Sumner School, Topeka

Thehe present Sumner building is the fourth school built at 4th St. and Western Ave. Conflicting records list 1875 and 1880 as date of origin for a one-story brick building which burned down in 1888.
    Sumner was a school for black children until 1885, when a two-room frame building at 3rd & Polk was used for black pupils and Sumner was turned over for use by while children.
    The school that burned was replaced by a one-story frame school which was supplemented by classes in nearby homes. A violent windstorm in the spring of 1898 badly damaged that building.

    In 1901 a two-story brick building with 8 classrooms was completed near 4th St. In 1914 one of Topeka's first junior high groups was started in the building. Another junior high was opened in Quincy School that same year. Sumner continued as a junior high until Roosevelt Junior high was built in 1926.
    Sumner was damaged by fire in 1915 when the Scott Ice Cream Factory next door to the school burned. During repairs classes were held at Clay School. A structural defect in the building's basement caused dangerous cracks in the walls and, in order to continue using the building, the second floor was removed.    

portal, southwest entrancesouthwest entrance, Sumner School, Topeka
relief sculpture, kindergarten room portal, kingergarten entrance, northwest Sumner School, built 1935 Female relief sculpture, souteast upper floor building detailing and weathervane

    In 1935 the present two-story brick structure was erected at the rear of the old building and the old building razed. The new, elegant, art deco-styled building had 10 classrooms, industrial arts rooms, a kindergarten, clinic, teachers' lounge, administrative offices, and an auditorium with a playroom beneath.
    In 1954 Sumner School drew national attention in the Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka legal case. It was Linda Brown's desire to attend Sumner School, in the neighborhood nearest her home.

At that time Monroe Elementary School at 15th and Monroe was designated for use by black children. Linda Brown and her parents won the decision in the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. schools were forced to desegregate.
     After decades of use, the building was closed as a school and the building was purchased by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library and used as a storage facility. Recently emptied, a new, unannounced use will be made of this beautiful building.

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Information for this web page obtained from
Shawnee County Historical Society Bulletin #67, Nov. 1990,
"Gone But Not Forgotten: The Lost Schools of Topeka."
Copies of this Bulletin are available for sale, courtesy of the Shawnee County Historical Society.

All photos © 2002 by Carol Yoho
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