Moline High School 1968
The first school building in Moline was built about 1843 at the corner of 4th Avenue and 16th Street (where the Moline City Hall parking lot is now.) Joseph Jackman served as the teacher. He was also the town clerk and justice of the peace. Parents criticized Jackman for his advanced concept of graded classes. The new school was also considered too far from the center of town, which at that time was from 3rd Avenue to the riverfront and from 15th to 18th Streets.
In 1870, the Moline Board of Education was formed. That year the first Moline High School classes were held in a two-room, frame schoolhouse built on the terraced hillside of 7th Avenue which is now occupied by a senior high rise housing complex and the city of Moline Emergency Services Department.
In 1873, on the same spot on 7th Avenue, Washington School was erected. It was originally called Central and was built at a cost of $25,000. The teaching staff that year consisted of a superintendent (paid an annual salary of $1,800); a high school principal (paid $600 annually); and several teachers who were paid between $320 and $480 annually. In 1874, the school was divided into four departments: Primary (grades 1-4), Intermediate (grades 5-8), Grammar (grades 9-10) and High School (grades 11-13). (Note: "grammar school" had a very different meaning back then than it does now.) To enter high school, students were required to pass both written and oral exams. In June 1878 five girls and one boy became the first official Moline High School graduating class.
The most prominent school building in the history of Moline School District No. 40 was probably the Moline High School building, erected in 1894. This imposing structure, which overlooked the Mississippi River on a hillside between 15th Street A and 16th Street north of 11th Avenue, was known as "The Castle" to barge and river boat passengers who could see the twin turrets of the brick building as they traveled on the Mississippi. "The Castle" served as the high school for twenty years.
In 1914 a new high school was built on land adjoining the site of "The Castle". The former high school then became Central Grammar and served as a citywide eighth grade school. In the early 1930's, John Deere and Calvin Coolidge schools were built as three-year junior high schools, and old Central was converted to an annex with classrooms for the high school next door. in the next decade, it was used infrequently as a classroom annex until the Moline Community College used its space for classes. In the forties, the basement of the annex became known as the Rek --- a large recreation center for Moline teenagers.
Directly across 16th street from the high school was Allendale, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Allen. This 23 room mansion was donated to the Moline board of Education in 1933 to use for home economics classes, library and classroom space, and administrative offices. Today, Allendale serves as a training and meeting site, with business offices for the school district's administrative staff.
In 1958, a new, modern, Moline High School building opened its doors on 36th Street south of 23rd Avenue. The population had been spreading out to the south and the new location was closer to the center of town. Classes were first held in the new high school building in September 1958 and continue to be held there today. We of the Class of 1968 can attest to the expansion of the school since we were forced to go to "split shifts" while the new "J" wing was being constructed. But when it was finished, we had new classrooms, a new gymnasium and we could all go to school at the same time and go home at the same time again.
After the high school classes were moved to the new building in the Hiland part of town, the former high school building on 16th street became home to the Moline Community College and later Black Hawk Junior College. During the early sixties, the "Castle" building was torn down to make room for a parking lot for the students and staff of the college. Later the building on 16th street served as office space for Beling Engineering and several organizations.
A discussion of the Moline High School's history would not be complete without mention of a building that is a distinct source of pride in the community: the 6,000-seat Wharton Field House. In 1910, land between 23rd Avenue and 20th Avenue at about 18th Street had been donated by J.T. Browning to be used by the school district for athletics. In the late 1920's, T.F. Wharton, president of the high school athletic boosters' club -- the Maroon and White Association, wanted to build a field house. Funds to build Wharton Field House were raised through the sale of bonds. Six hundred and twenty bonds at $50 apiece were bought by school children, a third of them on monthly installments, and one hundred $100 bonds were purchased on quarterly installments. The rest of the bonds were purchased by 1,200 Moline residents. The property was deeded to the Moline Board of Education after the indebtedness was paid off by the Maroon and white Association. Today, along with Browning Field, where Football games and track meets are held, Wharton Field House is the envy of high school athletic teams and clubs throughout the area.
In addition to the high school activities held there, Wharton Field House has also hosted educational, religious and entertainment events of all kinds. The Harlem Globetrotters, professional wrestling meets, the Children's Literature Festival, Easter services and the Miss Illinois Pageant (1959) have all enjoyed the use of Wharton Field House. The Field House has also been home to professional sports teams. Wharton was home to the Tri-City Blackhawks professional basketball team (now the Atlanta Hawks) from 1948 to 1951 and the Quad City Thunder professional basketball team from the fall of 1987 until they moved to the Mark in 1993.
In 1997, a new wood basketball floor was installed and other enhancements were made. Changes in the height of the new floor allow Wharton to be the host site for volleyball games, clinics, and tournaments as well as the Moline Maroon basketball court for both boys' and girls' basketball. Graduation ceremonies are also held each year at Wharton Field House.