By Sylvia Neely
At the turn of the century many schools throughout the United States were named after some of our better know presidents. Prescott was no exception with Washington School built in 1903, on Gurley Street, Lincoln School built in 1909, on Park Avenue, and Jefferson School at the end of Marina Street built in 1924. Washington School still exists as the oldest continuously used school in Yavapai County. Jefferson School was closed in 1938.
This year Lincoln School will be celebrating its 90th year serving many thousands of Prescott's elementary students. It is unusual for a community to keep their early school buildings for so many years. Prescott is proud of its heritage and our well-built brick buildings are what make up the unique look to our town.
In 1908, the attendance had increased at Washington School and the Board of Trustees could see that there was a need for a new elementary school in West Prescott. A bond election was held and was voted in by 119 to one. The building was completed on Park Avenue in 1909, at a cost of $19,480.00.
The late Pauline Tovrea was a student at Lincoln and told of her memories of being a part of the first years there. She said, "In 1911, Lincoln School consisted of only the north building. It's the first grade though the fourth grade. After completing fourth grade, I walked across town to Washington School for fifth through eighth grade." She remembered that the boys in grade one to four wore knickers, but could wear trousers in upper grades. The girls always wore dresses and black shoes. Most of the children walked to school, but a few came by horse and buggy. Each classroom had a cloakroom or closet. Students in the past who misbehaved were sent to the cloakroom for punishment. There are still cloakrooms in Lincoln's South buildings.
Mrs. Tovrea remembered that the playground was quite different, much smaller and only a straight slide and swings. Playing on the rocks was not permitted. A highlight of her fourth grade year at Lincoln was having been voted by her class to be the special May Day Queen. She dressed in her Sunday best and rode in a small wagon pulled by other classmates. For quite a few years the Maypole Dance was a special event every spring.
In the Yavapai Magazine, dated July 15, 1915, the festival was described: "Just opposite the Lincoln School in west Prescott, among the rocks and pines, is a natural amphitheater where the May Festival has been held. The picture of the children winding their Maypole against the background of huge rocks and giant pines is one to remember, an Arizona blue sky, a Maypole wound with bright flowers and children singing and dancing." Miss Helen Piper was principal at this time.
Before Piper, Minnie Tribby was the principal from 1909-1910. Two past principals are still living in Prescott. Jim Burhans taught eleven years at Lincoln and was principal from 1959 to 1970. Charlie Phillips followed Jim as principal from 1970 to 1983. Charlie started kindergarten in 1926 at Lincoln and later taught there for sixteen years. Floyd James, the present principal followed Charlie in 1983.
By 1930 the attendance had increased to such an extent that a new seven-room building was erected on the Lincoln School grounds. This is referred to as the South building. It resembles the old 1909 building.
The West side of town was an established residential section growing larger by the day. These crowded situations were taken care of for some 26 years until 1956, when a bond issue was passed for the addition of two classrooms for Lincoln school. Two years later in 1958-59, it was necessary to add two more classrooms to the old, many times annexed school on the three-acre lot. The newest addition, called the multi-purpose building, was built in 1990, between the 1909, and 1930, buildings.
Lincoln School was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as a contributor to the West Prescott Historic District in 1989.
Teachers seem to enjoy teaching at Lincoln and often stay for many years. Rose Korbel Gerten arrived in Prescott in 1930, to teach third grade. At one time there were 48 students in her classroom, but this didn't defeat Rose; she stayed with the third grade there until 1969. During WWII, Rose spent one year at Miller Valley as principal when Prentiss Foote was called to the service. Following that year as acting principal, she returned to the classroom at Lincoln. Rose still lives in Prescott.
Another faithful teacher at Lincoln was Jean Valentine who spent from 1943, to 1983, there teaching second grade. Jean also lives in Prescott.
Lincoln faculty continues to excel. In the last month, Sharon Zimmer, second grade teacher, won KTVK Channel 3 and Motorola's Silver Apple Award for teaching excellence. Sharon expressed her feelings on receiving this award saying "Each and every teacher is special and touches the lives of kids in wonderful ways."
If the walls at Lincoln could talk, what wonderful tales they could tell of the past 90 years.
Sylvia Neely is a volunteer Researcher at Sharlot Hall Museum.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (pb006i14). Reuse only by permission.
This photograph from the Bork Collection shows the Maypole dance (note the piano at the far right) about 1913 or 1914. Lincoln School, which celebrates its 90th year in 1999, sponsored the dance each spring during the early part of this century.