By MICHAEL BUSHNELL
August 14, 2013
Located on the corner of Prospect Boulevard and Amie Court, Garfield Elementary School was one of the first ward schools in Kansas City.
The imposing red brick building bore the address of 421 Wabash St. and was erected in 1884, complete with a bell tower.
In 1909, the building was extensively remodeled. New entrances were built, the bell tower was removed, and a new lunchroom was added in the building’s basement. Garfield was actually the first Kansas City school to have facilities for student lunches.
Garfield’s first principal was the colorful Charles Thompson, who, in an earlier life, was an Indian fighter in Kansas and Iowa. After 11 years at Garfield, Thompson, known as one of the best mathematicians in the city, went on to serve as Northeast High School’s principal. M.J. Patterson succeeded Thompson as principal of Garfield.
A number of notable Kansas Citians attended Garfield, including baseball great Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel, David Beals Jr., George Conover (Conover Steel) and Frank Hicks, Knuckleheads Saloon (FOG Cycles) owner.
The stately structure was razed in 1961, and a new Garfield Elementary School was constructed on the site. Prior to its razing, a group of more than 400 Garfield alumni gathered to take a last tour and share memories of the “old Garfield.”
A bronze relief dedicated to Garfield’s WW I veterans was salvaged from the old building and now graces the west hallway at the neighborhood school. The plaque, erected to honor “Our World War Heroes,” was built into the old school after WWI and pays homage to the 213 Garfield School alumni who died during the war. Six names are highlighted above the 207 others for receiving special commendations from the army. Those names are Murray Davis, James J. Swafford, Robert McClellande Simpson, Amos Johnson, Harry Felton and Stanley Wood.