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South Bend School History

History of South Bend Schools

History is made by people. Therefore the History of South Bend High School is dedicated to the boys and girls who left their mark, to the athletes who established records, and to the men and women who achieved their goal. To all students that passed through the halls of the three buildings, the old building on the hill, and the three story brick structure on First Street, and the current school, this History of South Bend High School is dedicated. (The excerpt above was taken from the third page of the year book South Bend School History, 1891-1968, Which is where most of the information on the history page came from.)      

School on the Hill


On February 28, 1890, South Bend Journal stated "a site for the new public school has been selected." It was donated by the South Bend Land Company, and slated for construction during the summer. However, a stalemate developed in plans, for, in the late summer, a Chamber of Commerce committee was appointed to help the school board work out ideas and plans for furtherance of such a school.

Meanwhile, it was decided by the board that, for the winter of 1890, the "ancient old structure in Mill Addition to South Bend would again be utilized for the grade school." The doors opened November 1, with Miss Gillespie in charge. There were 50 pupils, and the little building was so crowded, the school board hurriedly constructed a small addition; at the same time outlining plans for the new school, and future plans for grade schools in the east and west ends of town.

Work on the new "high school on the hill" began in the spring of 1891. It was a "magnificent three-story edifice" and Contractor Gunther put 26 men to work so that it might be completed in mid-September, in time for the first classes in October. The April 3, 1891, issue of the Journal stated "A special school bond election to raise $6,000.00 for building the new high school carried with but one dissenting vote."

The only way to get to this school was by a trail at the top of Ferry street.

The Stage
The Old School
The Stage

In recent conversation with several contractors who viewed pictures of the early structure, Superintendent Giles reports they agreed it would cost nearly one million dollars, now, to replace the ornate old building constructed for $6,000 in 1891). Work on the second high school, located on East First Street, was begun in 1913.

Cost of obtaining the site was $3,000.00. The fine new structure itself cost $75,000.00. An extra 10-mill bond levy was voted to help finance the building which was completed during the summer of 1914, and occupied with the opening of the fall term in September, 1914.

Superintendent of construction was George Sandman. And Watson Vernon of Aberdeen was the architect. The new building was modern in every way; with fully equipped science and home economics departments, an excellent gymnasium and fine auditorium. Classrooms were roomy and well-lighted. This building was "home" to high school and junior high students for almost 54 years.

But on the evening of April 25, 1965, during the annual night relays held at Millam Field, fire of unknown origin started under the front steps, near the air ducts and fan room, and the flames were drawn up the ventilating shaft to the attic. Had it not been that some of the crowd and participants attending the relays were still on the school grounds, the interior of the building would probably have been destroyed. Many hands assisted the South Bend and Raymond Fire Departments, and the building was saved. Temporary repairs were made, so that the building could continue to be used until a new high school could be constructed. Last classes were held in the 1914 edifice in April 1968, then the students moved to the new South Bend High School.

On April 3, 1967, after long hours of detailed planning by the school board and Superintendent Giles, the passage of a special bond levy; negotiations for the property site, and assurance of state matching funds, construction was started on the new high school, located between the grade school and the old high school.