Topeka High School

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Topeka High School
Topeka High School (EJS).JPG
800 SW 10th Street [1]


United States
School typePublic high school
Established1871 (1931 at current site)
School districtUSD 501 [2]
PrincipalRebecca Morrisey
Grades9 to 12
Enrollment1,856 (2016-17)[3]
Color(s)     Black
RivalTopeka West, Lawrence
NewspaperThe World

Topeka High School (THS) is a fully accredited high school, serving students in grades 9–12, located in Topeka, Kansas. It is one of four high schools within Topeka Public Schools. In the 2010-2011 school year, there were 1,840 students enrolled.[4]

Topeka High School was established in 1871, and moved to its current location in 1931. At the time, it was among the first million dollar high schools west of the Mississippi River. Topeka High offers a variety of sports and extracurricular activities, and notable alumni include Charles Curtis, 31st Vice President of the United States. Topeka High School's mission "is to prepare all students for college and/or career readiness and success in a global society".[5]


Early history[edit]

Topeka High School and Manual Training School at 8th and Harrison, c. 1905-1930

The Topeka Board of Education established Topeka High School in 1871, and the first classes were held on the 3rd floor of Lincoln College (now Washburn University) at the time located where the GAR Memorial Hall is today. Over the next 10 years, the school was moved to various locations, including the Washburn Building at 10th and Jackson, and a room situated above the Topeka YMCA and Daily Capital newspaper.[6] In 1882, the first black student graduated from Topeka High.[7] Attendance continued to outgrow the capacity of the school facilities, and in 1894 a new school was completed on the northwest corner of 8th and Harrison, at a cost of $85,000.[6] Topeka High School's student population had reached 1,000 by 1903, and a decision was made to construct a Manual Training High School across the street on the southwest corner of 8th and Harrison, at a cost of $100,000. One third of the new building would be for manual training, and the remainder used for academic classes.[6]

In 1915, an auditorium and cafeteria were added to the north school, and the old auditorium was converted to classes. Soon after, a portable frame building was constructed to serve as a study hall and library, and in 1923, an administration building known as 'The Annex' was added to the west side of the south building.[6] In 1921, Topeka High's cafeteria cook Ida M. Moyer was declared "Champion Pie Baker of the World". It was calculated that over the previous 6 years, Moyer had baked 37,248 pies.[8]

Current location era[edit]

Overcrowding persisted at the new facility, made worse in 1924 when Topeka's Fire Marshall closed the school's 4th floor, calling it "the biggest fire trap in the city".[6] A committee planning the construction of a new high school recommended that one large school be built, and that it occupy an entire city block. They wished it to be "an addition to the City's public buildings, and not just another building".[6] Bishop James Wise offered to sell the grounds of Bethany College and other church property for a price of $142,000, and in 1928, Topeka voters approved issuing bonds of $1.1 million (=$14 million in 2014 adjusted for inflation) to finance construction of the new Topeka High School.[6] Thomas Williamson (an alumnus from 1907) and Ted Griest were selected as architects, and Linus Burr Smith as designer.[6] Construction of the new school took 18 months, and the total cost was $1.8 million. The school opened in September 1931, and there were 2000 students enrolled by the following year.[6]

This granite monument inscribed "Topeka High School" is located on the lawn near 10th Avenue, and was a gift from the class of 1959

A spar from the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") was acquired with the assistance of Vice President Curtis, and mounted on a nautical base in the plaza to serve as a flagpole. It was dedicated in October 1931. After years of wear, a replacement spar, also from the USS Constitution, was installed in 2004.[9] Topeka High's 'Hoehner Auditorium' was selected as the site for the inauguration of Kansas Governor Payne Ratner, on January 9, 1939.[10][11] In 1957, Time and Newsweek listed Topeka High among the 38 best schools in the nation.[6]

Two new high schools helped ease the crowded conditions at Topeka High: Highland Park High School was annexed into Topeka in 1958, and Topeka West High School was completed in 1961. Restructuring of the district curriculum meant that in 1980, students in the 9th grade would begin attending high school. In 1984, Topeka High installed a computer-assisted automated dialing device which called home each time a student was truant. Principal Ned Nusbaum commented, "It's been a very effective tool for getting kids into class".[12] The US Dept of Education recognized Topeka High as a "School of Excellence" in 1989.[6]

In 2001, Topeka High awarded an honorary diploma to the Honorable Eric S. Rosen, Justice, Kansas Supreme Court—a longtime supporter of the school.[13] The school celebrated its 75th Anniversary at its current site on September 17, 2006.[14] In 2007, Topeka High School was ordered to stop providing free condoms to students, as it was contrary to school district policy.[15] The annual Martin Luther King event, sponsored by the state of Kansas, took place in Hoehner Auditorium in 2012. Topeka High is located near the Statehouse, and the governor's celebration at the new venue was well received.[16]


Topeka High School
Topeka High School is located in Kansas
Topeka High School
Topeka High School is located in the United States
Topeka High School
Location800 SW 10th Street Topeka, Kansas
Coordinates39°2′57″N 95°41′8″W / 39.04917°N 95.68556°W / 39.04917; -95.68556Coordinates: 39°2′57″N 95°41′8″W / 39.04917°N 95.68556°W / 39.04917; -95.68556
Arealess than one acre
Built1870; 1929
ArchitectWilliamson, Thomas W.; Leeper, John M.
Architectural styleLate Gothic Revival
MPSPublic Schools of Kansas MPS
NRHP reference #05000550[17]
Added to NRHPJune 9, 2005

The 1931 campus is a stunning, three-story Gothic building of almost 278,000 square feet designed by Thomas W. Williamson, a 1907 graduate of Topeka High School. Notable architecture includes an ornate bell tower, which rises 165 feet over the main building entrance and contains an 18-note Deagan tubular tower chime. In 1974, the tower was rededicated in honor of Thomas Williamson.

The library was modeled after the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace. Much of the wood shelving is hand-carved, and the ceiling is hand-painted. The original chairs, now 75 years old, remain in the library and have been restored by the Topeka High School Historical Society.

The 1931 building was fitted with a water supply and drain for a pool, though rising costs and concerns about segregation delayed the pool's construction until 1957.[6] In 2005, the 20-yard swimming pool located underneath the gym was closed and converted into Laney Gym (after former swim coach Chet Laney). It is used for P.E. classes and wrestling. An additional gym was constructed on the soccer field located on the northwest side of the school where JV basketball games, Freshman basketball games, and volleyball games are played. Varsity basketball continues to be played in the "Dungeon."

The school building contains 4 fireplaces, and a greenhouse built in the late 1970s.

In 2000, the school installed air conditioning.

Topeka High School was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in September 2005.[17][18]


Topeka High has eight classes on a traditional bell schedule Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. On Wednesday and Thursday, the schedule changes to a modified block schedule. Odd numbered classes are on Wednesday and even numbered classes are on Thursday. In 2017 it was decided that Trojan time would be every single day during the 4th class period. Before it was only on Thursdays. Trojan Time allows students to sign out to specific locations for further help from teachers, or just stay in their current class and study. Six percent of Topeka High's enrollment comes as transfer students. Students outside the attendance zone come to the school for its strong fine arts program, including a music program (jazz band, drum line, wind ensembles, orchestra, and concert choirs,) its forensic and debate teams, as well as its foreign language program, which offers Spanish, German, Mandarin, and French. Also, THS also supports a Marine Corps JROTC drill team (1999–present). The school newspaper, The World,[19] is a member of the High School National Ad Network. The school yearbook is "The Sunflower". Both publications are members of JEA and NSPA. Topeka High, under the former direction of Richard Green, has also built up its broadcast journalism program. The Newsdesk a bi-monthly news broadcast showcasing student news and feature packages. Under the direction of Green, The Newsdesk has won multiple statewide broadcasting awards. "The Newsdesk" is filmed on campus in "The Tom Browne Memorial News Room".

Debate and Forensics[edit]

Topeka High maintains a strong tradition of debate and forensics throughout its prolific history. The school has qualified nearly 180 competitors to the National Tournament of the National Speech and Debate Association and before 2013, had qualified students every year for 33 straight years. The school has 6 national champions, more than any other school in the Flint Hills. The debate squad has won 4 state championships, finished second 6 times, and third place twice. The forensics squad boasts 12 state championships, with a string of 7 straight championships from 1995-2002. Topeka High forensics has 40+ individual 6A State Speech champions. The Debate and Forensics squad is coached by Dustin Rimmey.[20]


Students arrive from USD 501 middle schools, including: Robinson, Jardine, Landon, Eisenhower and Chase. Six percent transfer into THS from outside the Topeka Public Schools district, such as other school districts or parochial schools. The senior class of 2011 had 370 students, and more than 80% enrolled in some kind of post secondary education. More than $1.2 million in scholarships were awarded to Topeka High seniors in 2005.

National merit scholars (1999–2005)[edit]

The National Merit Scholarship Program is a college scholarship competition that includes taking the PSAT/NMSQT. The school has had 19 Semi-finalists, 35 Commended Scholars, 7 National Achievement Scholars, 3 Corporate Sponsor Merit Scholars, and 3 Hispanic Scholars.[citation needed]

Foreign exchange programs[edit]

Ten to fifteen students per year attend THS from countries such as Belgium, Turkmenistan, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Germany, Thailand, Brazil, Switzerland. Students are sponsored by the following exchange programs: AFS, AIFS, ASSE, CHI, AYUSA, ERDT, WISE, ISE, and Share.[citation needed]


Running of the halls: During first period of days that THS has a home football game, the students gather in the halls of Troy, cheerleaders and the drill team, flag team, and marching band march through the halls to promote school spirit.[citation needed]

Extracurricular activities[edit]

The school offers many extracurricular activities, including performing arts, school publications, and clubs.


The school teams are known as the "Trojans", and are classified as a 6A school, the largest classification in Kansas according to the Kansas State High School Activities Association. Throughout its history, Topeka has won 28 state championships in various sports.[21] Many graduates have gone on to participate in Division I, Division II, and Division III athletics.

Boys' Basketball[edit]

An important part of the school's men's basketball history was the 1949 separation of the basketball teams between black and white players.[22] White basketball players were on the Trojan team, and black athletes were on the Rambler basketball team. There were two different cheer-leading teams. While classes were integrated, blacks didn't have equal representation on the student council and separate school parties were held for black couples and white couples. The first black Topeka High basketball team, the Cardinals, started in 1929, and the Ramblers started in 1935.[citation needed] In 2009 the school looked back at the historic separation of the teams. Former UNC coach Dean Smith came back with a number of others that were associated with the Ramblers to discuss the team's history. There is no separation of the teams now, and is currently one of the most diverse basketball teams in Topeka.[citation needed] In the 2009–10 basketball season they were shown to be a lot stronger than past seasons after beating cross-town rival, Highland Park High School, the defending state champions for the past three years. The 2009–10 team is coached by Pat Denney.[citation needed]

State Championships[edit]

State Championships[21]
Season Sport Number of Championships Year
Fall Cross Country, Boys 3 1950, 1952, 1953
Soccer, Boys 1 1997
Winter Basketball, Boys 3 1932, 1973, 1986
Basketball, Girls 2 1981, 1982
Spring Golf, Boys 2 1949, 1961
Baseball 1 1947
Track and Field, Boys 6 1916, 1948, 1956, 1963, 1973, 2013
Track and Field, Girls 2 1974, 1975
Tennis, Boys 9 1931, 1932, 1933, 1935, 1936, 1943, 1948, 1976, 1977, 1989
Total 29

Notable alumni[edit]

Notable faculty[edit]


  1. ^ GNIS entry for Topeka High School
  2. ^ USD 501
  3. ^ "Topeka High". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  4. ^ "Topeka High". School Directory Information. U.S. Department of Education.
  5. ^ "Program of Studies" (PDF). Topeka High School website. 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Topeka High School". National Register of Historic Places. 2005.
  7. ^ Cox, Thomas c. (1982). Blacks in Topeka, Kansas, 1865-1915: A Social History. Louisiana State University.
  8. ^ "She Bakes 37,248 Pies in Six Years". Pittsburgh Press. July 25, 1921.
  9. ^ Purinton, Cait (January 14, 2004). "Topeka High School to receive ship's spar". The Topeka Capital-Journal. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  10. ^ "To Face Facts, Ratner Says In First Speech". The Hutchinson News. January 9, 1939.
  11. ^ "Inauguration Sidelines". Lawrence Journal-World. January 9, 1939.
  12. ^ "School Cuts Absentees with Calling Machine". St. Joseph News-Press. May 3, 1985.
  13. ^ "Honorable Eric S. Rosen, Justice, Kansas Supreme Court 2005-". Kansas Judicial Center. 2007.
  14. ^ Johnson, Fredrick J. (August 10, 2003). "Topeka High School: Landmark testimony to history". The Topeka Capital-Journal.
  15. ^ "No More Free Condoms at Topeka High". The Daily Union. October 18, 2017.
  16. ^ Anderson, Phil (January 12, 2012). "King Celebration Held in New Venue". The Topeka Capital-Journal.
  17. ^ a b National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  18. ^ Brenda R. Spencer (September 27, 2004). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Topeka High School". National Park Service. Retrieved March 12, 2017. with 31 photos
  19. ^ THS Tower Retrieved 22 September 2015. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b "State Records & State Champions". Catch It Kansas. Catch It Kansas. 2010-02-11. Archived from the original on 2009-04-21.
  22. ^ Steve Fry, '49 basketball teams segregated,, Posted: October 10, 2009
  23. ^ "Former Topeka Bowler Barnes Wins Again on National TV". Topeka Capital-Journal. December 9, 2012.
  24. ^ "Ruth Gagliardo and the William Allen White Children's Book Award". Emporia State University. 2013.
  25. ^ "Lutie Lytle". Kansas Historical Society. Retrieved January 2014. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  26. ^ "Topeka Teacher is National Teacher of the Year". Fort Scott Tribune. May 8, 1962.

External links[edit]