School has had many lives

Photos courtesy of the Groveport Heritage Museum
(top) Groveport Madison High School gymnasium on Main Street in 1952.

(middle) Groveport Madison High School on Main Street as it looked in 1957.

(below) Workers are shown here constructing the classroom wing of Groveport Madison High  School on Main Street in 1955.
 

Historic school buildings often go through many reincarnations and perhaps no other school building in the Groveport Madison School District has had as many lives as the structure now known as Groveport Madison Junior High School.

Origins

The building was born as a product of the "Baby Boom," those years following World War II when the United States saw a dramatic jump in its population.

Since 1923, Groveport School, now Groveport Elementary, had served all 12 grades of students in the district, with the help of smaller elementaries in Brice and at Edward’s Station. However, with growth in the district becoming apparent in the post war years, district residents and officials could see they were running out of room in the three story majestic brick structure on Main Street.

It was decided a new high school was needed and on Nov. 8, 1949, voters approved a $550,000 bond issue to do so.

In March, 1950, the district purchased the eight acre Elmont Hotel property, located immediately to the east of Groveport School, for $21,000. (The Elmont was once the home of the internationally famous horse trainer, John S. Rarey, owner of the fiery stallion, Cruiser.)

The old hotel was torn down and ground broken for the new school in February, 1951. The building was to be built in stages with the gymnasium, music, industrial arts, vocational agriculture and home economics areas constructed first and open for use in 1952.

The gym was designed as a combination auditorium and gymnasium capable of seating between 2,000 to 3,000 people. It was said to be the largest high school gymnasium in Franklin County when it was built. It featured a linoleum tile playing surface, which was thought at the time to be durable and a nod to modernity over a traditional wood floor. However, its slippery nature proved to be a bane to athletes for many years until the district eventually replaced it with a rug burn inducing carpet and then pulled that out and put in a new wooden floor in the 21st century.

The construction of the gym and vocational complex freed up seven additional classrooms in Groveport School for elementary classes.

Expansion

The high school and elementary continued to share facilities through the 1950s until the second phase of the new high school construction began in 1955 with the erection of a 450 seat cafeteria between the old school and the new gym; and a 26 room classroom wing that extended east and south in an "L" formation from the gym. Added to this construction was an elevated walkway that connected the old school to the new school, essentially making the complex one mammoth structure.

The new red brick high school was built in a modern, sleek style and outwardly looks almost like an office building, especially when compared with its more ornate sister building, Groveport Elementary, next door. Many of the 1950s era school’s interior flourishes remain, such as its blonde wood trim and shiny tiles.

A curious architectural aspect of the 1950s building is that it has no definite, dynamic, discernible main entry way, which is probably a by product of the building being constructed in phases over a period of years. Another interesting aspect of the manner of construction of the school is the quirky nature of the hallways around the gym and vocational areas and how they were tied into the newer classroom wing. It was no doubt a long walk between classes for someone in an industrial arts class to hoof it to a distant classroom in the far wing.

The 1950s school building on Main Street served as a high school until 1970, the shortest period of time any building has served as a high school in the Groveport Madison school district. It was replaced by the current high school on South Hamilton Road. Since its days as a high school in the 1950s and 1960s, the school on Main Street has been a junior high school, a freshman school, and junior high school again.

A personal note

My age group had the distinction of never attending a class in the 1950s high school. We went directly from Groveport Elementary to the new junior high on South Hamilton Road which then transitioned into the existing high school.

Though I never attended a class in the former high school building, I have strong memories of the place. When I was quite young, I have vague memories of being taken to the school’s cafeteria, along with lots of other baby boomers, to receive the polio vaccine. As a kid, I also remember watching basketball games in the gym, particularly the 1964 Mid-Eight champions and the strong 1969 team. I went to band concerts there to see my sister perform. I can recall getting a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream at an ice cream social held in the front courtyard on a bright day in late May.

The building, along with its neighbor Groveport Elementary, are like old friends to me.
 

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