A look at history of Ludington schools. 

September 7, 2021

Ludington High School, now Foster Elementary

A look at history of Ludington schools. 

Oriole News is a presentation of Ludington Area School District in partnership with Mason County Press.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

As the opening of the new Ludington Area School District elementary complex nears, I thought it would be a good time to look at the history of the school district, focusing on the schools within the city, originally known as Union School District. I state this because LASD is a consolidation of multiple school districts that once were located in Summit, Pere Marquette, Hamlin and Amber townships, along with the school district that existed in the city. My Dec. 19, 2019 article in MCP, “The Consolidation of Mason County’s School Districts” discusses the merging of the school districts in the mid-20th century (see article here). Later articles will discuss the histories of school districts in Summit, Pere Marquette and Hamlin townships. A timeline of all the schools that now make up the Ludington Area School District accompanies this article. 

When Ludington Area School District closes Lakeview Elementary and Foster Elementary, and eventually sells the properties, it will be selling properties that the people of Ludington have owned since 1872. 

The land that is now the City of Ludington was first settled by non-indigenous Americans in 1847 when Joseph Boyden acquired 72 acres fronting on Pere Marquette Lake. In 1849, Baird and Bean built a sawmill on Pere Marquette Lake.

About the same time, in 1847, Charles Mears built a mill at Black Creek, later known as Lincoln (near modern day Lincoln Hills Golf Club on Lincoln Lake in Hamlin Township). The first buildings included a log house and a blacksmith shop. Mears changed the name to Lincoln in 1861, following the inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln.

Baird and Bean sold their sawmill to George Farnsworth in 1849 who shortly afterwards sold the mill to George W. Ford, a Manistee lumberman, according to Peterson. Ford’s financial troubles cost him his mill to James Ludington, a Wisconsin lumber baron, in 1859.

In 1864, James Ludington opened a post office and called it Ludington. The next year, 1865, school classes were held for the town’s children in a shanty located on Saw Dust Avenue (Filer Street) in the rear of Ludington’s sawmill (what became the Pere Marquette Lumber Company mill in 1869.) Classes were held in July and August in 1865, 1866, and 1867. In February, 1868, winter classes began. 

The Ludington school’s first teacher was Sarah Melendy, who arrived in 1865. Katie Mitchell (who later married F.J. Dowland) was the school’s second teacher.

In 1867, a wooden school house, known as Central School, was built on the southwest corner of Ludington Avenue and James Street (present day Luciano’s Restaurant). Nellie Mills was hired as the first teacher of Central School. Mary Mills, Nellie’s sister, was hired as the school’s first principal in 1868.

That building was used until 1880 when it burned. It was then rebuilt and destroyed by fire again in 1886, during the “Big Fire” in the city, which burned most of the town. At that point, it was not replaced.

In 1873, Ludington was incorporated as a city. That same year, the voters of the city approved the formation of Union School District. Some of the dates on record do not necessarily coincide with this date. For example, the First Ward School is recorded as being built in 1872. It would seem that the building was likely built in 1873 following the vote of the people. 

Also in 1872 (or 1873), Professor John N. Foster was hired as Union School District’s first superintendent. Later in this article reference will be made to Foster Elementary School, which was named after Luther Foster, not John Foster (no relation). John Foster came to Ludington from Lansing where he had been in charge of Lansing’s reform school. Upon arriving in Ludington, he instituted a system for grading students’ class work. Foster wanted accreditation from the state university (likely University of Michigan since it was the only state university at that time — Michigan State was still a college) which required four years of high school compared to just a little more than the three years then required. Foster convinced the board of education and the parents that this was in the students’ best interest. 

By 1874 enrollment in all grades was 504, but there were seats for only 320 students. 

The First Ward School built in 1872 building on the northeast corner of Gaylord Avenue and Haight Street. It was razed in 1966 following the construction of a new two-story elementary known as Lakeview Elementary. The new building was 29,000 square feet and contained 15 classrooms. In 1971, a 6,500 square feet addition was built which included a gymnasium, library and kitchen. In 1991, a 750 square feet addition was built that included an office. 

Second Ward School/Longfellow School

The Second Ward School was built in 1875 on the south side of the 300 block of East Pere Marquette Street. This school would later be known as Longfellow Elementary School. The first high school was built in 1880 just south of the Second Ward School for a cost of $10,000. 

In 1957, students were moved from Longfellow school to Lakeview School and Franklin School. The building also served as the school district’s central business office until it was razed in 1976. Modern day Longfellow Towers sits in its place. 

The original Third Ward School was built in 1872 on the northwest corner of Foster and Rowe streets (the modern location of the Ludington Senior Center). It is likely that this was a wooden building as a new building was built on that location in 1882 and opened on Nov. 16 of that year. The building was built to seat 135 pupils and by April of 1883 it had 144 students. In 1904 that building was converted to a manual arts building and later served as the school’s music building. 

Original Foster School.

A new Third Ward School was built in 1905 across the street of the high school on Foster Street (the modern location of the Foster Elementary playground — see below for history of high school). When the building was built, the teachers of the school voted to name the building in honor of Luther H. Foster, a Ludington businessman who had helped organize the first school in the city. Foster had been murdered in 1876 in what is now Mason County’s longest unsolved murder case (see related story on Luther Foster here). Luther H. Foster Elementary School was demolished in 1967.

The first principal of the new Foster school was Effie Abair, who also taught fifth grade. Other teachers that year included Josephine Kehoe, fourth grade; Marie Maronde, third grade; Jayne Mero, second and third grade; Esther Vestling, second grade; Lena Christenson, first grade; Edith Williams, sub-primary (kindergarten) and first grade; Clara Knowles, sub-primary. 

A new two story brick Central School (high school) was built in 1886 in the 500 block of East Foster Street, across the street to the north of Luther Foster Elementary. This building is the modern Foster Elementary. It served as the high school until 1957. 

Fourth Ward School

The Fourth Ward School was built in 1886 on the northeast corner of Fourth and Adams streets. This building also housed the County Normal School for some time; a county normal school was similar to a junior college which trained teachers. That school served the district until it was replaced by a new building in 1967 and became known as Pere Marquette Elementary. 

In 1953, the present-day high school was built on North Washington Avenue. However, the building initially served as a junior high school until 1957. In 1957, the building became the senior high school while the junior high students were then moved to the former high school (modern Foster Elementary). 

A new junior high school was built in 1965 to the north of the senior high school. It was named after Oliver J. DeJonge, who served as the last superintendent of the unconsolidated Ludington school district from 1940 until 1963. DeJonge was born in Zeeland, Mich. in 1898 and graduated from Zeeland High School. He began his superintendent career leading Shelby school district before coming to Ludington in 1940.

DeJonge was instrumental in the final consolidation of school districts in Mason County, along with Arnold O. Carlson, superintendent of Scottville schools (Amber District No. 6) and later Mason County Central, Charles Harley of Custer schools, Max Carey of Free Soil schools and Elna Hansen, superintendent of Mason County country school districts. He also was also a proponent of the creation of West Shore Community College. 

Original high school

DeJonge died in 1994 at the age of 95. 

By 1966, final consolidation of the county’s school districts took place. Schools from Hamlin, Pere Marquette, Summit and Amber township merged into what was now called the Ludington Area School District: South Hamlin No. 9, fractional, Nordhouse (Hamlin), Pleasant Plains (Pere Marquette), South Summit, Amber No. 4 (Star), and Amber No. 7 (Lincoln Valley). 

In the 1970s through the early 2000s, the district continued to consolidate its rural schools into the city, closing Nordhouse School and Pleasant View then later South Summit in 2005 followed by South Hamlin in 2009. (Editor’s note: Anyone with dates or corrections of closings please feel free to email to [email protected]). 

A new chapter will take place in the coming school year as the elementary complex moves out of the city and into Pere Marquette Township. The high school and middle school complexes will then undergo major renovations and updates. 

 

Timeline of history of Ludington Area School District. 

This timeline includes schools that were consolidated into the district. 

  • 1856, Pere Marquette Township Phillips School opens in a log building on the Barber farm.
  • 1861, new Pere Marquette Township Phillips school built on modern South Lakeshore Drive near Chauvez Road. 
  • Year unknown, likely early 1860s, Pere Marquette Township Buttersville School opens on west side of modern South Lakeshore Drive on Buttersville Peninsula. 
  • 1865, first school held in shanty located in rear of James Ludington’s sawmill, Filer Street.
  • 1866, Summit Township School District No. 3, French school, opens in a log building on southeast corner of modern Pere Marquette Highway and Hawley Road.
  • 1867, wooden school house, southwest corner of Ludington Avenue and James Street. Destroyed by fire in 1880.
  • 1867, Hamlin Township School District No. 2 (Nordhouse) formed. Building is built on northwest corner of Jebavy Drive and Fountain Road. 
  • 1868, third Pere Marquette Township Phillips school built on southeast corner of modern Lakeshore Drive and Chauvez Road. 
  • 1872, new wood frame building built for Summit Township School District No. 3, French school.
  • 1873, Ludington incorporated as a city. Voters approve formation of Union School District.
  • 1872 or 1873, Professor John Foster hired as first superintendent of Union School District. 
  • 1872 or 1873, First Ward School built northeast corner of Gaylord Avenue and Haight Street.
  • 1875, Second Ward School built on north side of 300 block of East Pere Marquette Street. 
  • 1880, new building built on southwest corner of Ludington Avenue and James Street.
  • 1880, new brink school replaces Second Ward School in same location. Also known as Longfellow school. Cost: $10,000.
  • 1872, Third Ward School built on northwest corner Foster and Rowe streets. 
  • 1882, new building replaces Third Ward School in same location. 
  • 1882, Pere Marquette Township Sutton School opens on north side of Chauvez Road, half mile east of modern Pere Marquette Highway. Property owned by Isaiah Sutton.
  • 1886, fire destroys school building at Ludington Avenue and James Street. Building is not replaced. 
  • 1886, Central School built on north side of 500 block of East Foster Street. 
  • 1886, Fourth Ward School built on northeast corner of Fourth and Adams streets.
  • 1886, Amber Township District No. 4, Moore School (later renamed Star School), built on northwest corner of modern Conrad and Brye roads.
  • 1890, Amber Township District No. 4 Moore School struck by lightning. 
  • 1891, Amber Township District No. 4 school is rebuilt and renamed Star School. 
  • 1891, Amber Township District No. 8, Eagle school built on southeast corner of modern US 10 and Brye Road.
  • 1891, Amber Township District No. 7, fractional, Lincoln Valley School, is built on modern Hansen Road near Pere Marquette Township line.
  • 1893, Hamlin District No. 2 (Nordhouse) schoolhouse destroyed by fire.
  • 1894, Hamlin District No. 2 builds new school in same location. 
  • 1894, Pere Marquette Township Marchido School opens on southeast corner of modern Bronson and Hesslund roads. 
  • 1895, Hamlin Township District No. 1, fractional formed. Building located in Lincoln village on Lincoln Lake.
  • 1905, new Third Ward School, known as Luther H. Foster Elementary, built on south side of 500 block of East Foster Street. 
  • 1913, new two room brick building built for Summit Township District No. 3, French.
  • 1914, Hamlin Township District No. 1 builds new school on northeast corner of Decker and Lincoln roads. 
  • 1921, Pere Marquette Township Buttersville School closes. 
  • 1925, Central School expansion, Oriole Hall (gymnasium) and 16 classrooms; 45,000 square feet.
  • 1929, new building replaces Pere Marquette Sutton School at northeast corner of modern Pere Marquette Highway and Chauvez Road. 
  • 1936, Pere Marquette Township Phillips School closes.
  • 1939, Summit Township District No. 3, French school closes one room due to decrease in enrollment. 
  • 1940, fire destroys Hamlin District No. 2 (Nordhouse) building. 
  • 1941, Hamlin District No. 2, Nordhouse, school is built to replace previous building. 
  • 1947, Amber Township District No. 8, Eagle school destroyed by fire. School is annexed with Ludington schools, along with Amber District No. 4 and No. 7. 
  • 1951, Pere Marquette Township Phillips School re-opened due to crowding in other buildings.
  • 1953, new junior high school built on east side of 500 block of North Washington Avenue; 31,800 square feet, 17 classrooms, shop, kitchen and cafeteria. 
  • 1953, Hamlin School District No. 1 named changed to South Hamlin District No. 9, fractional. Building is razed. 
  • 1954, South Hamlin School built; 18,835 square feet.
  • 1955, Pere Marquette Township Phillips School destroyed by fire.
  • 1956, South Hamlin School expanded by four classrooms; 3,380 square feet.
  • 1956, Hawley Gymnasium built.
  • 1956, Pere Marquette Township Sutton School closed. 
  • 1956, Pere Marquette Township Marchido School is moved to another location on the same property to make way for Pleasant View School. 
  • 1956, Pere Marquette Township Pleasant View School opens, combining all Pere Marquette Township schools, southeast corner of Bronson and Hesslund roads. 
  • 1956, Amber Township District No. 4, Star School and District No. 8, Eagle are re-districted into Ludington schools. 
  • 1957, Star School closed.
  • 1957, junior high school students are moved to the former high school on Foster Street and the Washington Avenue complex becomes the senior high school. 
  • 1957, Franklin Elementary School built on north side of 700 block of East Franklin Street; 26,500 square feet, 15 classrooms.
  • 1957, Longfellow School elementary students moved to Lakeview and Franklin elementary schools; Longfellow serves as central business office.
  • 1960, Summit Township opens South Summit School, Deren Road west of Pere Marquette Highway. 
  • 1962, Hamlin Nordhouse School expanded by four classrooms.
  • 1963, Franklin Elementary expanded by 8,712 square feet, five classrooms.
  • 1965, O.J. DeJonge Junior High School built in 500 block of North Washington Avenue, north of senior high school; 105,867 square feet, 30 classrooms. 
  • 1965, Lakeview Elementary built, replacing First Ward School, Gaylord Avenue and Haight Street; 29,000 square feet, two stories, 15 classrooms.
  • 1966, Ludington Area School District formed through consolidation of Union School District, South Hamlin No. 9, fractional, Nordhouse (Hamlin), Pleasant Plains (Pere Marquette), South Summit, Amber No. 4 (Star), and Amber No. 7 (Lincoln Valley). 
  • 1966, First Ward School razed.
  • 1966, Lakeview Elementary built at Gaylord Avenue and Haight Street, replacing First Ward School.
  • 1967, Pere Marquette Elementary built, northeast corner of Fourth and Adams streets, replacing 1886 building.
  • 1969, Foster Elementary (modern) expansion includes library and five classrooms; 10,500 square feet.
  • 1970, O.J. DeJonge Junior High School expanded 34,000 square feet, 30 classrooms. 
  • 1971, Lakeview Elementary gymnasium, library, kitchen constructed; 6,500 square feet.
  • 1973, Franklin Elementary library added, 4,500 square feet.
  • 1973, South Hamlin expanded to include library, kitchen, gym and office; 8,690 square feet.
  • 1973, Pere Marquette Township Marchido School is donated to Mason County Historical Society and moved to newly opened Pioneer Village, later renamed Historic White Pine Village.
  • 1974, Louis F. Peterson Auditorium built adjacent to senior high school and junior high school; 43,400 square feet. 
  • 1974, O.J. DeJonge Junior High School expanded to include a gymnasium and cafeteria. 
  • 1974, Central Business Office built, 809 E. Tinkham Ave.; 13,050 square feet.
  • 1976, Longfellow school razed.
  • 1991, Foster Elementary renovations and expansion of 9,400 square feet.
  • 1991, Lakeview Elementary office constructed, 750 square feet.
  • 1997, Pere Marquette Elementary expanded by 560 square feet.
  • 1997, O.J. DeJonge Junior High School addition, 5,867 square feet.
  • 2005, South Summit Elementary School closed. 
  • 2008, Foster Elementary renovations and expansion, two additional classrooms; 4,000 square feet.
  • 2009, South Hamlin Elementary closed. 
  • 2019, Ludington School District Voters approve $100 million bond project which includes construction of new elementary school and renovations of high school and O.J. DeJonge Middle School. 
  • 2021, Elementary school housing kindergarten through fifth grade scheduled to open at southwest corner of Bryant Road and Jebavy Drive in Pere Marquette Township.

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