Monday, August 26, 2013

East High School

East High School, circa 1930. Courtesy: Denver Public Library
     East opened in 1875 at 1731 Arapahoe Street with a total enrollment of 108 students and was the first high school in Denver. The first graduating class was in 1877. In 1889 it moved to 19th and Stout because of a need for more room. This location is now referred to as "Old East." It could accommodate 700 students. The school featured a gracious flight of stairs leading to the entrance, which was notable for its sculpture of the face of a young girl, sculpted as an Angel. School architect Robert S. Roeschlaub and the school board decided to use a local childhood beauty instead of a Greek face to symbolize the school's "dedication to youth." The sculptor was Preston Powers, famous for his statue of the Indian on the grounds of the state capitol. Five thousand girls across the city were visited as part of a campaign to find the model for the face and six-year-old Ella Catherine Matty was selected. The statue was so lovely that East High students have since been referred to as East Angels.
     When "Old East" was demolished in 1925, this keystone was removed and placed in a rock garden at the current location of East, 1545 Detroit St. The architect was Denver native George Hebard Williamson, himself a 1893 graduate of "Old East" High. He won national recognition for his design of the "new" East, which has a clock tower modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
     In early 1991, the East High building was declared an official Denver Historic Landmark by the Denver Landmark Commission and the Denver City Council.
     In July 2005, local rock band The Fray filmed a music video for the song Over My Head (Cable Car) in East High.
     East is also a Colorado 5A sports powerhouse in several sports including basketball (State Champions in 2004) soccer, lacrosse, rugby (state champions in 1997, 2002, and 2004) and football (In 2006 the East High Angels made it to the 5A playoffs for the first time in 12 years). The East men's basketball was recently named the best basketball team in the state according to RISE Magazine and Sports Illustrated. 

Notable Alumni
    • Beat icon Neal Cassady attended East for a short time.
    • Adam Cayton-Holland, comedian/writer at the Westword newspaper
    • Actor Don Cheadle
    • Folk singer Judy Collins
    • Three members of Earth, Wind & Fire who were East Alumni were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Philip Bailey, Andrew Woolfolk, and Larry Dunn.
    • Douglas Fairbanks, who was expelled from East High went on to become one of the most famous silent movie stars of all time.
    • Bill Frisell jazz guitarist
    • Pam Grier, actress
    • General Robert T. Herres, first Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
    • Actor Harold Lloyd
    • Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win an Oscar for her performance in Gone with the Wind
    • Golda Meir attended, though did not graduate from East High School
    • Ron Miles, jazz trumpeter
    • Antoinette Perry, the namesake of the Tony Awards
    • Dianne Reeves, jazz vocalist
    • Jack Swigert, a NASA astronaut
    • Marilyn Van Derbur, Miss America 1958
    • Paul Whiteman (King of Jazz)
    • George Hebard Williamson, architect of East High School
    • Ruth Handler, inventor of the Barbie doll
    • Donnette Thayer - vocalist/guitarist
    • Reese Roper - filmmaker/musician
    • Sidney Sheldon - writer
    • Chuck E Weiss - musician
    • TJ Miller, actor/comedian
    Inside East High School Library in the 1920s (Denver Public Library, Western History, Call # X-28377)

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