Little White School House
A drawing of the “Little
White School House” as it was referred to, was the first
school house built soon after the town was plotted in 1834. It
was built on the north side of what is now the Memorial grounds.
It was in that school that William McKinley, the future president,
received his first formal education.
Location of Leslie Avenue School
In 1891 with the growing population,
it became necessary to construct a second school house near the
northeast corner of Leslie and Linden Avenues.
The frame building was renamed
Grant Street School in 1920. It has been razed.
Like other small frontier communities,
Niles struggled to establis and maintain a system of public schools.
Before James Heaton laid out the village and provided
land for the first public school, a small log-cabin school with
greased paper windows, was located on South Main Street. About
this same time, Hermon Harmon. also seems to have taught
in a school that stood on the high ground above the Heaton Grist
Mill located along Mosquito Creek.
About 1834, the first public school,
a little white frame building, was erected on North Main Street
where the McKinley Memorial now stands. The first parochial school
was organized by St. Stephen Church in 1868.
With the exception of 2 or 3 one
room schools located on Chestnut Street, Walnut Street, and two
more were reported on the South Side of Niles, it wasn't until
1871, that Niles was able to build a major school. Central (Union)
School, a three story brick structure, opened for classes May
22, 1871, with six teachers, including the principal. That same
year marked the appointment of the first superintendant of schools,
L.L. Campbell. Twenty years were to pass before additional
schools could be built, beginning with Leslie Avenue School on
the corner of Leslie and Linden Avenue( which is now a church)
In those days, custom required that
boys and girls sat on opposite sides of the room. They sat on
long benches fronted with a sloping shelf that formed a desk.
The teacher’s desk was a more distinctive affair, standing
on a platform opposite the door. Behind the teacher’s desk
was a blackboard.
Teachers boarded in the homes of
pupils, bringing them in close contact with the parents, and enabling
the less affluent to defray a good part of their school costs
in this way. Books were scarce, highly prized, and usually well
preserved, since successive members of the family were expected
to use them.
With the exception of Central School
and the new McKinley High School (1914), all the public schools
were referred to by the name of the street they were located on;
for example Garfield school was originally referred to as Third
In 1919, due to the efforts of Marion
Kelley, a newspaper reporter and member of the Board of Education,
the existing schools were renamed for U.S. presidents.
Built 1893, Warren Avenue School-Jackson
School; Built 1896, Cedar Street School-Lincoln School; Built
1905, Bert Street School-Monroe School; Built 1905, Third Street
School-Garfield School; Built 1911, Bentley Avenue School-Jefferson
School; Built 1919, Madison Avenue School-Roosevelt School. Built
1920, Harrison School in McKinley Heights; Built 1924, Washington
Junior High School; Built 1957, S.J. Bonham on East Margaret Avenue
was named after the previous school superintendant who promoted
the 1953 bond issue that allowed for the new school buildings
of the New McKinley High School, the new Lincoln School and the
new S.J. Bonham school. which were needed due to WWII 'Baby Boomers'.