Second Central School, November 2003. Photo Credit: Kevin S. Forsyth.
In 1900 a new school district, later to become East Lansing Public Schools, was formed as an alternative to the distant Lansing and Meridian Township schools. Demonstrating the paramount importance of education to the college’s faculty families, formation of the school district preceded the incorporation of the City by several years.
First Central School, 1903. Photo Credit: M.S.U. Archives.
The first Central School on this site was built in 1901, and was a single story frame structure with a brick veneer. “There was a rail fence along the front of the school yard the first year. This was ordered cut into fuel to warm the schoolhouse the second year.”[Towar, p. 55] The school district grew so rapidly that within four years the upper grades had to be housed in Ping Harrison’s “White Elephant” until the schoolhouse could be expanded. The roof was raised for a second story in 1905, which was accessed by an external stairway on the south wall. A large addition (seen below) was constructed around 1909 or 1910. The first schoolhouse burned down in 1916, on the same night as the College’s Engineering building.[Towar, pp. 53–54. Kestenbaum, p. 96]
First Central School with second addition, circa 1910. Photo Credit: Beal, p. 212.
“Steps were immediately taken to rebuild a much larger schoolhouse and in the meantime the school was conducted in the People’s Church.”[Towar, p. 54] The new building, designed in Neo-Classical style by noted Michigan architect Edwyn A. Bowd, was completed in 1917. Due to population demographic shifts, it was closed as an elementary school in 1984 (as was Bailey School), and is now used as a child development laboratory by M.S.U.
Central School is listed on both state and national historic registers.