Then and Now: Carleton School


When this photo was taken in 1995, Carleton School was still in good condition and untouched by vandals.

The facade has been damaged by the removal of the front steps, windows are broken and graffiti covers the inside walls. The front entrance has been replaced with a metal fence and lower windows and doors are boarded up.

UPDATE: Carleton School was demolished in 2007.

School ‘endangered’ in ‘97 is in worse shape now

A grass roots effort is growing as citizens have finally become concerned over the proposed demolition of yet another historic Wichita structure.

Letters to the editor and Opinion Line  in the Wichita Eagle calls have demanded something be done to save Carleton School and find a use for it.

This movement has led to our revisiting past issues of the HPA Heritage Guardian.

The following article ran in the March 1995 newsletter:

The City of Wichita and USD 265 have been trading real estate as of late. This has resulted in the ironic situation of the city in ownership of a school building... and having little idea of what to do with it. The rumors around City Hall are that it will be bulldozed. We hope not.

Carleton School, at Lewis and Broadway, had its origin in 1877 as the First Ward School. It was replaced in 1880 by a brick structure. As time went by, several schools were built in a ward, and the schools acquired individual names. The First Ward School petitioned to have its name changed to Will Carleton School, in honor of the poet contemporary to the times.

The first brick Carleton was replaced in 1913 by the current structure. It was one of several new schools, including Wichita High School, Horace Mann and Hamilton erected between 1910 and 1920.

Carleton was closed as a neighborhood school in 1946 and was used as the school district’s main administrative office. Those administrative offices were moved in the late 1980s to north Water, and the building became part of a trade with the city.

The city has no use for the building, and if a use cannot be found soon, or no developer takes an interest, Carleton School may join the list of Wichita’s endangered historic buildings. It is on no historic register.

The city says it has no plans to demolish the building, but city manager Chris Cherches was quoted in The Wichita Eagle as saying he wants to remove all asbestos from Carleton in order to make it more attractive to potential buyers.

This is not necessary, according to Darrel Thorpe, former superintendent of buildings and grounds for the school system. Thorpe says Carleton has no asbestos in the ceilings; only in the plumbing and steam pipes.

The building has no central air conditioning or elevators, but it does have a chair lift on one stairway. Thorpe also said the old boilers were replaced around 1980, so the heating system is in good shape. The red brick structure contains three floors. It is constructed in a U shape and has an impressive entrance with a massive Doric column on either side.

So, what does one do with an old school building? This is the classic problem facing historic preservationists. A sound, attractive old structure has no present use. Not all old buildings can be made into museums. Restoration and maintenance are expensive, and funds are scarce.

The only answer to demolition is recycling. When this is done creatively and in good taste, the entire community benefits. Some alternative uses have been suggested including:

• offices or apartments

• fine arts studio

• homeless or work release shelter

• university extension class center

• antique mall