Over the years since the creation of Scott County in 1850, many good positive things have happened that have helped its people along life’s pathway. One of the most important has been the setting up in 1908 of a system of public education high schools. These forward-looking people had a vision of what education could mean to the general growth and freedom for future generations of Scott County.
Figure -1: Huntsville High School's fortress building, now serving as a middle school for the community, was constructed in 1932, with two wings being added in a 1949 expansion project. The stately structure, one of the most unique buildings in the entire county, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in July, 1987, and has the distinction of being the only school building in the county to be on the Historic Register.
Today, we are facing many such challenges in education, some old and some new; never the less, in this article I would like to review for you some of the historical significance regarding the Huntsville Elementary and High School Building and Campus, its educational impact and the significance of its presence to the area and the building of "one of the best buildings of its kind in any town the size of Huntsville in the entire state and is not surpassed in the large cities for beauty, modern construction and arrangement" per quote from the Scott County News, September 9, 1932.
Historically, the Huntsville Elementary and High School, of Huntsville, Tennessee, was established in 1908 by the State Legislature. A wooden frame building was erected on the site purchased for that purpose near the Town of Huntsville. It had four classrooms that housed both the high school and the elementary grades. Initially there were approximately 125 students, 25 of them being in high school. In the early years, the principals, and most of the teachers were from out of the county, as there were only a few certified teachers in Scott County. More rooms were added in 1917 to the original building and a large coeducational dormitory was constructed in order to accommodate more students in a planned effort to become a fully accredited four-year high school. The first four-year graduates were in 1921 under the supervision of Principal C. W. WRIGHT who oversaw the change from a two-year to a four-year program. In the early years the school functioned as an independent school under a special act of the Legislature, but after several years was taken over by a Scott County School system. In 1929 a wooden frame gymnasium with a dome roof was built near the school, bringing sports inside along with an area for square dances and many other school activities. On February 5, 1931, the Tennessee Legislature passed bills and Governor HORTON signed them into law authorizing the construction of a new elementary and high school, cost not to exceed $75,000, to replace the old frame building which was "entirely inadequate to care for the high school as it should be taken care of." (Quote from Scott County News, February 6, 1931, Vol. 15, No. 46.) A Huntsville High School Building Board was established to plan and carry out the new facility construction. It was made up of U. E. JEFFERS, chairman; O. EARL BYRD, secretary; WILLIAM YORK; E. G. FOSTER; HOWARD H. BAKER. CLEM H. MEYER was hired to the be the architect. The contractor selected to build this structure was Cook and Elliot. This large fort-like brick structure was completed in the summer of 1932 and was put into service in the fall of 1932. This building and its prospectus were enough to excite the whole academic community. This facility served Huntsville and the surrounding rural community as both elementary and high school until 1971, at which time a new comprehensive central high school was built. Since that time the facility has been the Huntsville Middle School, housing grades 5 through 8, and a new elementary school (1960s) was constructed nearby, housing grades K through 4. In 1949 two wings were attached to the original structure, adding a cafeteria, a new gym and new classrooms. Also separate structures or out buildings were built behind the main building, a stone structure in the early forties first used as a cafeteria and then as the Vocational Agriculture Department and now abandoned;. a block building in the early sixties housing the Trades and Industries Department and currently used by the Middle School for classes; a small block building near the cafeteria was built in 1986 to house grounds-keeping equipment.
The present and original physical appearance of the old Huntsville High School Building is one of a strong, sturdy, solid, brick, two-story memorial to the educational commitment of this county in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The fort-like building is constructed like a large wing with a big auditorium behind the wing which seats approximately 350 people (one of two auditoriums in Scott County). The building has a flat roof and the interior is of a plaster construction. The architectural character of this building is defined as follows: Third Main Phase of Architecture of the Americas; (III) National Phase Period (American) of the Second Electric Period, c. 1860 — c. 1930. During this period, American Architecture achieved international significance and was related to the Gothic Revival and initiated as a Romanesque Revival. The classical building and formal layout is a fine example of simple American Academies Architecture in the Gothic style, similar to that at the U.S. Military Academies.
The original and present decor of the exterior uses a tan-orange antique looking brick overall with decorative light cream brick also using pre-molded concrete to house the Romanesque arch entrance door-window assembly and the special effects inside the outlined entrance. The windows are metal frame
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and have two sections that open, a six-pane upper window and a three-pane lower window.
Each section of the wings have brick posts protruding from the wall capped by pre-formed concrete cornices. Each post has a special brick-lay pattern separating it from the pattern of brick-lay of the walls.
The special light fixtures on the fort-like entrance are original and are electrified. They are of tin metal construction having a dome top with an "X" pattern on the top and bottom. The cream translucent colored glass gives off a soft light at night marking the main entrance to the building.
The interior of the building has been changed over the years to deal with safety measures, increased electrical use and the need for better lighting. All the brick hallways have been painted white with an occasional mural painted to help establish a good positive attitude at the Middle School. Originally, the hallways and auditorium were the raw brick decor. Most of the plaster walls and ceilings have been retained, some sustaining some water damage from a leaky roof over the years. The suspended ceiling in the auditorium has also been added for acoustical purposes and also to cover the originally exposed steel beams. Also new seats have been installed in the last 10 years. The original method of heating is still in place and is a hot water-radiator system with the boiler being in the basement of the east wing. The boiler, however, is now fired by natural gas, instead of coal. The floors are now covered with either carpet or floor tile. Originally, they were either bare concrete or oiled wooden tongue-in-groove flooring. Most of the classrooms still have the globe-on-a-chain type lighting. Some of the original decorative globes are still present.
Several changes have been made per the Fire Marshall’s rules, i.e., putting the electrical wiring into conduit, closing in the stairwell on the second floor, installing better banisters on the stairwells, filling in below the stairwells for better and more storage.
No alteration to the original structure was made in attaching these connector corridors. Open wooden lockers have replaced the old metal lockers in the hallways. Most of the interior classroom doors have window transoms above the doors, and most all the classrooms have 12-foot ceilings.
On July 2, 1987, the 1932 Huntsville High School Building was placed on the National Register of Historical Places by the United State Department of Interior and the Tennessee Historical Commission in recognition of the educational and architectural significance that this facility plays in the Scott County community.
The Huntsville Elementary and High School Campus has played a significant roll in most of the families in the area for 60 years. It is still one of the sturdiest and most well built buildings in Scott County. It has a beautiful auditorium, one of two in Scott County today. Unfortunately, very little money has been spent over the years to maintain the viability and appearance of this historically significant campus and building. Over the last few years much effort and local fund raising was done by Principal FRANKIE BLAKLEY and others to re-seat the auditorium. The hard work and diligence of ROY BERTRAM and his family in caring for this building and campus has been very apparent and largely responsible for the good condition the building is in today. However, very little tax money has been spent for the maintenance and upkeep of this facility over the years.
Today we are told by various sources, state educators, local educators, school board, fire marshals, architects, et al, that this building is not student efficient, energy efficient, not accessible to handicapped people and that it would radically alter the historical aspects of this building to make it fit today’s "requirements" and would cost as much or more than a new building, with today’s standards used. It would seem, though, that we could spend some money improving the appearance and functional characteristics of this significant historical building and make use of the facility as an education center, school board offices, auditorium and gym. Our county government needs additional office space and could easily make use of the existing Board of Education Building and not have to build or rent office space to expand needed services. Let’s keep and use this facility to benefit future generations and additionally acknowledge our historical past.
1. Huntsville High School Reunion Committee. "50 Year Reunion Annual," 1986. Scott County Historical Society, Lib. of Congress Cat. Card Number 86-80727.
2. Sanderson, Esther Sharp. County Scott and Its Mountain Folk, 1958, Ester Sharp Sanderson.
3. Smith, H. Clay. Dusty Bits of the Forgotten Past, Scott County Historical Society, 1985, Lib. of Congress Cat. Number 85-051027.
4. Sexton, Oswell S. History of Education in Scott County, Tennessee, University of Tennessee College of Education Thesis, 1951.
FNB Chronicle, Vol. 2, No. 4 – Summer 1991
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
This page was created by Timothy N. West and is copyrighted by him. All rights reserved.