EST. 1915

    Constructed in 1915, Cordley Elementary School opened its doors in 1916 and is the oldest elementary school building still in operation in Lawrence. It sits on 3.46 acres of land in central Lawrence just east of The University of Kansas campus. The school bears the name of Richard Cordley, D.D., an abolitionist minister at Plymouth Congregational Church for 38 years and a survivor of Quantrill's 1863 raid on Lawrence, who went on to help rebuild the town. Rev. Cordley served on the Lawrence Board of Education for seven years and as president of the board for six years. Cordley school serves 270 students in grades K-5 and offers a full-day kindergarten program. As a cluster site, Cordley provides English as a Second Language services to English Language Learners.

    AD 1915

    The original structure was two stories in height and faced 19th Street. The principal's office was at the top of a flight of stairs that was in the center of the building facing 19th Street.
    Public School

    In 1928, another floor was added to the top of the structure. Cordley Elementary would remain this way until 1950 when the 1st floor classrooms and a new gymnasium-lunchroom were added to the east and north of the original building. The main entrance of the new Cordley would face Vermont Street with the address changed to 1837 Vermont Street.


    The building remained in this fashion from 1951 until 2014, when the citizens of Lawrence pasted a bond allowing major renovation to occur.  The school relocated to East Heights during the 2014-15 school year for the renovation to take place at Cordley.  The staff and students returned for the 2015-2016 school year in the newly renovated building.  This massive renovation included a new media center, dining commons, learning pockets, new classrooms, a secured front entrance using the original front entrance facing 19th street and more.  Cordley celebrated their 100th year anniversary on April 24th, 2016.  

    cordley front view  
    Cordley Alumni Reminisce at their 50th High School Reunion
    It has been said, "If only these walls could talk, the stories they would tell." On June 25, 1994, 17 Cordley alumni, returning for their 50th high school reunion at Liberty High School gathered at Cordley. The alumni ate lunch, toured the building, and reminisced about their Cordley years from 1931 through 1938. The stories were wonderful, the camaraderie without measure and the sense of history overpowering as this group of "Cordley kids" recalled their elementary years. Twelve members of the group had spent all seven years at Cordley.

    They were:
    Leslie Beguelin (Lawrence, KS), Frances Chubb Cox (San Jose, CA), Ruth Ellen Craig, (Corvallis, OR), Julia Pearl Leigh Fields (Spokane, WA), Richard Hack (Lawrence, KS), Dorothy Taft Harney (Cornmerce, TX), Mary Holtzclaw Jones (Fort Worth, TX), John Thomas Montgomery (Woodland Hills, CA), Richard Potter (King George, VA), Jane Holtzclaw Robinson (Hammond, LA), Richard H. Wagstaff, Jr. (Lawrence, KS), and Virginia Gregg Wharton (Wichita, KS).

     ther Cordley kids were: Julie Eschbaugh Beedon (Moorpark, CA), Jeanne Cooper Glaub (Manchester, MO), Donna Sue Landrith-Gelvin (Lawrence, KS), Pat Steeper (Upland, CA), and Joann Ruese Stucker (Evergreen, CO).

    Two letters received at Cordley School after alumni returned to their respective homes indicate the importance a grade school has for all elementary children. Following are excerpts from letters from Pat Steeper and Jeanne Cooper Glaub.

         "What an unexpected and fun treat to get to walk through and 'be' in Cordley after all this time. The lunch time and tour was one of the big treats of the 50th reunion. When classmates began sharing memories, I saw them again as very young children, each with their own dear characteristics.

         I taught at the elementary level for 21 years in California. I would have given a great deal for one of the two spacious and highly functional kindergarten rooms."

                    Signed Pat Steeper 07/08/94

         "I want to thank you for your warm welcome back to Cordley. It was such an integral part of our lives, we really enjoyed it. There were eight children in my family (I was number 6) and we all went through Cordley. My mother was active in the P.T.A. and, I think she was president when Ursula Henley was principal.

         We had a great time roaming the halls, bathrooms and trying to find the old gymnasium. I did some student teaching there when I was in college. It was amazing what some of those people remembered."

         "I know elementary education has changed a lot in fifty years, but I hope the kids of today develop the same fondness for their school as did we 'kids' of yesterday."

                    Signed Jeanne Cooper Glaub, 07/20/94

         Before the tour and after eating lunch, the Cordley "kids" tape-recorded some of their memories of Cordley. Readers need to visualize Cordley as it was between 1931 and 1937 - a three-story structure with the main entrance facing 19th street. There were cloak rooms for hanging coats and storing "galoshes". Instead of four large classrooms on the top level, there were six classrooms. The gymnasium was on the lower level as well as a stage for school performances. The field north of the school was used not only as a playground, but as a practice field for the Lawrence High School football team.

         The sense of community was very strong. All students went home for lunch as there was not a lunch program. Families were larger and students played inside and outside of the homes of the Cordley families. Girls could NOT wear long pants to school. They wore long, usually brown, stockings under their dresses. These stockings were often removed when the girls were in the classroom.

         Herbert Hoover was President of the United States in 1931 and was succeeded by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first President to appear on television - in 1939.