In 1924, the city of
Little Rock had one high school for white students and one for
black students. The school for white students was considerably
overcrowded. The city's business and civic leaders saw a need
for a much larger facility to handle future enrollment needs.
As a result, Little Rock Central High School was built.
Designed as a mix of
Art Deco and Collegiate Gothic architecture, the school evoked
images of higher seats of learning in Europe - such as Oxford
University - or in the United States (Princeton). It was
designed to inspire respect for learning. When completed, the
American Institute of Architects called it "America's Most
Beautiful High School."
Opened in 1927, the
school was dedicated as Little Rock Senior High School. It was
an imposing structure spanning two city blocks and over
150,000 square feet of floor space. Over 360 million pounds of
concrete and 370 tons of steel went into its construction. The
school cost $15 million to construct in 1927 and received a
great deal of publicity when it opened. An article in the
local newspaper, the Arkansas Gazette, noted that
there were "hundreds of journalists in our fair city for
Little Rock Central
High School has its origins in 1869 when Sherman High School
opened in a wooden structure at 8th and Sherman Streets in
Little Rock. Students first graduated in 1875. In 1885, the
school moved to 14th and Scott Streets and was renamed the
Scott Street School but was generally called the "City
High School." In 1890, the school moved once more to West
Capitol and Gaines Streets and was renamed the Peabody High
School in honor of George Peabody. Peabody had donated money
to southern schools after the Civil War in order to rebuild
fractured educational systems. Little Rock received nearly
$200,000 of the money from Peabody - the largest sum given to
any southern city. In 1905, Peabody High School was abandoned
and a new high school, Little Rock Senior High, opened at 14th
and Scott Streets. The school remained in that location until
1927 when it moved to its current location anchoring the
corner of 14th and Park Streets.
New features of the
school in 1927 included 100 classrooms, a fireproof auditorium
that seated 2,000 and a 60 x 160 ft. stage that doubled as the
gymnasium, and a greenhouse. In 1935, a football stadium was
constructed directly behind the school by the depression-era
Works Progress Administration (WPA) and named "Quigley Field"
after Little Rock football coach, Earl Quigley (1914-1935).
The new football stadium was the largest in the state of
Arkansas, an "ultra-modern" facility that even hosted
University of Arkansas football games until War Memorial
Stadium was constructed in 1948.
When the school was
dedicated in 1927, Little Rock School Board Member, Lillian
McDermott, noted that the new building - which would house
over 1,800 students - was "a public school were Ambition
is fired, where personality is developed, where Opportunity is
presented, and where Preparation in the solution of life's
problems is begun."
In 1951, a field
house was added to the school campus, eliminating the use of
the stage as a gymnasium. In 1953, the name of the school was
officially changed to Little Rock Central High School to
discern the school from a second high school for white
students being built in the Pulaski Heights area - Hall High