace.  Phased renovations were completed at Lowell in 2004 – 2008.

In 1933, the first Castle Hill Elementary School opened on Rainbow Drive.  It became part of the district in 1936.  It was razed in _____.


The Twenthieth Century  Dramatic increases in school enrollment mirrored the regular doubling in population for all of Waterloo in the early 20th century.  Enrollment increased steadily on both sides of the river, although the east side continued to show higher numbers. The table below shows enrollment increases between 1904 and 1926 for the East and West sides of town.


1904 1,692 1,253 2,945
1913 3,039 2,308 5,347
1926 4,200 3,948 8,148

The Waterloo School districts (both the East District and the West District) embarked upon construction programs for entirely new schools and massive additions to house the hordes of students.  By 1928, there were ten schools on the East Side, including five built after 1904:  Lafayette, Roosevelt, France Grout, Grant, and Lincoln.  The West Side had nine schools in 1928.  New construction included three new elementary schools and additions to two more, which more than doubled their capacities.  For example, Emerson was built in 1893 for $8,600; the addititions made in 1906 and 1916 cost $20,490 and $35,700 respectively.


In 1942, through the efforts of many citizens living on the East and West Independent School Districts and after operating as separate entities for 76 years, the two districts merged as one becoming the Independent School District of Waterloo. The student enrollment at the time of the merger was 8,313.


In 1947, three sub-district school districts were reorganized and merged with the Waterloo Schools: Thies, Cushman and Pleasant Dale.

Thies School, on Highway 57, was used for several years. Mr. John Thies was a former member of the East Waterloo Board of Directors (or, superintendent).  It was a two-room school that closed in 1958.  In the 1990s it was razed.

Van Eaton School, at 2170 Burton Avenue, was built in 1942 as Cushman Heights School. After the merger, it was remodeled and renamed Van Eaton School.   Additions were made in 1952, 1954, 1956, and 1967.  It was closed in 1978.

The third school involved in that merger, Pleasant Dale School, located at the junction of Highways 57 and 63, closed in 1947, the year the merger took place.

The total enrollment for the district in 1950 was 9,407 students.

Maywood Elementary School opened in 1950 at Milwaukee and dearborn.  additions were made in 1952 and 1955.  In 1973, the school closed.  The building was leased to Head Start.  in _______, the District transferred ownership of the building to Tri County Head Start.

Black Hawk Elementary School, 1700 Downing Avenue, was constructed in 1950, and an addition was made in 1967. It continued to operate as a K-5 school until closing at the end of the 2009-10 school year.  The building was razed.  Black Hawk students joined with those of Edison, at the Edison building, until the new Becker Elementary was opened in January 2012, on a site adjacent to the former Black Hawk school.

For many years, Kittrell Elementary School was the largest elementary school in the district. Built in 1950, at 1520 Easton Avenue, it was named for Superintendent Charles A. Kittrell. Charles A. Kittrell served as Superintendent of the Waterloo Independent School District from 1929 until his death in 1942.  Additions were made in 1955 and 1960.  In 1962, a large annex was built south of the original structure on 11th Street. In the fall of 2009, the new Kittrell Elementary School was opened just southeast of the old building, at 1304 Oregon Street, Waterloo, IA 50702.  The Kittrell “Annex” on West 11th Street was remodeled to be an early childhood center.  The original building was razed in 2009.

The junior high school built at the corner of Independence Avenue and Idaho Street in 1953 was named McKinstry in honor of a former president of the Board of Education. Charles S. McKinstry was an eminent community leader and involved in many civic activities. To honor him, the Waterloo Chamber of Commerce named him to Waterloo’s Hall of Fame.  An addition was made in 1961. McKinstry School was converted from a junior high facility to an elementary school in 1981.  In December 2009, McKinstry was closed as an elementary school, and in January 2010, a new elementary school named Highland was opened just south of it, at 812 Idaho Street, Waterloo, IA 50703.

Logan Junior High was also built in 1953 at 1515 Logan Avenue and named for a beloved superintendent. Jack M. Logan served as superintendent of the East Waterloo Schools from 1932 to 1942 and of the newly reorganized Independent School District of Waterloo from 1942 to 1962 (a total 30 years). Both Logan Junior High and McKinstry Junior High were constructed from the same blueprints. District records show the cost for building each of the schools was approximately $1,500,000.  An addition was made in 1960.  In 1996, the school was changed to Logan Middle School; it was closed at the end of the 2008-09 school year and replaced by the George Washington Carver Academy that was built nearby.

In 1955, the new West High School opened on Ridgeway Avenue and Baltimore Street.   Additions were completed in 1962, 2002, 2007, and 2009.

Also in 1955, the second Castle Hill Elementary School opened at 1729 Maynard.  Additions were made in 1957 and 1958.  in 1989, it was closed.  it was leased to the AEA 7 (later AEA 267) for special needs students.

In 1955 City View Heights Elementary School opened at 1925 Newell.  It closed in 1978 and was sold to the City of Waterloo who converted it to a Hazardous Material Training Center.

In 1955, enrollment was 12,000.

In 1959, Nellie Garvey Elementary school opened at 2201 Mitchell, replacing Riverview School.  In 1978 it closed and was used by the dsitrict for storage for a number of years.  The property was sold in 2012.

In 1961, Harry Krieg Elementary School opened at East 4th and Ralston.  In 1987, it closed; it was sold to the City of Waterloo.

The year 1964 brought a major reorganization to the district through the concurrent action of the Boards of Education of the East Waterloo Township Schools and the Orange Consolidated Schools and the merger of several school districts. This resulted in extensive expansion of the Waterloo district to both the south and east. Because of the boundary change and school reorganization laws, it was necessary for the Waterloo Independent School district to change its name to the Waterloo Community School District.

This reorganization added several buildings to the district and brought the district’s enrollment to 18,856 students. Added were:

Orange Elementary at 6428 Kimball–this school was built in 1915 to replace 10 district schoolhouses.  Additions were made in 1952 and 1955.  It will close in May of 2013, being replaced by a new Orange Elementary School.

Jewett Elementary at 600 Collins in Evansdale–this building had been built in 1948 and named for a Black Hawk County Superintendent.  Additions were made in 1950, 1952, 1956, and 1969.  It was closed in 2007.

Elk Run Elementary on McCoy Road in Elk Run Heights–this school had been built in 1952.  It was closed as an elementary in 2007 and reopened as an early childhood center.

Hewitt Elementary on Route 3, had been built in 1953.  It was closed in 1970 and in 1999, transferred to the city of Waterloo.

Washburn Elementary School in Washburn–this building was built in 1958 and additions wwere made in 1967 and 1969.  It was closed in 1987.

Cresthaven Elementary School on Park Lane in Waterloo.  This school was built in 1963 to replace two frame schoolhouses south of Ridgeway.  An addition was made in 1967.  It was closed in 1987 and in 1997 sold to Nova Care.

Carl E. Bunger Junior High School at 157 Roosevelt in Evansdale was started by citizens of Evansdale and East Waterloo Township. It was built in 1963, and completed by the Waterloo School District in 1965 after the reorganization and merger. An addition was made in 1971. It was closed in 1988, reopening briefly  as Bunger School of Technology, and then once again returning in 1999 as Bunger Middle School. In 2003, ten classrooms were added.

Following the merger, enrollment was 18,742.

In 1964 the Administration Building was built at 1516 Washington Street to provide centralized facilities for administrative and supervisory personnel.  It is now known as the Education Service Center.

Hoover Junior High School at 630 Hillcrest Road was completed in 1967 at an estimated cost of $1,600,000. It was named for President Herbert Hoover.  It’s now Hoover Middle School.

Other schools built in 1967 led to the district’s all time high enrollment of 19,873 students.  Those builings included:

In 1968, Westridge Elementary School was opened at 3610 Ansborough.  in 1969, mobile classrooms were added.  In 1981, it was closed.  It was leased to the AEA 7 and then sold to a day care center (Community United Child Care Center).

In 1969 Greenbrier Elementary School opened at 1554 Oakwood Drive.  An addition was made in 1969.  It was closed in 1987, and in 1995 reopened at the Education Discipline Center.  It was again closed in 2001 and used for offices for support services.

In 1970 Cedar Terrace Elementary School was opened at 737 Belle Street.  It closed in 1981 and was later sold.

In 1971 Devonshire Elementary School was opened at 515 Devonshire Drive.  In 1987 it closed.  It was leased to the AEA for special needs programming until 2009 when the district brought this programming inhouse.

Central High School opened at Huntington and Hackett Roads in 1972 at an estimated cost of $4,000,000. When Central High opened, Orange High School closed. Orange had a long and rich history, graduating its first class of nine students in 1918. The last class to graduate from Orange High in 1972 had 110 students. In 1988, as part of the district’s reorganization plan, Central was closed as a high school and reopened as junior high school; it was converted to a middle school in 1996. Click here to view enrollment history for Central Middle School.

In September 1994, Memorial Stadium (track, field, and stands) opened through the support of a private fund drive led by the P.A.S.S. Committee.

In 1981, the enrollment of the district dropped to 13,532 and to 11,526 in 1991.  In 2000, it was 10,914.


Rebuilding  The passage by the voters of Black Hawk County of the One Cent Local Option Tax for Schools in 1999 led to extensive facility improvements and replacements. With the support of this tax, the District  constructed nine new elementary schools, completely remodeled two elementary schools, constructed one new middle school, and completed multi-phased projects at the middle and high schools.

The first new elementary school was Cunningham School for Excellence, opened in 2002, and built to replace Grant Elementary and half of the Roosevelt Elementary attendance area.

Multi-phased renovations were completed at both East High and West High.

The new Irving Elementary opened in the fall of 2003 on the same grounds where the original West High (later West Junior/Intermediate/Middle) School stood.

The new Lincoln Elementary opened in 2004 at 302 Cedar Bend Street on property donated by the City of Waterloo, through the Waterloo Water Works Board of Trustees.

Lou Henry Elementary, adjacent to Hoover Middle School, opened in August 2005.

The renovated Kingsley Elementary opened in August 2006.

Lowell Elementary renovations were made in stages over two years, being completed in 2008.

Poyner Elementary opened at 1138 Central Avenue, Evansdale, IA 50707 in August 2007, serving students who had previously been in the attendance areas of Jewett Elementary in Evansdale and Elk Run Elementary in Elk Run Heights.

Improvements at Bunger, Central, and Hoover Middle Schools have added space and program capabilities.

In 2006, voters approved a ten year extension of the One Cent Option Tax, allowing further facility improvements to take place.  In ____, voters approved a Revenue Purpose Statement that allows _______________.

The George Washington Carver Academy, formerly Logan Middle School, opened for the 2009-10 school year focusing on a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math curriculum.  Partnering with the Iowa State Extension of Black Hawk County, the Dick Young Greenhouse was built with a gift of $200,000 from the Young Family Foundation, as part of George Washington Carver Academy.  Both buildings are located at 1505 Logan Avenue.

The new Highland Elementary, replacing McKinstry Elementary, opened in January 2010, at 812 Idaho Street.

Becker Elementary School, a new elementary for former Black Hawk and Edison Elementary students was built near the old Black Hawk site, and opened in January 2012.

Expo and the WEBC/STAR-C closed their previous separate sites in December ____ and reopened in January ____ at McKinstry’s old site, 1410 Independence Avenue, and as the Expo Alternative Learning Center.

In 2012-13, the district operates 11 elementary schools, four middle schools, three high schools, and two Pre-K schools, with 10,555 students. Thirteen are elementary schools for students in pre-kindergarten through grade five including two pre-k buildings Freeburg Preschool and Elk Run Preschool, four middle schools for grades six through eight, and three are high schools: East, West and Expo (an alternative high school).

(Sources: Waterloo Community Schools Alumni Directory 1853-1992;
Waterloo Community School District History of Schools:  by Arlis Swartzendruber, superintendent
Credits: Information for this article was compiled from these sources:
Research material from the archives of the Grout Museum of History and Science Research material from historians James Sage, Helen Hawkins, and Ernie Barker ;Waterloo Factory City of Iowa: by Beving Long

Page constructed:  11 Mar 2018
Links in article updated as necessary
Last Update:  17 Apr 2019



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1516 Washington Street, Waterloo, IA 50702