The cornerstone for Sedalia’s first public school for white children was laid Sept. 4, 1867. The large, impressive red brick building, which had cost $30,000, stood on the south side of the block of West Broadway Boulevard between Kentucky Avenue and Moniteau Avenue. By 1900, the building was in disrepair and needed to be replaced.
In 1902, voters agreed to a $40,000 bond issue that would build and furnish a new elementary school building. The school board sought bids from area architects, but only one responded with a plan for the new building. Thomas Bast, the Sedalia architect who designed many of the buildings on the Missouri State Fairgrounds, submitted plans for a building that would cost $35,000, leaving $5,000 to be spent on furnishings.
The new two-story building was to be 155 feet wide and 80 feet deep, with a 70-foot-tall tower in the center. It was to be constructed on red granite pressed brick, with a slate roof and copper valleys, gutters and downspouts. Bast’s design called for a 10-foot deep basement made of limestone blocks under the building.
The basement was to house the toilet rooms, the heating and ventilation equipment, and storage rooms. The building was planned to have plenty of fresh air and natural light, and the ventilation equipment was to be of the “most approved type.” Large windows helped with both ventilation and light.
The interior of the building was designed in accordance with the latest ideas about safety, something that had been ignored in 1895 when the Sedalia High School was built with a central wooden stairway. The main entryway was in the center of the building under the tower. A five-foot-wide stairway on each end of the building and additional exits on each end would provide better ways to leave the building in case of fire.
The interior of the building was divided into classrooms and office space for the principal. The office was on the second floor above the central entry foyer. The building was to have 16 classrooms, each 25 feet by 32 feet. The corridors were to be wide and well-lighted. Natural finished cypress or yellow pine formed the interior woodwork.
The Board of Education met in a special meeting Monday, March 2, 1903, and approved Bast’s plans. The Sedalia Democrat promised that when the building was completed, it would be “the handsomest as well as one of the most substantial school structures in the state.”
A great deal of work had to be done before work on the building could begin, however. The Board of Education had not yet discussed the site of the planned building, but was aware that the cost of land could influence the ultimate cost of the building. Various brick and stone masons, carpenters, plumbers, heating contractors, glaziers, and painters were to be asked to submit bids for their work.
The Board, mindful of budget restrictions, chose to build the new building on the site of the existing building rather than to purchase new land. Later in March, a Sedalia contractor began to demolish the building and prepare the site. The new building opened in September 1903.
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.