(adapted from the Cordley home page)
A Short History of Cordley
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 300 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.
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.
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. Thus the building has remained from 1951 until today, with many renovations required over the more than 75 years to keep the building in good condition for many generations of Lawrence citizens.
Between 1931 and 1937, Cordley was 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.
In 2015, after a year long renovation, Cordley opened again to students.