Kalamazoo Public Schools
Lincoln School, c.1940. KPL catalogue number P-996
Situated on the city’s northside at 912 N. Burdick Street, the Lincoln School (Lincoln International Studies School) has served as an educational environment for both elementary and junior high school students for the past 100 years. Built and dedicated in 1922, the Lincoln School replaced the aged and overcrowded
Frank Street School, which was torn down in 1924. Henry L. Vanderhorst’s firm won the bid to build the school. At the time of its construction, the three-story school was both the largest facility in the school district, and one of the largest in the country. The ample room of the edifice was conceptualized to include both classrooms for an elementary and junior high school, as well as modern amenities such as a gymnasium, a 1600-seat auditorium, a branch library, and a swimming pool. In the spring of 1921, a dispute with a bricklayers union delayed the construction of the school.
“The structure will show a first story front of stone and terra cotta, the other two stories being of old mission brick, the combination giving a most artistic effect.” (KG, 23 January 1921)
The funding for the school was sanctioned by elections in 1919 and 1920. The total cost of the school was approximately $100,000. In September of 1922, prior to opening the school for students, the branch library formerly housed inside of the North Westnedge School was moved into the Lincoln building, adding to the Kalamazoo Public Library’s district-wide expansion of branch locations. On September 6th, the school officially opened to students. The principal assigned to the school was A.L. Hyames, who oversaw the faculty of 45 teachers. The brand new school was the home of a course in printing, a new curricular focus promoted by the school board. This was also a time period when ‘night school’ was an option for students to pursue.
Lincoln Junior High Class of 1937
From the mid 1940’s through the late 1960’s, Lincoln became primarily a “black” school, as the demographic composite of the northside shifted and began to reflect the racially unbalanced character of the Kalamazoo Public Schools. In 1971, the
desegregation plan would further reveal systemic challenges with school re-balancing, educational achievement and busing–issues that continue to highlight profound socioeconomic divisions within the city.
“Around 1967, Lincoln was approximately 85 percent black.
“Our Children’s Burden” cites one community leader who said, “We’ve got de facto segregation at Lincoln and there’s no sense in pretending that we don’t.” (KG, 4-13-75)
The branch/school library that moved into the school in 1922 was no longer operating in March of 1969, when the Board of Education approved the establishment of a small library room at Lincoln School, to be funded by the Friends of the Library and the Public Museum. It would be staffed by volunteers, offer a place to study, and provide a collection on black culture and other books for the people of the Northside. It would be a regular part of the Kalamazoo Public Library system, and was named by the Friends and the Board of Education in memory of Mrs. Alma Powell. Mrs. Powell joined the KPL staff in 1946 and worked at Lincoln School and the Eastwood Branch Library until her death in 1967. She was a noted storyteller and enjoyed sharing her rich African heritage and love for books with children.
In 1991-92, Lincoln became a magnet school, and developed a curriculum that in addition to the traditional areas of focus (reading, mathematics, physical education, art, social studies, and music), would include studies around global education and languages, particularly Spanish. In that first year, 1500 students applied to be part of the new program. Also in 1992, the YMCA partnered with the school to open the gymnasium and pool to those in the surrounding neighborhood.
Article written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, November 2022
“Lincoln School on Frank Street one of finest in country”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 23 January 1921
“Resume work today at Lincoln School”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 2 May 1921
“Opens Lincoln Library Friday”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 30 August 1922
“Lincoln School–Where a city’s society takes shape”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 13 April 1975, page E1, column 1
“Opening of YMCA signals transition for Lincoln School”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 26 September 1992, page A3, column 1
Local History Room Files
Kalamazoo Public Schools – Lincoln
Kalamazoo Public Schools – Lincoln International Studies School