History of North High School



Wichita High School North!  What a beautiful Architectural structure that holds great memories for so many. The basic design or Indian theme one sees both on the interior and exterior is because of location.  North was built where many Indians lived near the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers in the 1860’s when they were brought to Wichita to escape persecution during the American Civil War.  When the troops came to protect the cattle drivers, the first settlement developed at 12th and Jackson where North High is located.  It was decided to build a high school just a block west of Waco Street next to the Little Arkansas River where the Indians lived for over 400 years.  At that time, Wichita had only one high school, Wichita High School East, built in 1922.  Wichita was growing rapidly with a large population on the north side and city planners recognized the need for another high school in that heavily populated area.  Construction began on North in 1928, was completed and opened in 1929.

I was lucky enough to hear some stories of the unique building built on fifteen acres at Twelfth and Jackson shared by my wife’s grandfather, a brick mason, who helped lay the bricks. It was a long, hot tedious task! The outcome was worth everyone’s effort.

The exterior design of North which depicts the pioneer and Indian stories of the past was designed by Bruce Moore, a Wichita artist, familiar with the site’s history. He constructed figures from plaster and then arranged them to tell the story with a pioneer and Native American theme.

North is also unique because it is one of the few high schools in the United States that offers canoeing classes that enable students to have an annual water festival each spring to demonstrate the skills they have learned.  This water festival has been featured in many magazines so people in many different parts of the country have read or heard about the North High Water Festival.  This festival was really the forerunner of the Wichita River Festival or what we know as the Riverfest.

Another important part of North’s history is the nearby bridge across the Little Arkansas River.

When the city planners decided to build a new bridge across the river, a North High English teacher suggested that the bridge reflect the same or similar design as North High.  When the bridge was completed, students were given an opportunity to name the bridge.  The name selected was “Minisa” which came from a song composed by Thurlow Lieurence, a composer and former dean of fine arts at Wichita University, now Wichita State University.  “Minisa” is a Chippewa word which means “red water at sunset”

Now eighty-eight years later, the beautiful Architecture and landscaping stands along with many of the same great North traditions practiced through the years.  That is an important part of the pride of students who attend or have attended North High.  North High History continues!


On Ye’ Redskins


Tom Whitney

North High Class of ‘62