With a new school year just around the corner, we wanted to look back to the beginning of education in Parker. In the early 1870s, James Parker was the owner of the Twenty Mile House, a prosperous mercantile store and stage stop for travelers in the settlement of Pine Grove (renamed Parker in 1884). A few years later, when his daughter reached school age, James built a small school just south of the Twenty Mile House.
In 1914, the Parker Consolidated Schoolhouse was built to accommodate the growing numbers at Pine Grove School, as well as students from the Plainfield and Allison schools. One of the principal contractors for construction of the school was William H. O’Brien of Parker. This beautiful two-story building was made of brick and was a huge upgrade from the small wooden schoolhouse. It did not have electricity or bathrooms. Two outhouses were on the school property, one for boys and one for girls. In 1924, Andrew Johnson, the local bank president, purchased and donated a generator for the school to share with the Ruth Memorial Church.
To begin with, the school housed grades one through twelve. There were two elementary grades taught in each room on the first floor. An office, high school classes, and an auditorium were on the second floor. In the basement was a lab and home economic classes. The school also had a newspaper and a yearbook. School colors were green and white, and the mascot was the buffalo. High schoolers attended the schoolhouse until 1958, when they were sent to Douglas County High School.
In the 1970s, the building was purchased and used by the United Methodist Church. And in 1996, the schoolhouse, along with the neighboring Ruth Memorial Church and the old church parsonage, were purchased by the Town of Parker. The Mainstreet Center became a town cultural center and included a small history museum space with a historic classroom setup. Today, renamed as The Schoolhouse at Mainstreet, the building has been recently renovated by the Town of Parker for classes, shows, and events.
It is amazing to look at the transformation through these photos. It was a different time when horses and buggies brought children to school. Knickerbockers, hats, dresses, and laced boots were the normal attire of the day. Through the eras, the need and desire for education has remained the same. Due to the large growth of the town, there are currently three public high schools and many elementary, middle, and charter schools in Parker.