Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, January 17, 2021, pg. 7
The Washington Gardner High School building at 401 E. Michigan Avenue is in the process of being upgraded and transformed by its owner since 2011, Albion College. This is a building that was cobbled together in various stages over many years. In order to give our community a better understanding of the history of this Albion landmark during this transition period, Iíll be presenting a series of articles in this column explaining the various stages of development that have occurred.
The Washington Gardner High School building sits on the site of Albionís first high school building, named the Central School. After the Albion Public Schools was organized in 1869, the school board hired local contractor George W. Maher to erect a schoolhouse to serve all grades. The cost of the structure was $16,826, and was financed by bonds payable at 5% interest.
Classes opened in November, 1872. The intermediate and grammar classes occupied the first floor of the new building. The high school was located on the second floor. The original teachers included: Miss Josephine E. Clark, Mrs. Frank Mills, Miss Nellie Fitch, Miss Blair, and principal/superintendent Professor Frank McClellan. The four women teachers were employed for seven dollars a week, without privileges of room and board.
Due to expanding student populations, east and west wings were added to the structure in 1885 at a cost of $9,000, with George W. Maher again, being the contractor. Eight years later in 1893, additions to the north sides of each wing were made at a cost of $7,900. The new wings meant that more space was available for curriculum expansion. The original 1872-built Central School building was demolished in 1906 to make way for a new replacement structure, but the East/West wings were left intact at the time.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present an 1895 photograph of Central School with the West (left) and East (right) wings. Notice the decorative wire/wood fence which once adorned the front of the schoolyard. There is also a beautiful mosaic design near the rooftop, and on the top of the center tower of the building. You can also see a few chimneys in back, used in the days when coal (and lots of it) was the fuel that kept the furnaces going.
1895 photograph of Central School
WASHINGTON GARDNER HIGH SCHOOL
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic