• History of Central

    Central teachers and students occasionally encounter visitors to the buiding who have wandered in to explore what they beileve to be Nebraska's first territorial captiol. Despite Central's imposing exterior, though, it was never the territorial capitol but instead is the site of the first capitol.

    Central traces its beginning to Omaha's first all-grades public school opened in 1859 by superintendent of education Howard Kennedy. But it was another twelve years before the fledgling school district actually constructed a separate high school. In 1869, the Nebraska Legislature donated the old capitol building to 21st and Capitol to Omaha on the condition that it be used for a high school. That building never knew service as a school building, however. It was declared unsafe and was torn down in 1870 to make way for the new high school begun in the fall of 1870 and complete in 1871. 

    This red brick building faced east and consisted of a main structure with north and south wings and a 150 foot spire that dominated the horizon. The school had four stories and a basement. This Omaha High School, destined to become known as Central High School was a source of much pride to Omahans. Important visitors to the city were certain to be given a tour of the school. That included President William Howard Taft in 1911, who, according to reports, climbed the tower for a better view of the city.  From its vantage point on the hill, Central High School, even then, was at the center of the growing city's activity. On July 4th, 1876, f or example, electrical engineers wired the school's tower to give Omaha its first demonstration of electric lights. And before the comfort of air conditioning, local residents were known to sleep out on the Central lawn for relief from the heat on oppressive summer nights.

    By 1897, overcrowding and inadequate ventilation became serious problems for the school, and the board of education approved onstruction of a new, larger building. The cornerstone for that building, the present-day Central High School was laid on November 16th, 1900. The builders began with the east side of the new school, first and from 1900 to 1912 the school grew, a side at a time, each section constructed around the original tower building. Finally, that tower building itself wa demolished and removed before the fourth side (the north side) was added. Kate McHugh, principal at the time, insisted on the removal of the old building's heating and ventilating plant to create a courtyard at the center of the square structure.

    Central's grounds received extensive revamping in 1920. Prompted by complaints from Omaha motorists about the steep incline of Dodge Street, city officials initiated plans to lower the grade of the busy street. The work closed traffic for more than a year and left Central on a cliff with a 20 foot drop. New terraces and flighs of stairs provided the capus with its present look.

    The school board approved the addition of a gym and auditorium wing to the north side of the building in 1925. Prior to that time, the basketball teams played their games in a gym on the fourth floor, where the cafteria was located at that time, and thespians performed on stage in a tiny auditorium that has since been transformed into a classroom (room 145) behind the Wall of Fame. In 1981-82, a large renovation project was completed, while school was in session. Part of this renovation included workman using a helicopter to lower supports in place for a tranlucent done that would cover the courtyard (as it is today).

    Today, Central High has air conditioning installed in _______, a new gym and gym lobby added in ____ , and a football and track stadium added in ________ . The most recent and recognizable change to Central High is the addition of the arts wing on the east side of the bulding, looking down Capitol street, a vast addition was added in _______ to include a new library, vocal and instrumental classrooms, art classrooms, and the black box theater.


  • Principals

    • Dionne Kirsey, 2021-present
    • Ed Bennett, 2013-2021
    • Keith Bigsby, 2010-2013
    • Gregory Emmel, 2006–2010
    • Jerry F. Bexten, 2002–2006
    • Gary L. Thompson, 1995–2002
    • Gaylord “Doc” Moller, 1968–1995
    • J. Arthur Nelson, 1944–1968
    • Fred Hill, 1939–1944
    • Joseph G. Masters, 1915–1939
    • Clayton Reed, 1914–1915
    • Kate McHugh, 1911–1914
    • E. U. Graff, 1908–1911
    • A. H. Waterhouse, 1899–1908
    • Irwen Leviston, 1896–1899
    • Homer Lewis, 1882–1896
    • Charles Hine, 1881–1882
    • C. H. Crawford, 1877–1881
    • W. H. Merritt, 1875–1877
    • John Kellom, 1870–1875