History of the Marion, IL High School
By Thomas L. Wimberly
    The first free school in Marion, IL was organized in 1956 immediately following the legislative enactment of 1853 which provided for the maintenance of schools by public taxation. Prior to this, from 1836, subscription schools of varying degrees of excellence were maintained at irregular and short intervals. For a long time after 1856, a four room frame building on the site now occupied by the Williamson County Courthouse (formerly the site of the Washington School) was more than adequate for the city's needs. This facility was called the "Washington Combined School" building and housed students from grade one (1) to grade twelve (12).
     About 1881, a two room addition was erected and then in 1885, the building was destroyed by fire. After the fire, an eight room, two-story brick building which, with an addition of four rooms later, was the essence of the Washington School when it was torn down in 1969 for the construction of the new Williamson County Courthouse. This building served as the Marion Junior High School (grades 7th & 8th) from 1910 until 1951 when the first of two new Junior High School buildings were constructed and occupied. After 1951, it was used as an elementary school until it was demolished in 1969.

(Washington Combined School in about 1911)

      The chief interest in the history of the Marion schools clusters about the old Washington building. The school of the period of from 1885 to 1900 probably had most to do with shaping the lives of the men and women who were in the position of leadership in the early 1900's. It was in the Washington School building that Morton G. Kimme, added greatly to the reputation of Marion schools. A list of unusually strong school men, who were principals and superintendents during this period, includes among others, the names of B. F. Kiser, who was the head of the English department in Central High School, Kansas City, MO;  S. C. Newsome, who was the District Superintendent in the Philippine Islands; W. R. Kimsey, who was the former County Superintendent of Schools in Perry, County; E. Longbons, one of Marion's leading citizens and representative of Ginn & Company; I. O. Karraker, who was a banker in Jonesboro, IL, and J. W. Asbury, who moved to Coconut Grove, FL. Mr. Asbury was the efficient superintendent of Marion City Schools for twelve years, from 1898 to 1910. It was during his administration that the greatest development in the schools occurred.
      The rapid increase in Marion's population from 1900 (2,510) to 1920 (9,582) made providing adequate school facilities a serious problem. In 1901, it was necessary to build again and, on the site of the old Cunningham homestead where the girlhood of Mrs. John A. Logan was spent, a twelve room, two-story high school building was erected. This was at 414 East Main Street, just East of where the present Washington Elementary School is located. This building, called Logan High School, and later, the Logan Elementary School, was demolished in 1978.

(Logan High School in 1907)

     Three years later, in 1904, the original eight room, two-story, brick Lincoln School was constructed on a 3-acre site at 915 W. Chestnut ST. This building served as an elementary school until it was torn down when a new Lincoln School was constructed at 400 Morningside DR (Northeast of town) and occupied in 1993. The site of the original Lincoln School is now the location of a large, privately- owned apartment complex (2006).
      The next building constructed was Jefferson School at 702 E Boulevard ST which was a modern two-story eleven room brick building. That building burned to the ground on the night of January 13, 1949. Jefferson school students were transferred to the Logan Elementary school (by doubling class sizes to 45 students) and remained there until Jefferson was rebuilt and occupied the first time in the fall of 1950. 
     When Jefferson was re-built, it was changed into a modern one-floor building. The school has since been expanded. In the 1970's, the School for the Hearing Impaired was built on the same site, using federal and state funds. The late State Senator Johns was instrumental in the Marion, IL location of the hearing Impaired school.
     The next school building to be constructed was the Marion Township High School in 1912. In accord with an enactment of the Forty-eight General Assembly, Marion voted to create a township high school district by the combining of the west half of East Marion Township and the east half of West Marion township. A township board was elected and the newly created district bonded for $60,000 to erect a modern 30-classroom building to be devoted to high school purposes exclusively. 

(Marion Township High School in 1921)

     A beautiful site at the corner of  West Main Street and South Russell Streets was selected. The  building, the cost of which exceeded $70,000, was occupied for the first time in the fall of 1914. This building was eventually expanded to the south with another wing, a study hall, and  an basketball gymnasium sunk half-way into the ground, under the study hall. This was where the State of Illinois Basketball Champions of 1924 played. 
     A new 3,500 seat gymnasium was constructed west of the high school in 1948 which included a new study hall, library, movie room, along with additional classrooms and shops for auto mechanics and wood working. The old study hall in the original building was converted into an auditorium, complete with a stage for plays and for Principal(s) Edwards & Bundy to make speeches!
     In 1953, when the Marion schools were consolidated into Unit District #2, the name of the high school was changed to Marion High School.
      This high school building could not accommodate an enrollment of over 1,000 students. In 1962, a referendum was conducted and the voters authorized the construction of a $1,500,000 high school to be constructed on 32 acres of land donated to the Marion unit School district #2 by Dr. William W. Richey, located near the end of South Carbon Street. The school was completed and the first classes were held in the school in the fall of 1965. Basketball and football games were still played at the old "Edwards Field" at the old building on West Main ST until "Wilson Gym" and a new football field were built in the late 1970's.
      In 1949, construction was started on the new Marion Junior High School located on East Main Street just east of the Logan School (formerly the location of the old Marion high School). The first classes were held in the new school in the fall of 1951. The old Washington School located at 210 W Jefferson Street, served as the Junior High School prior to the construction of this building. This building served as the Junior High School until a new Junior High School was constructed adjacent (and connected) to the old Marion High School on West Main Street.

(Marion Junior High School - 1953)

      In the fall of 1965, the Marion High School on West Main Street was converted to a Junior High school. The old building served as the Junior High School until 1975, when a new building constructed west of the existing High School gymnasium was completed. The old Marion high school building, constructed in 1912, expanded in 1920, was torn down in 1975-1976.
      The original Junior High School building on East Main Street was converted into an elementary school and was renamed Washington School. The Logan School building adjacent to the Washington School was demolished about this time and classrooms were added to Washington on the site..
      In 1982, a tornado destroyed the McKinley school building at 904 N Court ST. Students were housed in the Washington School on East Main ST and the McKinley building was eventually replaced by combining the students with students from the Lincoln School in the new Lincoln School on Morningside DR Northest of town. The old Lincoln school was demolished about 1994 as classes began in the new school building in 1993.
      The enrollment of the Marion High School is expected to increase to over 1500 students in the next 10-15 years. What happens if the current high school building cannot accomodate the increased enrollment? There is discussion among certain citizen groups that any new high school should be constructed at a more accessible location, probably west of Marion either at the corner of Old RT. 13 and Bainbridge Trail RD, some where along Pentecost RD, or East of Marion on New Rt. 13.
     There is a possibility a new school could be constructed on a 61.5 acre site owned by the school district on Westminister DR next to Interstate 57. A new access road would be required by extending Halfway RD from Old RT 13 South to Westminister DR and an interchange constructed on Interstate 57, possibly allowing commercial development in the area. 
     One of the drawbacks to relocating the high school to a new location is the cost of replacing the athletic facilities, i.e. the gynasium, football field, baseball fields, and running track. Sooner or later, It must be relocated.
     The current High School building on South Carbon ST could then be converted to a Junior High School and the Junior High School building on West Main ST could be converted into an elementary school building.
     A lot of hurdles must be overcome before this becomes a reality. Capital development funds must be obtained from the State of Illinois and a referendum must be approved by the voters in the Unit #2 district.

A panorama view of the Marion Junion High School (1952) and the Logan Elementary School
A panorama view of the sprawling Marion High School (2006) located on South Carbon Street
This information was obtained from A. C. (Cliff) Storme, Louis Fluck, and newspaper articles published by Violet Grisham and from the personal knowledge of the webmaster, in January, 2006 and may be freely reproduced in any form. Erroneous information and typographical errors are not the responsibility of the writer and/or the publisher of this web site.