Hot Springs …In Class
Just ask Liz. Elizabeth Robbins and the staff of the Garland County Historical Society are ready to tackle your questions about Hot Springs’ rich history each month. Just write Ask Liz, P.O. Box 580, Hot Springs, AR 71902, or e-mail email@example.com.
What can you tell me about the first schools in Hot Springs?
The first schools in the Hot Springs area were subscription schools (schools that charged fees) circa 1845 at Chalybeate Springs and at the lower end of Hot Springs Valley. Those schools closed during the Civil War.
In 1869, the Hot Springs Institute advertised a 20-week course for $5 per month, with classes that included English, grammar, ancient and modern history, science and philosophy. Around that time, the first school for African-American children met in a brush arbor on the site of Roanoke Baptist Church on Whittington Avenue. Classes were taught three days a week by a Memphis minister who traveled weekly to Hot Springs. Two Freedmen’s schools for black students were also holding classes in the late 1860s in the Hot Springs vicinity.
In 1876, subscription schools opened – the Cottage Street School, Crest Street School, and Mrs. Jones School (a oneroom log building, fee $2 a month) on Hobson Avenue. In 1881, the Hot Springs Special School District organized. It set a 5-mill tax to raise operating funds and spent $4,346.30 in its first year. Principals received $60 a month and teachers, $50. The district had 389 pupils in classes that went through grade eight.
The first graduation ceremony was held in the Opera House on Central Avenue in May 1886 for those who had completed grade school. Nellie Connelly and John Taylor asked to be allowed to complete the full high school course (which went through 10th grade). Permission was granted on condition that this would require as little of the teachers’ time as possible. They received their high school diplomas the following year in a class of two – Nellie was valedictorian and John, salutatorian.
The high school for white students that was built in 1908 on Oak Street was destroyed in the fire of 1913. A new building (with a large coal boiler that was built for use in a battleship) was erected for $164,000. Occupied until 1967, the building is now the William Jefferson Clinton Cultural Campus. The 1913 fire also destroyed Langston School, the black high school on School Street. It was rebuilt on Silver Street and replaced in 1963 on the same site. Hot Springs High School moved to its current building on Emory Street in 1968, the year the high school was integrated.
HSHS’s first football team was organized in 1907, with the players buying their own equipment. HSHS Trojan games were played at Whittington Park before Rix Field was built in 1930, while the Langston
Bulldogs used Majestic Field and then Sam Guinn Field. On these fields, fans cheered outstanding players like future U of A star Bud Canada and future Cleveland Brown and Washington Redskin Bobby Mitchell.
The Hot Springs School District has faced many challenges, such as a financial shortfall teachers helped meet in 1937 by selling jonquils outside Oaklawn Park. But it has overcome those challenges to become an outstanding district (and the fifth-largest employer in Garland County).
The schools in the current Hot Springs District No. 6 are Gardner Math, Science, and Technology Magnet School; Langston Aerospace and Environmental Magnet School; Oaklawn Visual and Performing Arts Magnet School; Park International Baccalaureate Magnet School; Hot Springs Intermediate School, Hot Springs Middle School; and Hot Springs High School.
Led by Superintendent Joyce Craft since 2007, the district had an enrollment of 3,642 and a budget of approximately $30 million in 2012-13. Craft says, “We pride ourselves on being a district of choice, excellence and opportunity, and that our International Baccalaureate program is second to none.”
Hot Spring High School circa 1950
Oaklawn Elementary 1908-1950
Bill Clinton at Ramble School 1958
Jones School 1882
Workers at Jones School 1913
Hot Springs High School 1964
1st Class at Langston High School