Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal School is a coed, independent school located in the heart of Midtown’s beautiful and historic Central Gardens neighborhood. Its earliest origins on the site actually date to 1919, when the Rev. Bartow B. Ramage, rector of St. Luke's Church, began a small parochial school for the neighborhood in the red clapboard parish house adjacent to the church. His wife was the teacher, and their daughter would join them on staff in 1923, but after Rev. Ramage's retirement the following year, the school closed in 1924.
The beginnings of GSL as we have come to know it today started in 1947, when former St. Mary's kindergarten teacher Lorena Webber Walker asked the Reverend Dr. Charles Stuart Hale, rector of the newly-merged Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal Church, if she could rent space to begin operating a kindergarten. A scholarly man himself and firm believer in the importance of a Christian education, he agreed.
From humble beginnings in the church’s Parish Hall, a thriving day school was formed. Grades were added each year, and the school was issued its first charter in 1959, with groundbreaking on a new Primary Building. The school expanded and grew, adding Morton Hall (1971) for Middle School and higher and Bratton Hall (1973) for senior kindergarten through grade five. By the mid-1970s, GSL was graduating several high school classes. But space constraints led the school to right-size into a kindergarten through ninth-grade configuration in 1979, allowing GSL to focus on developing students in preschool through middle school. This ultimately evolved into the two-year-old to eighth-grade model the school enjoys today.
Other major improvements over the years included the acquisition of Snowden Field (1986), which helped raise the level of the school's Middle School athletic offerings, and Miss Lee’s School of Childhood, whose opening in 1987 allowed the school to expand its preschool offerings. The school collaborated with the church to link the church, the school administrative offices, the middle school, and the Saints gym via an addition known as the Evans Building in 1990. In 2010, the Anchor Center opened at on Lemaster between Linden and Peabody, across from Morton Hall and the Church, and featured a new gym, cafeteria, library, music and art rooms, science labs, dedicated space for After School Care, and a greenhouse. In 2013, the Little Lukers program was added, expanding the preschool program to include two-year-old children. GSL was one of the first schools in Memphis to add such a program.
We are thriving today, excited about the future, and proud of our history on this beautiful corner in Central Gardens!
This year, Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal School celebrates the 75th anniversary of its founding in 1947. Events will include a schoolwide celebration during the first week back in August, followed by a party on Saturday, August 20, for the adult community of Saints, past and present, and all 21 and over alumni from the Classes of 1947-2015. Save-the-dates have been mailed out, and we are looking forward to a great showing of former faculty, parents, grandparents, and students. We can't wait to celebrate with our Saints community!
For more info or to RSVP today, click here.
Photo at left: The Saints community in front of GSL Church, circa 1958-59.