Clinton High School (Roosevelt Administrative building) has historical significance because of its connection to Henry Sabin who came to Clinton in 1872 to become Superintendent of Schools, a position he occupied until he was elected State Superintendent of Schools. He was State Superintendent of Schools from 1888 until 1892 and again from 1894 to 1898 and was therefore primarily responsible for the construction of the High School building. He was so well regarded in Clinton that a school constructed in the 1950’s (now closed) was named after him. He was a member of the department of superintendence of the National Education Association. In 1878 he was President of the Iowa State Teachers Association. He was a member of the board of Regents of the State University of Iowa. Several generations of leaders of Clinton attended school in this building either during its use as the High School or subsequently as an elementary school. One well-known 1914 graduate was the All-American and College Hall of Fame football player and later Chicago Judge, Fred “Duke” Slater (December 9, 1898-August 14, 1966).
Josiah Leonard Rice, the architect of the building was an architect of regional importance who has a significant body of work in Clinton. Rice was born in Massachusetts February 15, 1854, married Matilda J. Coyne in Rock Island on February 14, 1878 and died in Chicago on March 8, 1939. At the age of nine, Rice and his family moved to the Midwest. Rice practiced architecture in Davenport, Iowa for eight years before moving to Clinton in 1880 to work as a draftsman for the Curtis Company.
In 1893, Rice opened his own independent practice. The county supervisors hired Josiah Rice as supervising architect for the Courthouse. Although he was not the original building architect, Rice did make several changes to the original plans, making the building his own.
Josiah Rice was an eminent local architect from 1886-1903 at a time when the City of Clinton was developing as a major industrial and commercial center. In fact, the architectural firm started by Rice (which was later sold to John Morrell) is arguably the firm that had the most influence on the architecture of downtown Clinton. Several prominent downtown structures still standing today were designed by Rice.
Josiah Rice operated his independent practice in Clinton for ten years, relocating his practice in 1900 to an office of his own design within the Howes Building. In 1903, Rice decided to sell his architectural practice and go to work for the federal government in Chicago. Later that same year, Chicago contractor and architect John Morrell, purchased Josiah Rice’s architectural practice and moved his family to Clinton.
This building is a notable local example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. It has a broad hip roof with cross gables, repeated round arches above entrances and major windows, rough stone base, massive tower with turrets and other features of the style. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It was, until recently, the oldest school building still owned and used by the Clinton Community School District and was always used for educational purposes. It was the Public Library from the time of its construction until the Carnegie Library was opened two and one half blocks away in 1904.
The increased population in Clinton was partnered with significant industrial, retail and commercial growth. The site of the Clinton High School building on the corner of Sixth Avenue South and Fourth Street was a very important location for a school in Clinton across from DeWitt Park and centrally located for students.
The location of Clinton High School was originally occupied by St. Mary’s Catholic Church. That church moved to Ninth Avenue South and Fifth Street into a new Church and Rectory building also designed by Josiah Rice.
As the population grew and Clinton became more prosperous, more attention was turned to education. Clinton’s first High School was established in 1873 and reached a new level of development with the construction of this building. At the time it opened, it was considered the best high school in the state equipped with science laboratory and library. By the turn of the century between the 19th and 20th century, Latin, Greek, German and French instruction was offered in this building.
Clinton High School/Roosevelt Administrative building is located within Clinton’s Cultural and Entertainment District.