School History

Named for: Ralph Waldo Emerson – American author, poet and philosopher

“Emerson Grade School was built in 1887. Originally it had six rooms with sixty-four seats in each room. The author believes the school was named in honor of Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 1903, the school was used to house flood refugees. Water, in fact, reached the first floor of the building. In 1908, an addition of six rooms was built. In 1910, the Emerson Park and playground was built around the school. This area had been a swamp before and people were permitted to fish in it. A board sidewalk was built over the swamp to Strong Avenue. For many years, a saloon was located near the school at 29th and Strong, but it was torn down when Emerson Park was started. A large addition to the Emerson School was made in 1961 at a cost of $430,000. Eleven classrooms, a stage, and office and a library were built.” “Silver City, a History of the Argentine Community of Kansas City, Kansas,” Edwin D. Shutt II, 1976


1887 – On mud roads, trees, cornfields, the first Emerson was a temporary building on Strong Avenue between 8th and 9th (later 31st and 32nd Streets). First Superintendent was Charles R. Sortor.

During construction period of permanent building, children attended Stanley or Lowell (Argentine). Some at Metropolitan Avenue Methodist Church.

1890 – By 1890, Emerson was occupied. Built on Metropolitan between 6th and 7th Streets (later 28th and 29th Streets). Six-room, brick school with grades 1-10 and four teachers. H. A. Hollister, Principal and Superintendent.

Two-year high school established. All 7th and 8th grades of city at Emerson.

1903 – May: Flood waters on first floor – refugees housed and fed on second floor.

1905 – W. W. Rose, architect, made plans for two-room addition. Plans approved on October 25.

1906 – April 6: Contract to W. A. Drollinger.

1908 – (Probable date) Two rooms added on north, making eight rooms. W. W. Rose, architect.

1910 – Argentine annexed. School became part of Kansas City system. Swamp drained and improvements made for playground and Emerson Park . Before Emerson Park and playground were improved in 1910, the surrounding land was a swamp where the water was deep enough for fishing.

1912 – October 16: First PTA organized; F. A. Bracker, first President; 22 charter members.

1915 – “Mexican students attended either the Fiske or Ingalls School in Armourdale; Emerson and Stanley schools in Argentine; or Catholic schools such as St. John the Evangelist, in the period after 1915 and before the fall of 1923.  (The Education of Mexican-Americans in Kansas City, Kansas , 1916-1951, Robert Martin Cleary, 2002, Book found in the KCMO PUblic Library)

1918 – All Mexican children were put in basement rooms in Emerson school in Argentine and John J. Ingalls School in Armourdale when classes resumed in the fall of 1918 after an influenza epidemic.  (The Education of Mexican-Americans in Kansas City, Kansas , 1916-1951, Robert Martin Cleary, 2002, Book found in the KCMO PUblic Library)

1951 – School damaged by flood.

July 12 – Our men did not reach the Emerson School until after flood waters had entered the district and they were forced to enter and leave the school by boat.  The furniture, however, was placed on the second floor prior to any damage by water.  Supervisory personnel and many of the shop employees and custodians worked almost continuously from Thursday morning, July 12, to Friday evening, July 13.  Trucks were set into the Armourdale district to evacuate personnel under the direction of Red Cross and Civil Defense. (L H Brotherson, Business Mgr, BOE)

July 23, 1951 – Letter from Lewis Brotherson to the KCKs BOE:  We have reentered the Emerson School and have started cleaning operations.  The water did not reach the ceiling of the first floor and our furniture which had been moved upstairs is apparently in good condition.  As a minimum we will have replacement of plastering, flooring, and electrical circuits below the second floor and it is possible that moisture in the building will cause warping of the flooring on the second floor.

1959 – November 5: Contract for new building let to Dreier and Sons to be completed December 15, 1960. Wilson and Earnhart, architects. Old building to be used until new completed. Using parcel of land in Emerson Park . If ever ceases to be used as a school site, land reverts to the city.

1961 – March 3: Children into new building which front on 29th Street . May 3rd Dedication: Judge O. Q. Claflin, speaker. Eleven classrooms and auditorium. Second school in city to be electrically heated (Fairfax is other school.)

May 20: Gold anniversary for class of 1911. Classes 1896-1912 included. Mrs. Alta Turple Gear, teacher in 1890, guest.

2001 – Voters approved a proposed $120 million bond issue at the Municipal Election Tuesday (April 3, 2001) to air-condition schools, improve technology, and make other upgrades to schools and public libraries. Emerson was part of Phase I, which was completed in the summer of 2001.


1880-1893 – Miriam Cheney (died 1936) / 1893-94 – Eunice Norris / 1894-95 – Elizabeth Best / 1895-96 – Grace Tolman / 1896-98 – E. O. Jones / 1899-02 – Frank Agrelius (May) / 1902-03 – U. A. Screechfield / 103-04 – U. A. Screechfield (resigned March, 1904); Rose McIlwain (elected March, 1904); Paul E. Laird (elected June 6, 1904) / 1905 – Paul E. Laird / 1906-08 – G. B. Neff / 1909-17 – W. W. Thomas / 1917-18 – Jessamine Lindsay / 1918-19 – Cessna Anderson / 1921-26 – Lois Torrey / 1926-30 – Hazel McCallum / 1930-45 – Mrs. Lena Comer / 1945-58 – Madaline Irwin / 1958-81 – Mrs. Gwen Daniel / 1981-84 – Charles Ireland / 1984-86 – Kathrine Selma / 1986-99 – Ellen White / 1999-2007 – Ramona Stowe / 2008 – Coleen Dudley / 2010 – Brett Bernard