Lewiston Schools History

Lewiston Public Schools Campuses 1863-1928

The Early Years
marker_smallThe first school in Lewiston was opened in 1863 in a log building at 3rd and C Streets. The first school rooms had breezes of ventilation sailing through wide cracks between the logs, or so complained Alonzo Leland, editor of The Lewiston Teller and the first superintendent of schools, even if only in an advisory role. Crude wood-burning stoves gave the only heat, and the only light was from the sun. The first nine-month school year was achieved in 1878-1879. The district was chartered by the Territorial Legislature in December 1880 as Idaho’s first public school district. From 1881 onward, the school was graded, but it would be a while before students even received textbooks.

Lewiston Public School

76_small(Lewis and Clark Building) Constructed 1882. 1000 Block on Main Street (then E Street).

In 1882, Lewiston residents passed their first bond election for $11,000. A wooden frame structure, this building replaced a school constructed in 1872.

The property (known as School House Lot) was deeded to the district on 10 February 1876 by Henry W. Stainton, then mayor and a school trustee. As mayor, Dr. Stainton had been granted trusteeship of all Lewiston properties subsequent to the survey of 1874. The photos of the building in the upper left and below show some of the many Lombardy poplar trees that were common along Lewiston’s main street. The last trees were cut down in the early 1920’s.

image3_11_smallIt is not known exactly when the first high school level work was done in Lewiston Schools; but, in 1888, when C. A. Foresman became principal, the high school was reorganized, and a two years’ course of study was established. In the spring of 1888 students at Lewiston’s school had walked out on strike over a dispute about how little attention was given to the high school curriculum. This dispute led to the adoption of a standardized curriculum.

77_smallGraduating Class of 1894, with Charles A. Foresman, the principal and only high school teacher. While the first high school class graduated in May 1890, this was the first formal graduation, taking place at the old Masonic Temple. Foresman would become state superintendent of schools in 1895.

id_lewiston02_small(Whitman Building) Constructed 1898. Same address as above; south of first structure.

Another bond election was held in 1898 to raise $15,000. The Lewis and Clark Building had become overcrowded because of the additional high school classes being taught. A third year of high school studies was added in 1899-1900. Originally an annex, the building soon gave its name to the entire school complex, and the name “Lewis and Clark” was discontinued. No reference to the famed expedition in the name of a Lewiston school would be made until 1959, when Sacajawea Junior High School was built. A new Whitman Elementary School was built in 1948.

Lewiston High School

webster_small(Webster Building): constructed 1904. 1200 Block on 8th Avenue.

A bond election in 1903 raised $35,000 to construct a 12-room school. This construction marked the move of the school district to the areas above the flood-prone Clearwater flats. The Lewiston Morning Tribune (1902) reported that “arguments in support of the movement were directed at the poor condition of the old wooden building at the Whitman School site.” The land was purchased for $3,750 on 28 November 1903 from Christ Weisgerber, who had made his fortune as owner of Idaho’s first brewery.

The building later served as an elementary school, being renamed “Webster.” By 1960, it had been demolished to make way for a new high school combined gymnasium and classroom complex. A new Webster building was constructed in 1948.

Garfield Grade School

gar_smallConstructed 1910. 5th Avenue between 29th and 30th Streets.

The land was purchased in June 1910 from the Idaho Trust Company for $2,000. The style was very similar to the Webster Building, with large hallways, stairwells and the sash windows that were popular during the period. Funded at $12,000 and designed by architect J. H. Nave, the structure is in the “colonial revival” style. The building has since been converted into apartments. In 1982, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

“Central High School”

jrh_smallConstructed 1910, enlarged 1914; converted to a junior high school, 1928. 1200 Block on 9th Avenue.The property was purchased from Christ Weisgerber on 3 June 1909 for $9,000. Construction was held up when the bond election failed three times (1906 and 1909). Finally, in 1909, a bond for $55,000 was carried for the construction of center section of the building and Garfield (above). With the opening of the new school, the district became one of the first in the nation to change its grade distribution to a 6-3-3 plan, which it maintains to this day. This major structure was razed in the late 1960’s to allow for the construction of new science and industrial arts buildings. Much of the brickwork was retained and used in the construction of buildings throughout the district. Note: The name “Central High School” was short-lived.

central_smallCentral Campus, Independent School District #1, c. 1915, showing the old (Webster) and new high school. The photo was taken from the adjacent lot where the present high school would be constructed in 1927-1928.

Orchards School

orchards1_smallConstructed 1912. Burrell Avenue at Thain Road. Photograph c. 1915.

The property was donated by the Lewiston Land & Water Company on 26 March 1912. Constructed some four miles southeast of the central campus, Orchards School was located in a sparsely populated area. However, roads were so poor that many students could not be transported to the downtown schools. A new school was constructed in 1956 just north of this building, which was eventually razed. Lewiston began bussing students from the Orchards to its secondary school soon after World War I.

Lewiston High School

lhs_smallConstructed 1927-1928. 1100 Block on 9th Avenue.

The property was purchased from the Weisgerber Estate on 2 April 1919 for $7,000. Designed by Curtis Richardson and built at a cost of $214,000, the school was an engineering marvel for its day and became the focus of attention for other districts seeking to build during the Depression. Each room had separate temperature controls and its own telephone connection to the main office. All clocks were synchronized. The heating system could be adapted to provide cooling throughout the building. Wings were added later to the school to the left of the photograph.

Side Notes

lsns_smallConstructed in 1895, Lewiston State Normal School had been chartered by the State Legislature in 1893 to prepare teachers for Idaho’s classrooms. The college maintained a laboratory (or training) elementary school on the campus.

Local children attended the school, which was administered and staffed by the faculty of the Normal.

In 1951, the college (then known as North Idaho College of Education) was closed when legislative funding failed.

Independent School District #1 took over the operation of the elementary school under the name “College Elementary.” The school closed in 1965, when Lewis-Clark Normal School (reopened since 1955) converted the structure into a library complex.

Today the building is known as Reid Centennial Hall in honor of one of the key proponents of the original Normal and serves as an administrative center.

50+ Years

pano_smallIn a unique photograph taken in 1949-1950, Lewiston’s three high school buildings can be seen in a single image.

At the upper right is the 1904 structure, by this time an aging elementary school.

In the center is the 1914 building, then used as the city’s junior high school.

To the left is the 1928 (and present) high school building, albeit without its additional wings.

The structure in the lower right is the old manual arts building, constructed in 1917.

Only the 1928 building remains from this panoramic photograph.

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