School no longer in operation
3010 West 7th Street
Opened in 1911, Woodruff Elementary is named for William Edward Woodruff (1795-1885), the founder of the Arkansas Gazette, the oldest continuously published newspaper west of the Mississippi River. A marble plaque inside the school reads as follows: "William E. Woodruff; A public spirited and highly esteemed citizen of Little Rock. Born near Bellport, Long Island, New York, December 24, 1795. Died in this city June 19, 1885. One of the earliest pioneers of this state. He founded in 1819, and for many years conducted, the first newspaper printed in Arkansas, and was universally recognized as an honest man and true patriot -- One worthy of perpetual remembrance."
Woodruff "open-air" tent school, ca. 1911.
Photo courtesy of Ray Hanley.
Students attending school in a temporary
tent classroom while waiting for completion
of Woodruff School in Little Rock (Pulaski County);
1911. Courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas
Studies, Central Arkansas Library System.
The school was built in the Midland Hills area, and it originally was to be called Midland Hills School. From the School Board minutes, 8 August 1911: "The Superintendent suggested that the Midland Hills School building would not be in readiness for the opening of school, September 18, and recommends that school work be done on the school site in the open air under tent coverings. The proposition was referred to the committee on New Buildings and the Superintendent with power to act." The school is referred to as W. E. Woodruff School in the Board minutes of 26 August 1911. There is no recorded business where the school name was voted to be changed.
Building additions were made in 1950 and 1980, and a renovation/classroom addition took place in 1991 that resulted in the Early Childhood Wing (space for the four-year-old program, kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms and the computer lab). Improvements to the original building include an expanded and refurbished media center, an enlarged cafeteria/auditorium and new furnishings.
Woodruff woulld later operate as an Early Childhood Center (ECC)and serve as the office space for the Early Chilhood Department. As part of its repurposing plan, LRSD closed the ECC in 2017 and sold the property the following year to a private entity.
Principals of Woodruff School include: Fanny Bell (1911-1919); Ernestine Schrader (1919-1933); J.R. Bullington (1933-1934); Ernestine Shrader (1934-1939); Mrs. Laurene Allison (1939-1940); Mrs. Kathleen Overholtzer (1940-1945); Mrs. Vesta Petree (1945-1946); H.T. Ziegler (1946-1950); Mrs. Letha Hendrix (1950-1957); and Mrs. Elsie Cox (1957-?).
Photo: National Park Service.
William E. Woodruff landed at Arkansas Post in 1819, accompanied by his printing press. He built a log cabin there with two rooms: one to live in and one for his press. He immediately began publishing the Arkansas Gazette on a sheet of paper eighteen inches square in his one-man shop. Soon after his arrival the first Territorial Legislature met, and there was an abundance of news and official business to be printed. After two years in the humid, mosquito-infested village, Woodruff moved his Gazette to Little Rock, following the relocation of the territorial capital there. Through the pages of his newspaper he worked tirelessly to promote new settlement in Arkansas. By 1836, when Arkansas gained statehood, its population exceeded 50,000. He ran the newspaper for 44 years and, except for the interruption of the Civil War and a short interval during which the press was moved to Little Rock, the newspaper has been in continuous operation (it is now the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette). In 1843 Woodruff founded the first lending library in the state. Most of the books were lost during the Civil War when a fire broke out in the building next door. The books were removed to the street as a precaution, and many of them were carried away by book-hungry Union soldiers. Woodruff died in Little Rock on June 19, 1885, and is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery. Woodruff County in eastern Arkansas was named either for him or his son, William, Jr.Sources:
"LR schools named for prominent people," Arkansas Democrat article by Cynthia Howell, 18 Apr 1983; page 10B.
"Arkansas Online," the online edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; "History of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette" page
Know Southern History web site; William E. Woodruff biography page: http://www.knowsouthernhistory.net/Biographies/William_Woodruff/
If you have information about a Little Rock school or photographs that you would like to contribute to this project (we will return photographs if requested), please contact us!