Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, December 13, 2009, pg 12
The Albion Chamber of Commerce is now located next to the Bohm Theatre and is open from 9 am to 1 pm weekdays. You can purchase my latest book "Albion in Review" there as a Christmas gift for someone you love. It will be a gift they can take with them and enjoy the memories in it.
Also, don't forget that the U.S. Census Bureau will be testing for upcoming Census jobs here in Albion this Thursday, December 17. Call 1-866-861-2010 for further information. Let's make sure they have enough Albion people lined up to do the Albion count next spring. Our official 2000 population was 9,144. What will it be in 2010? Any guesses? Someone ought to have a contest.
We continue with our saga of the history of Washington Gardner High School. Construction began of the new "east wing" addition which was designed to match the 1922-built high school "west wing" addition. Plans were significantly changed however, when on December 30, 1926, at 6:10 pm. A fire was discovered in the main 1906-built Central School portion. The fire began in the basement under the auditorium where construction workers had been welding pipes for the new grade school unit and where the janitor had been storing paper and trash. The fire was extinguished, but damage occurred to the auditorium, hallway, and basement.
The school board voted on January 5, 1927, to abandon the 1906-built Central School, and proposed a new central school to match the east-west ends. The $100,000 bond proposal passed that same month. As part of the construction, the third story of the old 1885/1893 west wing, which sat in the rear of the auditorium area, was removed, leaving only the school library (later the band room) and the maintenance area. This section is all that remains today of the old Central School at the Washington Gardner facility.
A name for the school had to be selected. On February 2, 1927 the Albion School Board passed a resolution naming the entire facility after the Hon. Washington Gardner (1845-1928), Albion's most distinguished citizen. We have given Rev. Gardner's biography previously in this column; you can look up his biography on the www.albionmich.com website.
The building was constructed during 1927, and was finished in early 1928. Gardner was unable to attend the February 8, 1928 dedication and opening of the school bearing his name. He lived just down the street and was near death at the time. He died on March 31, 1928 only seven weeks after the school opened.
The newly completed central unit contained fifteen classrooms, a library, a study hall, an auditorium, a shop, offices and other facilities. At the end of the 1926-27 school year, the East Ward elementary school on E. Michigan Avenue (near Five Points) was closed and students were transferred to the Gardner Grade School on the east end of the building. Washington Gardner High School was in existence as a high school for nearly 40 years, from 1928 to the end of 1966.
Time to reminisce. This writer remembers as a Junior High student at Washington Gardner in the mid-1960s the crowded conditions and long school days. The Junior High was in the basement, while the High School occupied the other floors. Teachers had their "own rooms" for years and years. For example, what was biology teacher Vernon Baldwin's room number? Lockers had to be shared - three to a locker. I also remember the exhibit cases full of sports trophies and academic awards lining the hallways. I especially remember the triangular forensic/debate plaques on the wall for state championships which were won under the direction of Ethel Fleenor. Do you remember the bookstore where you could purchase not only supplies, but candy as well? Washington Gardner was a place where many persons in Albion grew up, from grades 7 through 12. That all changed in January, 1967. TO BE CONTINUED.
From our Historical Notebook we present a 1939 postcard of Washington Gardner High School.
1939 postcard of Washington Gardner High School
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic