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William Rockhill Nelson School
In the fall of 1922 a new school was organized at 52nd and Holmes Street and was known only as an “Overflow School”. Superintendent Melcher had identified the area as a growth region due to the development of what had become the Rockhill district. At the time, the location was desolate with only grassy fields with cows grazing and lush wooded areas.
In an open area there was one building described as a two-room frame building which became the new “Overflow School”. A Miss Falke accepted the responsibility of opening the school.
Unfortunately, the total attendance in the school for the first two weeks averaged only 23 students and the School Board suggested that Kindergarten through the 3rd grade meet in one room with one teacher. With that word, mothers in the area made a house-to-house canvass and by the end of the first school year, attendance averaged 70 students.
The area grew rapidly and by 1924 the first unit of a permanent brick building was completed and the enrollment had grown to 160 students. A year later, enrollment grew to 350 students and the wooden annexes were once again used.
Early on it had been suggested that since the building was located in the beautiful Rockhill district that the most appropriate name for the building should be the William Rockhill Nelson School. Upon completion of the beautiful brick building, Laura Nelson Kirkwood, the daughter of Mr. Nelson donated a portrait of her father which hung in the hallway facing the entrance of the new building.
Mr. Nelson, founder of the Kansas City Star, died April 13, 1915. After providing for his family, he left his entire fortune to the public of Kansas City, to be used in establishing an art center, erecting a building and purchasing works of art, such as paintings, engravings, sculptor, tapestries and rare books.
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