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A Brief History of Garfield School

Apr 08, 2016 09:44AM ● Published by Bryan Scott

By Natalie Mollinet | natalie@mycityjournals.com

Sugar House - Sugar House is full of history, having had the former Utah State Prison located in the beautiful park, with Highland High going strong as a school since 1952. One historic building sits on 1500 East and 1838 South: Garfield School. 

Garfield School actually started as a two-room building but was later purchased in 1913. At the time it was known as the Moon Side Annex and was used from 1918–1921. The building only held first- and second-grade classes. Then in 1921, the building became a 10-room building and was opened for grades K–6 in September of 1921. It remained a one-story building and was constructed at a cost of $68,800. The enrollment of the first year was 270 students. 

In the mid ’30s, a new wing was added at a cost of $55,400 that included an auditorium, nurse’s room, teachers’ room, a large kindergarten room, two first-grade rooms and bathrooms. 

“It was very primitive in those days,” Susan Williams, an attendee during the 1950s, said. “There was no lunchroom and if we had a mom at home we had to walk home to have lunch. Also there wasn’t a public address system — there was no way the principal could make an announcement over the speakers, so he had to walk from room to room and make announcements.” 

She was there during the launch of Sputnik and “earthquake years,” so during drills the principal would burst into the room and have students get under their desks until they were “safe.” Then he would have to walk through the entire school again and tell everyone everything was good. 

Williams said she was the rebel rouser of the school, getting everyone in her class to rally around and cause havoc for a teacher she really disliked.

“I really hated one of my teachers and I was really naughty. I was the gang leader of my class and we would decide at recess what we would do to our teacher. We’d all cough or fall out of our desks,” she said. 

Another event Williams remembered was a flood that happened near the school around the gully. She said she was on her way to school and could see water coming up over the sides of the gully, and by the time she got out of school the flood had crossed over the streets and completely blocked the street.

“It was impossible to get home,” Williams said. “I was beyond terrified that I’d never see my mother again. For a week nobody could get through that street.” 

The students of Garfield School had a rival elementary school at Uintah Elementary, or, as the Garfield students called it, Pewintah Elementary. Ironically enough, when Garfield closed all the students from Garfield were sent to Uintah to finish out their education. 

As of now, Westminster College owns the building and is planning to make it part of their school. The empty school building was ideal for Westminster since it’s within walking distance of the college and is already zoned as institutional. 

“We have not yet settled on the prime academic use of the space, but the activities that will take place there will be educational in nature — providing learning experiences for Westminster students and the local community,” Annalisa Holcombe, associate vice president of college relations at Westminster, said. 

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