In a community where little of man’s handiwork is more than 60 or 70 years old, the Little Red School House on the Scottsdale Mall is one exception. It was dedicated more than a century ago, on Feb. 26, 1910.
Over the years, we’ve come to refer to it as the “little” school, but to the citizens here in 1910, it must have seemed like the Big New School House. The only previous school was a small wooden one built on the same site in 1896. It measured just 16 by 18 feet. A 12-foot addition was added later. Grades 1 through 8 were taught in the one room for the children of the handful of families living in Scottsdale.
The first teacher was Aliza Bount. She had moved to Arizona from Illinois with her husband and three children for health reasons. She was paid $40 per month.
The Little Red School House was constructed of brick, with a wood shingle roof, at a cost of $4,500. Three powerful men attended and spoke at the 1910 dedication: Major Winfield Scott, for whom Scottsdale is named; Arizona territorial Gov. Richard Sloan; and Thomas Riley Marshall, who went on to become a two-term vice president of the United States under Woodrow Wilson.Marshall was a part-time winter visitor to Scottsdale. His brother-in-law was Mort Kimsey, who later became our town’s second mayor. On the day the school was dedicated, Scott also celebrated his 73rd birthday.
Thirty-two students attended the school when it opened. Classes were taught on the main floor. The full-size basement became the school’s and the community’s auditorium.
The building served as Scottsdale’s only grade school from 1910 to 1928, when Scottsdale Grammar School was built at Marshall Way and Second Street. This school’s name was changed in the 1950s to Loloma School.
During the early years, eighth-grade graduates from Scottsdale had to go to Tempe for their high school education. Scottsdale’s first high school was built in 1923 at Brown and Indian School roads. With the addition of the high school, the district became Scottsdale Unified School District No. 48.
From 1928 to 1954, the Little Red School House continued to serve as a school, providing Spanish-speaking children a head start during their first three years, after which they entered the all English-speaking school. After 1954, it was used as a library, City Hall and police station, offices for the Chamber of Commerce and now home to the Scottsdale Historical Society.
Today, the Scottsdale Unified School District has about 23,000 students in 30 schools. The district employs more than 3,000 people, including about 1,500 teachers. It celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2016.
In 2018, graduating seniors earned $63.7 million in academic and athletic scholarships. The district also features nine A+ Schools of Excellence.
If Scott, Sloan or Marshall could see what they helped start more than 100 years ago, wouldn’t they be amazed? I know I am.
Reared in Scottsdale, Paul Messinger founded Messinger Mortuaries in 1959. Reach him at 480-860-2300 or 480-945-9521Original Article on AZ Central