Abraham Lincoln High School officially opened its doors in 1913. It evolved from humble beginnings as Avenue 21 Grammar School in 1878. The grammar school became Intermediate of Avenue 21 then, because enrollment grew to such an extent, it eventually relocated to the "enchanted hill" in 1913.
The location that Lincoln High School now occupies was once part of the old pueblo land. Originally awarded to Dr. John S. Griffin in 1856 in appreciation for aiding the people of the area during a small pox epidemic, it later passed to his nephew, Hancock Johnson then to the Warneick Brothers and eventually to W.W. Woolwine who built a beautiful home on the site now occupied by the high school's gymnasium. This area was known then as the North Side. Woolwine eventually sold the land and Lincoln High was built on that property. The school quickly became an acknowledged pioneer in industrial arts, the best in California if not the whole United States at that time. This notoriety led to extending the campus with three shops across Lincoln Park Avenue. Community pride in the high school and efforts by principle Ethel Percy Andrus played an important role in renaming the community Lincoln Heights. Ninety-five years later, it remains one of the oldest and most beautiful campuses in Los Angeles.
Like an aging actress, wearing excessive makeup to defy her age, our alma mater proudly stands with a new coat of paint. The yellow-ochre buildings at Lincoln High look very different from the distinguishing edifices that were once naturally radiant in
their original color more befitting a place of learning.
The current buildings replaced the originals in 1937 after the 1933 Long Beach earthquake damaged and rendered the grand old school unsafe. Students held classes on the lawn during construction of the new high school. Yearbook photographs from the 1920's and early 1930's of the old school reveal an idyllic setting. Its campus once nestled atop the hill where the gymnasium and football field currently stand. It was bordered by Lincoln Park Avenue and North Broadway. Its main entrance was on the North Broadway side where a three-tiered stairway led to the main building. Old yearbook photos depict a stately, serenely beautiful school that eventually succumbed to a mighty force of nature. It had a look and feel of a university rising above the community like Shangri-la. It featured pillars, tiled mission-style fountains in alcoves and ornate iron latticework railing that zigzagged upward to her buildings. Concrete benches lined pathways. The campus was laced with ivy-covered walls; palm and eucalyptus trees dotted the landscape; there were grassy knolls, concrete lampposts lighting the stairways. Her three-storied buildings had terra-cotta tiled roofs and canvas awnings that shaded the classrooms.
The newer campus, constructed under the Works Progress Administration, is markedly different in architectual style fom its predecessor. Architect Albert C. Martin provided the Morderne, art deco design for the rebuilt campus. The newer style was typical of the period; the buildings are generously embellished with W.P.A murals and sculpture. The buildings and surrounding grounds have always been a source of pride for its students throughout the years. Lincoln High School, for many years, was known for having one of the most beautiful and cleanest campuses in the city.
Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus (1884-1967), the most prominent and influential principals in Lincoln High School's history, administered from 1916 to 1945. She was a long-time educator and the first female high school principal in California. She is the founder of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Her legacy at Lincoln is still strong. Most recently, the AARP Foundation donated $100,000 to the school for its arts programs and to refurbish the auditorium which was re-dedicated as the Ethel Percy Andrus Center for the Performing Arts.
The auditorium is the newest tangible upgrade to the campus. Aside from the gradual addition of bungalows to accommodate a growing enrollment and curriculum throughout the years and the industrial arts classroom shops no longer hold court as they once did. Changes that occurred in the last ten years are the school wide renovation during the 1990's; the old wooden bleachers were mercilessly replaced by aluminum benches in 1998 after ten years of going without and highly anticipated stadium lights for night football games were introduced and celebrated in 2003.
School life and times at Lincoln are vastly different now from the past. Cherished traditions have changed or altogether vanished. Priorities of the modern age have taken hold as the makeup of the community is altered; cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, economics and educational demands, dictate many of those alterations. Gone are the days when seventh-graders walked the hallowed halls of Lincoln High alongside twelfth-grade students; gone are those role models that paved the way for the "scrubs" to mature into their own leadership and sphere of influence. The last class to go
the distance from grade seven to twelve is the class of 1974.
This year, Lincoln High School celebrates 95 glorious years of existence in a community named for it. Its' storied past is part of the woven fabric and landscape that is Lincoln Heights. Its future lies with the students that inhabit it, the alumni that carry the torch and continue to leave us with indelible memories.
This story was written by Robert Granados (Emancipator class of Summer 1962) and appeared in a newsletter published in 2008 as Lincoln High celebrated its 95th anniversary.