By Mark Nothaft, Special for The Republic | azcentral.com, July 19, 2017
You have to wonder what 17-year-old Hattie Greene must have been thinking when she first arrived with her family from Illinois in 1897.
As Scottsdale's first-ever paid teacher, Green instructed 14 kids across eight grades in a dusty one-room schoolhouse in the middle of the rough-and-tumble southwest frontier.
Members of the newly formed Scottsdale School District, which included settlement founder Winfield Scott, bent the rules by allowing her to teach as a minor since they needed someone to extol the all-important three Rs at the time: reading, 'riting and 'rithmatic.
She earned $45 per month at the school just east of Brown Avenue at Main Street in what is today's Civic Center Mall.
A second room was added to the school to accommodate the growing student population, but that would only last a short while.
By 1909, a larger, more permanent facility would be needed, and the town held a bond election to raise funds.
The red brick Scottsdale Grammar School was built that summer at a cost of $5,000 and featured two classrooms, an entrance hall, small storage rooms and a full basement.
One school, many purposes
Because of its brick facade, the grammar school became better known as Scottsdale's “Little Red Schoolhouse,” which immediately became the hub of the burgeoning community.
The basement early on served as a Sunday school and church, community center and polling place. As Scottsdale continued to grow, it became apparent that a separate high school and second elementary were needed.
In 1922, the Little Red Schoolhouse became Coronado School for Hispanic students as newly built Scottsdale High School and Scottsdale Elementary School opened their doors.
The building would continue to serve students and eventually, the City of Scottsdale, too, once it incorporated in 1951. A town hall, county court and city library were each housed at different times within the Little Red Schoolhouse.
Saving the schoolhouse
But by the 1960s, the building's fate didn't look good. Scottsdale's ambitious plan to build the Civic Center Mall likely meant the Little Red Schoolhouse would be demolished.
Local preservationists formed the Scottsdale Historical Society in 1969 and with the help of the local Chamber of Commerce, devised a plan to restore and save the building. The Chamber leased the building from the city for a number of years and shared the space with the Historical Society.
In 1991, the Little Red Schoolhouse became the Scottsdale Historical Museum and in 1994, was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Little Red Schoolhouse, now home to the Scottsdale Historical Museum, was built in 1909 as the Scottsdale Grammar School. (Photo: Republic file photo)
A replica of Hattie Greene's original classroom is found inside, along with a lot of early Scottsdale history and artifacts.
“The Little Red School is emblematic of the development of Scottsdale,” Mayor Jim Lane says. “That building has played so many roles in our community and continues to function as an important cultural and educational asset through its current use as a local history museum.”
After a long career as an educator, rancher and poet, Greene in 1987 was posthumously inducted into the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame. She would no doubt be proud that Scottsdale preserved its Little Red Schoolhouse.