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History of Columbus Elementary

From Amicus to Columbus

Columbus Elementary School is Appleton's oldest school. It dates back to 1892, the year in which America celebrated the four-hundredth anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in this hemisphere. Many buildings and institutions were given Columbus' name in that year. 

Columbus School replaced the smaller Amicus (Latin for "friendly") which stood on our present-day playground. (When the playground was being resurfaced a few years ago, they uncovered parts of the Amicus School's foundation.) The neighborhood at that time was predominantly German, with many small German meat markets scattered every few blocks. Evidence of this Germanic presence can be seen in the windows and walls of Zion Lutheran Church and on the cornerstone of the former Methodist Church at the intersection of Hancock and Superior Streets.

The Building of a New School 

Columbus Old Building Photo

The Hoffman Corporation of Appleton built Columbus School. The main portion of the school building is in the architectural style known as "Queen Anne". It was a style used for many large homes in the 1890's and is evident in the design of the three large houses on corners surrounding the school grounds. The style features a steep roof coming to a peak, with irregular, non-symmetrically placed windows and gables. The ornamental tinwork outlining the gables is crowned with finials. The massive bell tower, with its huge stones, lifted high above the street is built in the Italianate style. The three Romanesque arches on each side are closed in with delicate wrought iron fencing. 

The School Bell

The bell in that tower is older than the school and has a unique history itself. When Columbus was built, one of the local fire stations donated a bell which they no longer planned to use. It was hung in the tower and called children to school each day for seventy years. In the 1960's, Columbus installed an automatic electronic bell system, and the bell was returned to the Appleton Fire Department. The Fire Dept. featured it in a memorial to firefighters who lost their lives fighting Appleton's fires over the years. This memorial stood outside the Drew Street fire station.
When Columbus celebrated its centennial in the early 1990's, the Fire Department again presented the bell to Columbus so that it could be restored to its historic tower. The Bell is now rung for ceremonial occasions throughout the year by student representatives. A neighbor, Bill Selle, donated lighting to illuminate the bell at night.

Columbus Survives

One by one the great 19th-century school buildings in Appleton were demolished and replaced by new structures. Washington school (1895) was left standing and is now an apartment building, but Columbus is the only one still being used as a school.

Columbus Goes Through Changes

The building, except for a few changes, has remained fairly close to what it had been when it first opened, although for a number of years the bricks were painted pink. In 1987, a much-needed addition was added to update the building. The addition included a gym/multipurpose room, a kitchen, a library, and office space. New washrooms were added on the 2nd and 3rd floors, a teachers' lounge was expanded, the old gym was converted into a music/art room, and an elevator was installed. The exterior was sandblasted restoring the original Milwaukee Cream color to the brick, and new windows were installed.
Columbus Elementary School is now poised to continue serving the needs of the children in its historic neighborhood as it enters the third century in which it has existed.

apples colored

Principals of Columbus

2015-Present - Joel Cannon
2013-2015 - RJ Chesterton
2005-2013 - Jennifer Dordel
1998-2004 - Nancy Scheuerman
1989-1998 - Gary Lemery
1984-1989 - Gordon A. Foster
1967-1984 - William Schein
1966-1967 - Thomas J. O'Hearn
1963-1966 - Theresa Novokofski
1962-1963 - Richard Goree
1958-1962 - Raymond J. Parkinson
1956-1958 - Robert Sauter
1953-1956 - Robert Knapp
1935-1950 - Blanche Moser
1913-1935 - Margaret Comerford
1912-1913 - Eva Vansistine
1901-1912 - Margaret Comerford
1894-1901 - Delia E. Grimes
1891-1893 - Jennie Carey