Sumner Elementary School and Monroe Elementary School

330 Western Ave. and 1515 Monroe St., Topeka, Kansas


Street View 


The Monroe School is one of two elementary schools in Topeka, Kansas that is associated with the landmark Oliver Brown et. al. v. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision on 1954. The Brown decision overturned the authority of the Plessy v. Ferguson case (1896), which provided a legal justification for segregation with its famous doctrine of "separate but equal." Many have also argued that the Brown decision was the impetus behind the modern Civil Rights Movement because it gave blacks a legal framework to begin challenging the structure of institutional discrimination. Monroe Elementary School was designed by Thomas Williamson, a local architect. Williamson was extremely prolific, producing hundreds of buildings in Topeka and throughout the state from 1912 to the 1960s. He is best known in this area for his design of Topeka High School. Although vacant today, the Monroe School stands as an icon of African-American organizational abilities and of community activity; it is a reminder of the premium that black citizens have long put on education; and it is a testament to the racial climate of Topeka which stands in contrast to those communities of the Jim Crow South that were also a part of the Brown decision. -- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS KS-67)

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on May 4, 1987
Reference number
Architectural styles
Other architectural type; Victorian: Renaissance; Modern Movement: Art Deco; Italian Renaissance
Areas of significance
Social History; Politics/Government; Law
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event
Property type
Historic function
Current function
Period of significance
Significant year
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 2

Update Log 

  • August 9, 2016: New Street View added by Bill Eichelberger