CHAMPAIGN HIGH SCHOOL
1867 - 1967
Champaign (originally West Urbana) public schools began in 1866 with two school districts. School District No. 1 was for students west of the First Street boundary line and School District No. 2 provided education for those east of First Street to Urbana. West Urbana's first public school building was built in 1855 at the southwest corner of Randolph and Hill Streets on land donated to the city for school use by J.P. White. White also donated the land for West Side High School. The schoolhouse was nicknamed "Little Brick" and was originally home to all grade levels for School District No. 1.
School District No. 2 built its first schoolhouse in 1860. The frame building was located at the present site of Marquette School at Fifth and Clark Streets. It burned to the ground on November 7, 1870 before it graduated its first class of seniors. The ceremonies for the first graduating class of East Side School (3 students) had to be held at the Methodist Church that year. The school was rebuilt on the same site and dedicated on August 7, 1871. That building burned to the ground on December 4, 1871. A new frame building, similar to the first two, was soon built at that site and served as East Side High School until the two school districts were consolidated in 1890.
School District No. 1 built their second public school building in 1867 at the northwest corner of University Avenue and Lynn Street. West Side High School, also called "Big Brick", cost $80,000. Mrs. Mary A. Fletcher was the first teacher hired for the school. Initially, the school accommodated elementary grades through high school. The facilities also served as meeting place for civic leaders, politicians and community groups. West Side High School burned to the ground in a spectacular fire on March 20, 1893. Avenue Grade School was built in 1893 on the burnt out site.
With the school districts combined in 1890 and the loss of the West Side High School building in 1893, it was decided to move the high school to be more centrally located for the high school population. "Little Brick" was demolished in 1893 to build Champaign High School on the site at Randolph & Hill Streets. School enrollment went from 254 in 1902 to 585 in 1915 and soon outgrew the building. The building was enlarged four times - two times before 1905 and two times after.
There was no cafeteria, gymnasium or auditorium. CHS football and baseball games were held at West End Park (now Eisner Park). Varsity teams held practice at West Side Park. Basketball games were played at the old Meibach Hall on East University Avenue. School dances were held at many places including the Knights of Pythias and Masonic Halls, and the ballroom above Lewis Department Store. By 1912 the school was renting rooms in nearby buildings to accommodate the growing student population. It was time to build a new Champaign High School.
The new high school was built on Green Street between State and Prairie Streets at a cost of $300,000, financed by a bond issue. It was the pride of the community. The school moved into its new facilities in 1914. The formal dedication of the building was held May 5, 1915 after four days of festivities, including a play, alumni banquet and the homecoming dance. The new Champaign High School had a cafeteria (lunches were 15¢), auditorium, gymnasium, space for manual training and home economics, and a swimming pool.
The old facilities at Randolph and Hill became home for 7th and 8th grades until 1935 when Avenue Grade School was demolished to construct the new facilities for Champaign Junior High School. Work began to expand and remodel the junior high building in 1955 at a cost of $1,600,000. In 1956, the high school on Green Street became Edison Junior High School and Champaign High School was again back at the original high school location on University Avenue.
Starting in 1964, most of the CHS sophomores had their classes at the partially completed school building on Crescent Blvd. and at Jefferson Junior High School. This new facility became known as "The Annex" for Champaign High School.
In June 1967, the 100th and last class of Champaign High School (692 seniors) held its graduation ceremonies at the University of Illinois Assembly Hall. In September of 1967, the first classes of the new Central High School began at the University Avenue facilities and "The Annex" on Crescent Drive became the new Centennial High School.