Crawfordsville is known as the “Athens of Indiana” due to its wealth of prominent authors, a rich cultural heritage, and an emphasis on exceptional education. In 1933 Caleb Mills opened the Crawfordsville English and Classical High School. This was the forerunner of Wabash College, a nationally recognized all male liberal arts institution. No doubt, the college’s leaders as well as other community educators have had a positive impact on education in Crawfordsville over the past century and a half.
Public secondary education in Crawfordsville actually began in 1872 with the opening of the old Central High School. It was a three story brick building consisting of 12 rooms and a superintendent’s office. The school offered English, mathematics, natural sciences, and the classics and graduated its first class (nine girls) in 1877. In 1880, the school added two wings and was renovated extensively after a fire in 1892.
On September 4, 1911, the building now referred to as "The Old Crawfordsville High School" opened at 201 East Jefferson Street, the same location as the Central High School. Anna Willson, a leading educator of her time, was the first principal, and the school was recognized state-wide as an exceptional example of a school building. Crawfordsville’s 100th graduating class received diplomas in this building in 1976. The Old Crawfordsville High School still stands today and was renamed The Athena Center. Classrooms have been renovated into condominiums, and the main gym, added to the school in 1939, and two lower gyms serve as a fitness center. The main gym played host to the local basketball sectional through 1971 when county consolidation moved the event to a larger gym at North Montgomery. The CHS Gym, however, would be the site of Athenian home basketball games through 1993.
In August of 1993, the new and current Crawfordsville High School opened its doors on State Road 47 on the south edge of town. Its impressive architectural design, 750 seat auditorium, and one of the state’s largest aquatics center make the high school a proud showcase and gathering center for our community. Today, CHS educates more than 600 students in grades nine through twelve.
For several years, the old Crawfordsville High School on Jefferson Street housed students in grades seven through twelve. Then, in 1961, Joseph F. Tuttle Jr. High, named for Wabash College’s third president and built on the site of a former elementary school named for Tuttle, opened on Elm Street for students in grades seven through nine. In 1986, the freshmen were moved to the high school. At the same time, sixth graders who had previously attended several of the community’s elementary schools came to Tuttle making it a school for grades sixth through eighth. Tuttle Jr. High School was thus renamed Tuttle Middle School to reflect the new grade level configuration.
In 2013, construction began on a new Crawfordsville Middle School on the same site as the old Tuttle Middle School. The project included two phases: phase 1 consisted of the academic wing and opened for the 2014-2015 school year. The second phase included athletic gyms, band and choir rooms, a fitness center, and an administrative office area which opened for the 2015-2016 school year. As is the case with the high school, this impressive new structure will be a source of community and student pride.
Throughout its history, Crawfordsville has maintained several elementary schools, most having been named in honor of prominent authors and educators who at one time lived and worked in the community. These would include Anna B. Willson, John Beard, Joseph F. Tuttle, Caleb Mills, Laura G. Hose, Meredith Nicholson and Mollie B. Hoover schools. In 1921, Lincoln Elementary School was built on East Wabash and was abandoned after WWII when all of the elementary schools were integrated.
Today, Willson ( pre-kindergarten), Hose (Grades K-1), Nicholson (Grades 2-3) and Hoover (Grades 4-5) comprise the school corporation’s elementary system. These four buildings were built in the 1950’s and early 60’s but have been extensively renovated with further remodeling projects continuing today and in the near future. The current Willson building replaced an old castle like structure that stood on the same site as the current building. Beard and Mills still stand but are no longer used as elementary schools.
Dating back to the 19th century, Crawfordsville has placed a premium on education. This has served to reinforce the city’s proud title, “The Athens of Indiana.” With Wabash College and several community educators, past and present, leading the way, Crawfordsville Schools have developed a reputation for progressive and exemplary education.
*Written by Gary Linn - Retired Social Studies Teacher - Joseph F. Tuttle Middle School and Crawfordsville Middle School
The Making of America Series. "Crawfordsville: Athens of Indiana." by Kaien Bazzani Zack c.2003
Montgomery County Remembers. "Growth is Word for Education Since Pioneer Days." by Alex Lebedeff c.1976