Secrets of the U


Charles Borus, Editor

Every day, students walk into school with an eagerness to learn, and leave with the sense relief that another day is over. Since 1860, over one million students have come and gone through both the Utica Union School and Utica High School-all without considering the history behind the school.

Utica Community Schools began its history in around 1818 with multiple one-room schoolhouses around in the area around Utica. As the population grew with time, the school board called for a new school that could better accommodate the amount of students. Founded in 1860, the Utica Union School, a school constructed in response to the population growth at a price of only $8,000. The original building sat on the corner of Hahn Street and Brownell Street in Utica. During the World War I era, Utica Union School was far less populated than the present day high school. The school functioned with one principal and four teachers, a starch contrast to the over one thousand-strong student population of today. In 1929, the school was moved to a brand-new building and the Utica Union School was renamed to Utica High School. With a growing population in the area, the school needed yet another building change. In 1955, the current-day Utica High School opened on Shelby Road and the old Utica High School was renamed as its present-day name: Eppler Junior High School. The new high school building cost a total of $1,314,658.93 to build, opening on Oct. 9, 1955 and the dedicated by Henry Gage, the master of ceremonies for the dedication ceremony.

The present-day building has been expanded over the years to accommodate the ever-growing student population. The school changed with the times, adapting to new education standards and the needs of students.

“I remember when I was assigned as principal of Utica High, I tried to find all of the pictures that we have stored away, some dating back to pre-World War II,” current Principal Thomas Lietz said. “I’m not sure students fully realize that this institution has been around since the 1800s and the impact this school has had on the community.”

Utica High School was the first high school in Utica Community Schools when the district expanded.

“The fact that we go back so far in history is fascinating to think about.” Lietz said. “I’ve always said that we put the ‘U’ in UCS, despite our city being the smallest municipality that UCS serves.”

Evidence of Utica’s history is visible in numerous areas around the school. The trophy cabinets near the auditorium and near the cafeteria stand as a testament of the sports and clubs that have left their mark on the school. The sports hall of fame honors and commemorates athletes who have demonstrated true athleticism for their school and coaches who have made a valuable impact.

However, it wouldn’t be right for a story about a school to not address the teachers who have taught the children of Utica for many generations. The person regarded as the first teacher in the Utica School District was a man named Ada Adsell. He was paid only ten dollars for his labors and it was reported that he had to “study to keep in advance of his pupils.” However, there is no record to date of where he taught this historical class that pioneered the start of education in Utica.

Since 1818, education in Utica has changed significantly. The education system became more organized, and more students have come through the doors of Utica High School, all eager to learn. While we often overshadow the history behind the school we attend, these events have carved the path that led the school to where it is now. Regardless, while the buildings have changed, there still remains one common thread: to educate and learn.