Pictured are freshmen at the new Abilene High School in 1920.

Final in a multi series on Abilene’s high school

With one injunction suit in regards to the new high school building already in the state supreme court, the citizens of Abilene had plenty of interest in the controversy over the new high school. By the middle of June, though, things were only heating up.

On June 14, 1917, the Abilene Weekly Reflector reported that the city of Abilene had now gotten involved with the high school site situation. In an interesting turn of events, the city of Abilene had also filed an injunction suit against the school board and the appraisers set up by the school board to appraise the land for the proposed high school site at the Mud Creek site.

The city of Abilene filed the injunction on the grounds that the city owned an alley that ran through the proposed school site and that the alley had been given to the city to provide a public alley for use by anyone and that the school board’s attempt to condemn that public land for their use would cause “irreparable injury” to the city and the public.

City officials argued that the alley needed to remain a public alley open to public use and requested an injunction to prevent the appraisal, condemnation, or sale of that alley. While the city refused to consider giving the alley to the school board, the city would consider any proposal that would leave the alley open to the public.

The city of Abilene did not oppose the location of the high school on the Mud Creek site but the city did oppose the school board’s attempt to build on land owned by the city. Even so, the school board and the appraisers were prevented from continuing with the appraisal of the site until the injunction hearing.

According to the Reflector on June 14, the injunction suit hearing proved interesting. Members of the school board and their attorney argued that the board had never even planned to take the alley in question. On the other hand, the attorney representing the city of Abilene argued that the board’s legal notice that had been published publicly had included the alley.

“Judge Tappen rendered a decision in favor of the city and granted a temporary restraining order stopping the school board or appraisers from considering the alley in making the appraisement of the site.”

Now the board was cleared to appraise the site, as long as they avoided the alley owned by the city.

While the school board could appraise the site, the injunction case in the state supreme court prevented the board from actually purchasing or condemning the land until the case was resolved. Then on August 2, 1917, the Abilene Weekly Reflector reported that the school board had finally given up on the Mud Creek site for the high school.

Since the appraisement for the land had been filed on June 25 and there being a thirty-day window to condemn the land and purchase it, it was now past the thirty-day window and so the school board could not proceed. If the school board still wanted to build on the Mud Creek site, then it would have to begin the entire process over again. With the injunctions case still in court, the school board finally came to the conclusion that the Mud Creek site was not worth the trouble.

On August 23, 1917, the Abilene Weekly Reflector stated that the school board had met and “located the new high school for Abilene on the Brown plat, the west half of the block facing Buckeye between Sixth and Seventh adding to the plat one lot facing Sixth and one facing Seventh.”

With this simple statement, the final site was officially chosen and the drama over the location of the new high school was over. From here on out, little to no controversy over the high school site entered the newspapers and the citizens of Abilene appeared to move on to more pressing matters. After eight months of controversy and drama, Abilene could finally move on and build the high school needed to provide for the education of its youth.

Construction of the high school began in February 1918 and came to completion in late spring or early summer 1919. On May 20, 1919 the school board held a formal dedication service over a period of two days featuring speeches by prominent citizens (both local and from around the state).

Then on June 19, 1919, the Abilene Weekly Reflector reported on the cost of the high school. The site (purchase of the land and ground work) cost $18,732.92, the architect cost $5,338.47, the building (construction and supplies) cost $106,769.50, and equipment (building furnishings, etc.) cost $21,796.79. In total, the new high school cost $152,637.70 to build.

The new high school officially opened for classes for the first time on Monday, Sept. 8, 1919 to an enrollment of 400 high school students with more students expected to enroll over the next couple days. According to the Sept. 11 Abilene Weekly Reflector, the opening of the high school was even attended by Kansas Governor Henry J. Allen, who remarked that “no wonder other cities of Kansas are taking your beautiful high school building as a model.” Abilene could now enjoy its new high school after the long process of choosing the site and constructing the building.

Abilene high school students continued to meet in this school until 1955, when the current high school building was built. Even then, the 1919 high school building continued to serve local students by housing the junior high until the current middle school was built in 1976. Then in 1978, after almost 60 years of service, the 1919 high school building was finally demolished to make way for what is now known as Frontier Estates.

Contact Tim Horan at

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