School History

One-Room School House in Wyandotte County


  • 25th and Wood
  • Hoyles 1892 City Directory:  Chelsea Place School – May nw corner Chelsea Ave.
  • 1912 City Directory:  25th nw cor Wood Ave.

Old Building Closed: 1998
New Building Opened: 1835 N. 25th, March 27, 2000

Named for Chelsea area of KCKs (included homes and park area near present-day 31st St. and Parallel Pkwy)

In the later part of the 1880s, around 26th or 27th and Wood (earlier Garrett for one of the prominent Wyandots), a park was laid out. Possibly a homesick businessman of the day remembered the gardens on the embankments in his native London, for the park was called “Chelsea.” Wood Avenue marked the northern limits of old Wyandotte, and the park was out of city jurisdiction. At Fifth and Virginia (now Richmond) the “dummy” line was divided, one track turning to the west, the other continuing north.

On weekdays, the west branch carried freight mainly, but on Sundays the trains were loaded with passengers from Missouri, said a news item of the day, bent on having a gay, noisy time. It was only later, with the enforcement of the Kansas prohibition law, that Chelsea Park lost its bad name.

A newspaper item about the tearing up of the Missouri Pacific tracks recalls a story told to Mr. Robert L. Nicholson about an early day incident. The Flying Maple Leaf was a fast mail train of the Maple Leaf Railroad. It used the tracks of the Kansas City Wyandotte Northwestern Railroad (the later abandoned Missouri Pacific tracks) and made no stops between old Kansas City and Leavenworth.

One fall day a boys band was to perform at Chelsea Park. When the boys were rounded up at the Junction, Fifth and Virginia, it was late. Colonel Edgerton gave orders to the trainmen on the “dummy” that they were to make no stops from there to the park. Just to the south of them at Fifth and New Jersey were the railroad tracks. Both lines followed almost parallel courses along what is now the Chelsea Trafficway and Jersey Creek, until about 18th Street. On the Northwestern tracks was the Flying Maple Leaf.

Mr. Nicholson describes the neck and neck race from Fifth to 18th Street, past the Western Highlands Depot at Ninth and Garfield and the Valley Park Station at 13th Street. When they reached the Midlands Depot at 18th and Chelsea Trafficway, the children on the “dummy” cheered as their little Baldwin engine drew in ahead of the mail train with its bright red and black smokestacks. The Chelsea Park train turned south on what is now probably Glendale and the fast mail sped off towards Leavenworth.

Old records tell us also of a teachers’ meeting held at White Church in 1887. Wyandotte City teachers reserved two coaches for the trip on the Kansas City Wyandotte Northwestern Railroad and paid thirty cents for the round trip.

Also in 1887, old District #2 (served by the Kerr School) was divided – the new section became District #42 and Chelsea School was established. Limits extended on the north to Parallel Road and south to the middle of Reidy Road (State Avenue). Ground for a building was donated by a Mr. Radican, and a four-room country school was built at 25th and Wood for both white and African American children. Mr. C. W. Myers, later a Principal and supervisor in the Kansas City, Kansas schools, was the First Principal. A Miss Smith is listed as a First member of the faculty and later a Miss Laura Bucklin is named.

Mr. Myers remained until 1895, when Mr. C. J. Smith became Principal. He introduced manual training into Chelsea School before Kansas City, Kansas schools had it. He and his class edited a school paper, the “Chelsea News.”

A new, red-brick building was erected in 1900, on what probably is the playground site north of the primary building. Mr. Hampton Moran was the First Principal of this new building. He was followed by Mr. E. M. Brooks, 1901-03, and Mr. O. M. West, 1903-10. Rooms were added until the building had eleven classrooms.

A county high school operated under the Barnes High School Law and was administered by the Chelsea Board members. It is often referred to as Chelsea High School and later became known as Wilson High School. The district hired five or six teachers and paid $100 a month rent to the old Kansas City University at 34th and Parallel. The Augustinian Seminary later occupied the buildings.

Patrons were dissatisfied with the operation of the high school and in 1908 elected Mr. W. J. McCarty as Principal with the understanding that the quality of teaching was to be improved. Before much could be done, the city extended its limits to include Chelsea School.

Aware that the district was growing, the Board of District #42 bought in 1907 another acre of ground adjacent to the school. It had been offered by H. D. Spencer for $3500.

In September, 1910, Chelsea became part of the Kansas City, Kansas school system. High school Principal, Mr. McCarty, was appointed to supervise several of the ten elementary schools that came into the city. Music, drawing, sewing, and manual training were introduced. The Chelsea PTA, with Mrs. Josephine Prior as president, was organized in 1912. Four names of charter members are listed in Miss Elizabeth Miller’s account (1940). Miss Miller became the First Principal of Chelsea after it came into the city and served it for thirty years.

The school grew and by 1913 it was necessary to rent additional space in a storeroom at 25th and Wood, as well as a room at Redmen’s Hall until the primary building was erected. This was a four-room brick, facing Wood on the northwest corner of 25th and Wood.

A few years later, 1916, when the war in Europe had caused prices to rise, 300 Chelsea homes sent papers and “junk” to a school sale. Chelsea bought a needed set of books with the proceeds.

In 1917, when the country went to war, recruits gathered at 22nd and Washington at Camp Hoel. Parades and community sings promoted “Liberty Bonds.” Knitting for the soldiers and gardening were civilian activities. A deadly outbreak of influenza closed the schools for weeks in 1918; a coal shortage in 1919 closed them again.

From the close of World War I in 1919 and extending into the 1920’s, before the depression, there was a time of great change in education. Chelsea School was to feel it, along with other schools of the city. The war had exposed many weaknesses. During the years came a great health drive. Free dental examinations and clinics were established. Children practiced brushing their teeth and joined an organization based on Knighthood to learn good health habits. Nurses, hired by the school Board, checked weights. First Aid classes became popular, and an Open Air room for potential tuberculosis victims was sponsored by the Junior Red Cross at Prescott School. Organized playground games began. Soap and towels became standard equipment, while the last of the common drinking cups were abolished. Citizens demanded a junior college and released time for religious instruction. Many obsolete buildings needed replacement, among them Chelsea.

By a special act of the legislature, the Board of Education issued bonds for a five-year building plan. In February, 1921, the Kansan printed an editorial saying that the Board planned to “practice witchcraft.” It was going to take a trash pile at 25th and Wood and change it to an ultra-modern school.

Rose and Peterson, architects, planned a $125,858 school of three stories and a basement with thirteen rooms and an auditorium. There would be no crowded corridors. Each classroom would have a wrap room and “simple” windows would provide plenty of air and no drafts. Iron sheets would line ultra-modern stairways without balustrades. There would be a telephone in each room. A fire-proof movie projector booth would allow a moving picture machine. Even a bathroom and tub were included in the plans. The room existed in 1966 but a tub was not installed.

Before the new building was occupied, a Chelsea patron attracted news headlines by a letter addressed to the Board of Education. In it she objected, “in the name of Chelsea patrons” to the life tenure of some teachers. Teachers, for an endless period, she wrote, get into a rut. It was a bad educational practice, and while she had no individual criticism, she remarked that children at Chelsea were being by teachers who had taught their parents. The newspapers were quick to point out the success of Ella Flagg Young in the Chicago schools. One teacher wrote that she knew children who had had the same mother for over forth years and wondered about swapping mothers.

Fogel Construction Company built the new school and, after a series of labor troubles, had eleven rooms ready by May 1, 1923. The school belonged to the “red-brick” period of the early 1920s, fireproof and modern compared to the earlier ones. Other schools of the same era are Roosevelt, McKinley, Mark Twain, L. M. Alcott, Whittier, and Central. The last eighth grade graduation was held for 74 children on May 24, 1923. After that seventh and eighth graders attended the new Northwest Junior High.

The Baptist Theological Seminary contracted to occupy the old building until its new school at 29th and Barnett was completed. In 1925 the Chelsea Christian Church leased the old building for five years. By 1928, the Board of Education completed the new building’s auditorium and made plans to sell the old one across the street.

The depression years of the thirties brought a reduction in school services and more duties for mothers. The Chelsea PTA had “bundle days” for used clothing and members attended the Thrift Shop at L. M. Alcott to sew and to help families without money to obtain clothing. A Chelsea teacher, Miss Vera Curtis, was named the director for a cadet center at the school for Kansas City University students.

Then came the school’s 48th Anniversary celebration on Thursday, February 21, 1935. It also marked Miss Elizabeth Miller’s 25th year as Principal. By 1835 the school had grown to an enrollment of 492, and it had the largest PTA in the city, 403 members. Over one hundred teachers had served on the staff and thousands of children had been enrolled. Readings, songs, and reminiscences by former pupils and teachers made up the program.

Miss Miller in her 25 years there had had seventy teachers on her staff. Miss Alma Klamm and Mrs. Emma Lang had served longer, as they came into the city with the school in 1910. Miss Klamm taught at Chelsea until 1940, when she went to McKinley, teaching there until her retirement in 1940; she was followed by Miss Lola Kenton. Miss Kenton had started her teaching career at Turner and had taught and served as Principal at the junior high school in Olathe before coming to Kansas City. After a year each at Park and Bryant, she was appointed Principal at Chelsea.

December, 1940: World War II began. Teachers and mothers issued ration books for gasoline, food, and tires, and fathers served as air wardens.

Afterward began the war on disease, when PTA members took part in the March on Polio. Spelling bees began and parents drilled their children for the contests. Then, more than twenty years after she had taken over the Principalship at Chelsea, Miss Kenton retired in December, 1962. Mrs. Martha Ramsey became acting Principal until September, 1963, when Miss Margaret Barclay, under a new school policy, became Principal of both Chelsea and Mark Twain.

In the fall of 1965-66, Chelsea, having some vacant rooms, relieved crowded conditions at Abbott by taking two six grades from there.

Information on Chelsea School provided by Nellie McGuinn, 1966.

Architectural Analysis – Public School Buildings (New/Additions) by Rose and Peterson – 1890-1927


1887: Ground for First school donated by a Mr. Radican. School constructed in and named for old Chelsea Park. Four-room country school of District 42, located at 25th and Wood. C. W. Myers named as First Principal in 1887. May have been a one-room school before 1887, as a Miss Smith has been listed as First teacher in a one-room building. Both African American and white attended.  One-Room School Houses in Wyandotte County

1889: August: Description by Edward F. Taylor, county superintendent. A small part located north of Second Standard Parallel, most of it south around the Reidy Road.Set off from District Number 2 to form new district to be called 42.

1900: School building erected. Red brick, added to until there were eleven classrooms.

1902: Still known as District 42. A 1902 8th grade commencement programs lists Hampton Moran as Principal. W C Graham as President of the Board of Education for District 42, and Henry Meade as County Superintendent.

1907: At this time had high school at Kansas City University, operating under Barnes County High School Law. School sometimes referred to as Chelsea High School, later Wilson High School.Joe Stotler was Principal.

1908: District elected W. J. McCarty as high school Principal for 1908-09. He promised to give more satisfaction than last year’s Principal. Chancellor D. S. Stephens conducted four weeks’ institute in May

August: Wilson Hall at university not completed. High School conducted in Mather Hall. Adverse feeling expressed against Kansas City University.

1909: August: District Board purchased acre of ground adjacent to present site from H. D. Spencer.

1910: January: Included in city when limits extended. September: Became part of KCKs school system.

1912: PTA founded. Mrs. Josephine Prior, First president.

1913: September: Rented storeroom at 25th and Wood for annex. Room at Redman’s Hall leased until primary building erected. Four-room brick facing Wood.

1914: NOTE: From the Historical and Architectural Survey, KC Planning & Zoning, Phase 4, 1994: Rose and Peterson, architects. Built in 1914-15, Chelsea Elementary School is one of four buildings designed in the “Cottage Plan” style (two are extinct). The Jacobethan influence can clearly been seen in the side elevations which feature steep-sided triangular gables, prominent multi-divisioned fenestration and contrasting stone trimwork. Additional Jacobethan styled elements include prominent paired chimneys, ridged roof and the use of dominant triangular gabled dormers on primary and rear facades.

1921: The new Chelsea School was planned. The main entrance for the faculty and distinguished visitors would be on 25th Street. Children would use doors on Wood and Virginia.  Chelsea was the first public school to have a bathroom included in the plans.

1909-1925 – Rose/Peterson, Architects – Much sparer in overall design are ten primary and secondary school constructed to meet the demands of a growing population. The use of materials (brick and terra-cotta), frequent application of Classical detailing, and overall plan (which features a two-story rectangular block, three bays wide), are treated similarly in all of these schools. Differing from late nineteenth and early twentieth century design, these schools were planned to provide more light and circulation for the students and staff: Stanley (1913), Whittier II (1919-20), Chelsea II (1921-23), Roosevelt (1922), McKinley, Louisa M. Alcott, and Mark Twain (1922-1924), Major Hudson (1923-24), and Central III (1924) elementary schools and Turner High School, built in 1916-17. The elementary schools were also designed in such a way that they could, if need be, be built in stages, responding to population increases within their service areas.

March 14 Kansan article: “The extension to the right of the main building was not built. There was a rock wall running along the north side of Wood Avenue from the corner of Twenty-fifth Street to Twenty-Fourth Street, so the ground did not come down to ground level on the Wood Avenue side. The building was torn down on this property as well as where the primary building was on the n.w. corner of 25th & Wood.  Twenty-fifth Street is now closed at this point due to the new building being built.”

1923: New eleven-room building occupied May 1. Baptist Seminary wanted to occupy the old room. Two rooms and auditorium not completed.

May 25: Last eighth grade commencement for 74 graduates. Northwest Junior High School to take seventh and eighth grades.

1925: July: Chelsea Christian Church leased old Chelsea building, west side of 25th Street, north of Wood, for five years.

1928: Auditorium completed.

1929: Plan to sell old building.

1930: January: Cadet center for Kansas City University. Vera Curtis, director.

1935:  February 21: Homecoming for 48th anniversary of old District 42 school.  Miss Elizabeth Miller, Principal for 25 years.

1998: Building closed.

2000: Students to new building.

2004: Received a “Great IDEAS” grant (funded/sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Fund) for the 2004-05 school year, which encourages teachers in SLC’s (Small Learning Communities) to work together to develop innovative programs and projects to improve student learning.  Received $3,377.