Cleveland's Original Lutheran High School: The Downtown School
To view a photo gallery of the Downtown School years, scroll below.
To follow is the article about the Downtown School originally published in the CLHSA's 2020 Annual Report.
The first graduating class of Lutheran High School, the original Pioneers, dedicated the school's inaugural yearbook (The Pioneer) in 1952 as follows: In appreciation we dedicate this book to you — the men and women who made Lutheran High a reality, realizing that you wish to leave a rich heritage of Lutheranism in your city; to you whose faith in this glorious undertaking has not been shaken even in the face of adverse circumstances; to you who lived in your faith, who made a dream come true for the youth of Cleveland now, and in the distant future, God willing, through your diligent prayer, constant encouragement, and generous gifts of time and financial support. To you — our Christian friends, who sacrificed to build Lutheran High, we, the students of the school, gratefully dedicate this book.
Over 74 years ago, in 1946, representatives from Lutheran churches in the Greater Cleveland area resolved to establish a Lutheran High School in the city. By the next January, the Cleveland Lutheran High School Association was formed and the plans were underway. On September 7, 1948, forty-eight students embarked on their first year as original Pioneers.
To start the school year, classes were held in the Towne Club previously owned by the Cleveland Lutheran Veterans Club. Once completed, Cleveland Lutheran High School resided at 2648 Prospect Avenue. If you are fortunate enough to remember the city in 1948, the school was located right next to Central Cadillac. lt was composed of two mansions that were renovated to accommodate everything a high school would need and connected by hallways.
If you are one of those who can recall the downtown school's location, you are aware that this landmark location has since become the Innerbelt Freeway. In 1955-1956, the School Board was notified that the State of Ohio was to acquire the present site of Lutheran High School and use its right of eminent domain on the Prospect Avenue property.
The years at Lutheran High showed great success for Christian education. Each year, the student body grew measurably— in only the second year, enrollment was 150 students. But growth and blessings bring changes— the student body had multiplied 11 times in the ten years; it was time to expand. Following the announcement of the Innerbelt Freeway's construction, and due to the growing student body, a relocation study was performed and the Board passed the following resolution unanimously: “It is the opinion of the Board that two Lutheran High Schools, one of the east side and another on the west side of Cleveland are deemed necessary to carry on effectively the work in which we are engaged at present.”
Although this resolution marked the end of what we today call the 'Downtown School,' the foundation set forth by the original Lutheran High School enabled a the reality of the two sister Lutheran schools which we know today: Lutheran High School East and Lutheran High School West.
The Cleveland Lutheran High School Association as it stands today is honored to call the graduates from 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, and 1958 its founding alumni. The opening dedication in this article honored the school's impactful founders, those who sacrificed their time and resources because they believed so strongly in the essential value of Christian high school education. Because of our Pioneer alumni, this sentiment has held true throughout the decades.
The 1952 yearbook, with its heartfelt dedication, still sits proudly on a shelf in the CLHSA offices. Now, 68 years later, we'd like to humbly offer a 'thank you' in the style of the original yearbook's dedication to our Downtown School alumni:
To you, the leadership that built this dream into a reality, the students who put their faith and hearts into the school, and the faculty who set the precedent for an outstanding Christ-centered education, we, the CLHSA, gratefully dedicate this page.
Photo Gallery: The Downtown School