Cessna Elementary School

2101 W 45th St S, Wichita, KS

Half a dozen or so students marked the beginning of Enterprise School District 15 in 1875, which was among the earliest schools to be established in Sedgwick County.

Originally situated at the intersection of Broadway and MacArthur, the schoolhouse also served as a place of worship. In 1880 or 1881, a group of men reportedly lifted the building on a Sunday afternoon after church and relocated it to 3612 South Seneca, before any legal objections could be raised against the move.

The Saturday Evening Kansas Commoner wrote on January 23, 1896, that the “Enterprise school districts boasts of the finest schoolhouse in the county.  It was dedicated with a grand entertainment… in such a manner as would do credit to any vicinity.”

I stumbled across another story in the Saturday Evening Kansas Commoner on January 6, 1898, that a teacher was arrested “on the charge of severely whipping one of his pupils.”  The same paper reported on January 13, that the case was withdrawn as the “Prosecuting witness concluded that he could not make a case and let the matter drop.”

Since its beginnings, the school enrollment grew quickly, necessitating additional buildings. In 1960, a new building was constructed at 2101 West 45th Street South. The new school was named Enterprise South.  The school had 16 classrooms, a music room, library, science laboratory and a cafeteria/gymnasium.

The Wichita School system annexed District 15 in 1963. The board also changed the name from Enterprise South to Clyde V. Cessna in 1964, honoring the aviation pioneer.

Clyde Vernon Cessna was born on December 5, 1879, in Hawthorne, Iowa.  His family moved to a farm in Kansas when he was just a couple of years old.

Clyde Cessna
Courtesy Kingman County Economic Development

Cessna worked as a farmhand, threshing-machine operator, Prospector, and owned a car dealership in Enid, Oklahoma.

In 1905, Clyde married Europa Elizabeth Dotzour on June 6th in Enid.

Europa Elizabeth Dotzour Cessna
Courtesy: Dawn Cessna

In 1910, Cessna saw a flying circus in Oklahoma and decided to be a flyer. 

He worked at an airplane factory in the Bronx, New York City, for two months and returned to Oklahoma.  In 1911, he flew his first plane, the “silverwing” across the Great Salt Plains of Oklahoma.  On his 13th try he managed to stay airborne for a few moments before crashing.  Later that year the “Birdman of Enid” sold his dealership to start an aviation business.

Cessna flying his first plane the Silverwing on April 14, 1912.
Photo courtesy Kingman County Economic Development

In 1916, Clyde bought a building to make planes for the 1917 aviation season. He also started a flight school; there with five students. But when World War I began in 1917, the exhibition flying market stopped and Clyde lost his main income. He went back to his family farm in Kansas to resume farming.

In 1925, after WWI, Clyde Cessna teamed up with Lloyd Stearman and Walter Beech to start the Travel Air Manufacturing Company in Wichita, Kansas. Clyde was the president, and the company quickly became a top US aircraft manufacturer thanks to his innovative designs and record-setting flights.

Clyde Cessna
Courtesy: kshs.org

In 1927, he joined forces with businessman and air enthusiast Victor Roos to produce Cessna-Roos aircraft until 1927. Then Cessna bought out the company, which was forced into bankruptcy during the Great Depression. 

Cessna reopened in 1934 thanks to the support of stockholders. 

A revived Cessna Aircraft Company later became one of the world’s largest manufacturers of private airplanes. 

Clyde Cessna
Courtesy kshs.org

Finally, in 1936, Clyde Cessna retired from the aviation business, selling his interests to his nephews, Dwayne, and Dwight Wallace, and returned to a life of farming. 

Cessna died on November 20, 1954; he was 74.  His wife Europa, passed away in 1966.  The Cessnas are buried in Belmont, Kansas.

In 1992 the Cessna company was acquired by Textron, Inc.

Meanwhile in 2004, the school bearing Cessna’s name, held a ceremony to celebrate two new classrooms and a library, as part of the 2000 bond project.

Check out Wichita’s other public schools: Be True To Your School