The grand old school on College Street

By Rick Palsgrove, Groveport Editor

Photo courtesy of the Groveport Heritage Museum
Early 20th century students pose outside the old Groveport School that once sat along College Street near where Naomi Court exists now.

The bell tower of the old Groveport School – long gone for over a century – must have been a majestic sight as it towered over the nearby homes.

The two story, brick school was an architectural beauty with its tall windows (lots of natural light in its classrooms), ornate trim, and other decorative flourishes.

This school was once located on the west side of College Street north of Blacklick Street and built in 1884 at a cost of $10,634. It housed all 12 grades and replaced the Groveport Madison school district’s first building that was built in 1848 at Walnut and Elm streets. The College Street school was expanded in 1912, when two classrooms and a laboratory were added, and in 1919 two portable classrooms were included to accommodate the growing Groveport Madison school district. Groveport Madison Alumni Association records show 411 students earned their high school diploma at this school during its 39 years of operation.

Students walked or rode horses or carriages to the old school on College Street and stabled their horses at a livery stable on nearby Blacklick Street. At noon each school day the students went to the stable to tend to their horses.

The school had no gym or auditorium, but it was surrounded by a large playground with athletic fields. The boys and girls basketball teams played in the second floor auditorium of Groveport Town Hall.

This school is why East Street was renamed to College Street. (East Street got its name because it was the eastern most street of Wert’s Grove, which in 1847 combined with Rarey’s Port to form Groveport.)

Classrooms in the school contained rows of desks and walls lined with chalkboards.

Students learned reading, writing, mathematics, science, citizenship, grammar, and studied literature.

The school’s theatrical and musical performances were held in the Groveport Town Hall auditorium. Sometimes plays would also be staged in the ballroom of the Elmont Hotel on Main Street, while more modest productions were put on in a classroom. The plays performed were often works of William Shakespeare. Students created their own costumes, which would be reused until they frayed.

A popular performance forum appears to have been an active school literary society that gave public readings of literature and of original works, sang songs, held debates, and performed musical concerts.

The first sports the school embraced were baseball and basketball, with the school fielding both boys and girls varsity basketball teams. Football was the next to come along in the early 20th century.

Another early sport played at the school was tennis, which popped up for a time after World War I before disappearing prior to the Great Depression and then reappearing in the late 1950s. The tennis court at the school was most likely dirt or grass. A tennis court sign stated, “Girls with high heeled shoes, please stay off.”

Because travel in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was not easy, athletic games were usually played against nearby schools like Canal Winchester, Ashville Hamilton Township, Grove City, and Reynoldsburg.

Athletes did not ride school buses to away games. Instead they rode the electric interurban railway that passed near the school or piled into trucks for trips to places where the interurban go. Journals of the time note notations about players and fans catching the “4:18” interurban for an away game and a coach securing a truck to take a team to a game in Hilliard.

The football season started late in the fall so players who lived on farms could help bring in the harvest. The Cruisers’ football field in those years was nothing like the high school stadiums of today. Spectators stood along the sidelines. There were no lights so the games were played in the afternoon. For all sports, equipment and uniforms were re-used for many years.

The school’s grounds were home to strong baseball teams which won the Franklin County League several times as well as a state title in 1910. Even with success there could be moments of uncertainty, as with the 1917 baseball team that had to delay the start of the season to await the delivery of “a few new baseballs.”

The girls basketball team of 1916-17 held some of its pre-season practices on an outdoor, dirt court in the schoolyard while the Town Hall auditorium was being readied for the coming season. Here is how the practices were described in the “Groveport Flashlight” school publication of 1916-17:

“The girls practiced on the uncovered outdoor court fixed temporarily in the schoolyard. Most found later, to their loss, or gain in swollen bumps, that the floor of Town Hall is considerably harder than the bare ground…although that did decrease yielding frequently to the pull of gravity downward and recovering equilibrium without serious detriment being done. Several trial games were played on this court in the schoolyard…”

It shows how much they loved the game.

By 1921, the College Street school had become overcrowded. On Aug. 8, 1921, voters approved a bond issue to build the $225,000, three story Groveport School on east Main Street to house all 12 grades, as well as an elementary school at Edwards’ Station. (In an architectural curiosity, Edwards Elementary was designed as a smaller version of the new Groveport School.)

Bond issue campaign literature from 1921 noted the new Groveport School enabled the district to close the six one room schools it operated in the township. It also stated the bond issue would cost the owner of “$1,000 property $3.82 a year, or 32 cents a month for the first year” with gradual decreases in future years.

The 1884 school was demolished in 1923 and replaced by the new Groveport School, which is now Groveport Elementary.

Some of the bricks and other features of the old 1884 school were used in building some of the homes on Naomi Court, so part of it lives on.

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