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Burdick Street School/McKinley Elementary

1886-1980

Burdick Street School
WMU, P-351. Burdick Street School, Kalamazoo, undated

In 1885, the school board set aside funds for the construction of a new school to serve students located in the southern portion of the city. Situated at 1700 Burdick Street (southwest corner at Emerson), the Burdick Street School was a stately, late nineteenth century school that taught kindergarten through 8th grade. The Romanesque Revival building had a square facade adorned with an arched entranceway, a gabled roof with dormer windows, stone details, and a second story balcony. Kalamazoo’s population continued to grow during it’s first fifty years, resulting in a school-building boom in the expanding neighborhoods. Completed in 1886, the building was substantially modified in 1924. Architects Billingham and Cobb designed for the addition of more classrooms, an auditorium and a gymnasium. The rebuilt school was completed by builder A.J. DeKoning. The building was torn down in 1940.

Photograph by Mamie Austin. Burdick Street School. KPL catalogue number P-25

1924-1980

The Burdick Street School was renamed McKinley Elementary, after the slain President in 1924. In 1940, the elementary school was rebuilt by Henry Vander Horst and designed by M.C.J. Billingham. It stood for another 48 years, closing as a school in 1980 due to reduced student enrollment. Later, it was demolished after discussions between community stakeholders in the early 1980’s failed to lead to a successful plan to repurpose the old school. The Salvation Army building, which stands today at the site, was built in 1991.

Kalamazoo Gazette, February 14, 1999. Class picture of McKinley students

“Dear McKinley, dear McKinley,

Soccer, baseball never fail

Wear the color at the track meet

Three cheers for them all” 

–McKinley School chant

Photo likely by Mamie Austin. Exterior view of McKinley School, South Burdick and Emerson Streets, c. 1940’s. KPL catalogue number P-772.

Article written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, March 2022

Sources
Articles

“City Weighs Chance to Buy Vacant School”

Kalamazoo Gazette, February 2, 1982, page A3, column 3.

“Saying Goodbye to McKinley School”

Kalamazoo Gazette, April 14, 1988, page A13, column 1.

“McKinley School Was a Burdick Street Landmark for Years”

Kalamazoo Gazette, February 9, 1998, page 6:2, column 2.

Books

Kalamazoo Lost & Found, Lynn Smith Houghton and Pamela Hall O’Connor (H 720.9774 H838)

Local History Room Files

Subject File: Kalamazoo Public Schools–McKinley School

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