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Frank Street School

1871-1921

The Frank Street School is one of several school buildings that have called the Northside Neighborhood its home, and one of the first of several southwest Michigan schools to offer eight complete grades under one roof. Considered “a model of comfort and convenience”, the two-story school was fashioned with eight rooms, and could hold 400 students. Built in the spring and summer of 1870 on Frank Street, near the corner of Burdick at a cost of $16,000, it was razed in 1924.

As was the case with many schools during Kalamazoo’s 19th century population boom, it quickly became overcrowded with students and faculty, forcing the school district to build a larger school (Lincoln School) just to the northwest in 1922. “As early as November, 1873 it was overcrowded, and an old dwelling in Summer Street, North of Kalamazoo Avenue, was rented and used for a one-room school, with 48 pupils. This school was called the Northwest school.” (Dyksterhouse, p.47)

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, 1887

“Frank Street School: the school that put Kalamazoo on its feet.”

–School Motto

Kalamazoo Public Schools, Frank Street School, 1870-1891. Photo of school before additions. KPL catalogue number P-235

Additions to the original Italianate building occurred in the mid-1890’s, expanding the diminutive school. The building had a mansard roof, a cupola, arched and rectangular sash windows, roof pediments, and an ornamental cornice.


Kalamazoo Valley Museum Collection, 78.4370. Students at Frank Street School, Kalamazoo, 1882

The Segregated School

Ten years prior to the creation of the Frank Street School, another school was established that would serve only Kalamazoo’s black children. Little is known about the motivation of those school board members who advocated for the creation of a separate and unequal school for black children, but there is evidence that the ward schools that existed to 1860, were racially integrated. On the corner of North and Walbridge streets, this school resided until 1871, when the school was discontinued, and the attending students were transferred to the newly created Frank Street School. For more information about the Kalamazoo’s “Colored School”, see the video presentation found in the Sources page.

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

Sources
Books

Development of the Public School System in Kalamazoo from 1830-1875, Peter H. Dyksterhouse

(H 379.774 D99)


Local History Room Files

Subject File: Kalamazoo Public Schools– Frank Street School


Online

Kalamazoo’s Colored School video presentation

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