Forgotten Atlanta Public Schools – Schools A-D
Over its 140-plus years of existence, the Atlanta Public School System managed to evolve from just 6 schools in 1872 to well over 40 schools in the twentieth century. In the previous posts, I focused on the very first schools to open in 1872 with the newly created Atlanta Public School System. While those six schools were the first, several others would open a few months, year, and even decades after the first schools to open. Though some of the schools are still in operation, most of the schools were later abandoned or completely forgotten about. It wasn’t until I conducted further research (utilizing old newspapers, books, and the city directories) that I discovered dozens of early nineteenth and twentieth-century schools in Atlanta that I had never seen nor heard of. For the purpose of this blog, a brief synopsis of each school will be provided if known.
George W. Adair Elementary School (July 2, 1912 – 1960’s):
Construction of the new George W. Adair Elementary School (previously mentioned here George W. Adair Elementary School Post ) was completed during the summer of 1912 and was designed by then, up-and-coming architect, Edward W. Dougherty. The school opened it’s doors in September of 1912, as was described as being one of the “handsomest in the city.” The school site was presented to the city by George and Forrest Adair. Adair Elementary school is nestled in the Historic Adair Park neighborhood. An in-town neighborhood subdivision initially designed by George W. Adair in the late 1890’s, but continued by his sons George and Forrest Adair in 1910. George W. Adair Elementary remained in operation until the 1960’s.
Ashby Street School (1911 – 1994):
Ashby Street School originally opened in 1911 as an all-white school. Children grew vegetables in the back of the schoolAs the West-End neighborhood changed in demographics due to the 1917 Great Fire, white student enrollment changed dramatically by 1918. Due to a declining enrollment in white students, the school board voted to close Ashby Street School and reopen as a “school for Negroes,” July of 1919. According to The Atlanta Constitution, only 9 white families owned their homes in the West End at this time as well. Due to the changing demographics, Ashby Street School was reopened as predominately African-American for the 1920 school term. The first principal of new African-American school would be H.L. Green, followed by Mrs. Harriet Randolph Bailey. In addition to traditional grammar school classes, Ashby Street School also provided schooling for the deaf community as well.
By the late 1920’s Ashby Street School would become the largest school African-American students in the Atlanta Public School System, and in the entire state of Georgia. As segregation caused African-American’s to have very few options in terms of places to live, the influx of African-American’s caused a storm of hateful actions by neighboring whites and the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK would firebomb Ashby Street School in 1922 with another mysterious fire gutting the building in 1926. Ashby Street School would be rebuilt in 1928 using the remaining walls that survived the 1926 fire.
Ashby Street School was renamed as E.R. Carter in 1944 after the cherished Atlanta Reverend, E.R. Carter who presided over Friendship Baptist Church for more than 50 years. Toward the end of 1975, the school board wrestled with closing E.R. Carter as well as the R.L. Craddock schools. The decision was met with anger and protests by West End residents as they realized the closing of Carter and Craddock would leave local children without an elementary to attend. The school remained open until 1994 when it finally shuttered its doors. As of 2015, the abandoned school has been converted into a multi-million dollar Families First Resource Center. It is great to see a historic building become repurposed rather than bulldozed for another run-of-the-mill office building.
Battle Hill School ( the early 1900’s? – Late 1960’s?):
Not much is known about the Battle Hill School located in the West End part of Atlanta. A 1922 Atlanta Constitution article states that the Board of Education voted to abandon Battle Hill school and provide a new annex at Lucille Avenue school that would accommodate Battle Hill attendees. The school was deemed dilapidated in 1955, and the Community Civic group begged the local community for assistance in updating the old wooden frame.
Bell Street School (1900 – 1940):
Bell Street Elementary opened in September of 1900 in hopes of relieving the overcrowding of Ivy Street, Calhoun Street, and Marietta Street schools. Similarly to Ashby Street School, Bell Street School initially served the white community before transitioning into a predominately African-American school. When it first began, Bell Street held classes upwards to the 7th grade.
Bell Street School would operate until 1940 before it was demolished to make way for the Grady Homes housing projects. Students who attended Bell Street School would later enroll in Younge Street School, making it one of the largest elementary school for African-American students in the 1940’s.
Boulevard School (1888 – 1922):
in 1887 children residing near Boulevard in the Fourth Ward district were without a school to call their own. Due to lack of accessibility to neighboring streets, Fourth Ward children were barred from attending neighboring Calhoun Street school. Due to the hazards of nearby streets and the need to accommodate local Boulevard children, the Board of Education voted to build a new school on the corner of North Boulevard and Irwin streets for the Fourth Ward children to attend.
In 1888, the Boulevard school officially opened its doors at the site of the “Beerman Lot.” In 1891, two new rooms would be added to accommodate the growing student body. Somehow, the Boulevard school managed to survive the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917, only to be reduced to cinders the night of February 19, 1918. It is believed that the school caught fire due to a defective flue. By the time local firemen had arrived, the wooden frame had morphed into a “seething furnace of flames,” injuring a few firemen who dared to battle the blaze. Unfortunately, the school was a total loss, and a new fire proof replacement had to be built.
Four years after a new Boulevard School was erected, the school would be bought by Morris Brown College in 1922 for $60,000. Former Boulevard pupils would be transferred to the Faith school.
Calhoun School ( 1883 – ?):
The Calhoun Street School was in built in 1883, with a capacity of 443, at least eleven years after the first APS schools opened in the winter of 1872. Keeping with the tradition of naming schools after the streets for which they were built upon, the Calhoun Street school was located near the Currier and Calhoun Street. Calhoun Street is now known as Piedmont Avenue, not too far from the location of the State Capitol.
A 1922 Atlanta Constitution article discusses the consolidation of the old Ivy Street school (student body total: 300) with the Calhoun Street School (student body total: 382) into a facility with the capacity to hold 1,000 – 1,200 pupils. The replacement school would be named Ansley Park.
Carrie Steele Logan Orphanage (1888 -):
Though not a traditional school in the sense of an Atlanta Public School system school, the Carrie Steele Logan Orphanage gets and honorable mention since it is listed as a “colored public school” in the Atlanta City Directory. Founded in 1888 by former slave Carrie Steele Logan, the orphanage provided educational needs to some of Atlanta’s most destitute orphans. Mrs. Steele – Logan started the orphanage after growing concerned with the incredible amount of homeless African-American students in the downtown Atlanta area. Initially, the orphans were housed in an abandoned box car; after a few years of fundraising through donations and sales from her autobiography, Mrs. Steele-Logan was able to secure enough funds to build a permanent location for her orphanage in 1892.
Located at 301 E. Fair Street (later named Memorial Drive), Mrs. Steele served as the director of the orphanage until her death in 1900. The orphanage’s location would remain in its original location until 1963 when it was moved to a much larger location of over twenty-three acres of land on Roy Street in Atlanta. In 1950, Carrie Steele Orphanage was renamed as The Carrie Steele – Pitts Home in honor of the Clara Maxwell Pitts who served as director from 1909 to 1950. Today, the Carrie Steele – Pitts Home is located on on Fairburn Rd. and still operates as a safe haven for orphaned children and runaways. Children are still offered a place to become educated, but also learn life lessons, employment skills and receive religious teachings as well. Though not an official public school, the Carrie Steele – Pitts Home serves as an important asset to the schooling of Atlanta youth.
Center Hill Elementary School (September 1934 – 1983?):
Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed an elementary school for African-American students in the Fall of 1934. Not much else is known about Center Hill other than it was included in the 1982 listing of APS schools in need of shutting down.
Commercial High School ( 1889 – 1947):
Commercial High School’s history is littered with instability. While most early APS schools moved several times before settling in a permanent location, Commerical High School may have been relocated more than Boys High School. Before the mandated co-educational ruling in the 1940’s took place, Commerical High was actually the first co-ed high school in the city of Atlanta. It was also the first high school to focus on business related curriculum, in hopes of preparing students for the changing job market. Commercial High was the brainchild of Mrs. Hamilton Douglass, a Girls High School instructor who saw a need for business-oriented curriculum. She noticed the commercial, business and industrial growth of Atlanta and saw a need to prepare students for the changing markets. Mrs. Douglass took her ideas to the school board, and in 1889 the board implemented business-related courses such as stenography, accounting, banking and typing courses.
The board appointed Mrs. Douglass to head the business department of Girls High School. In 1907, after 18 successful years, the department was expanded and reorganized. As the department expanded, the need for a larger space was critical. In 1910, the departments’ 147 students and 5 teachers moved to a rented space in the St. Philips Cathedral on Washington Avenue and changed its name to English-Commercial High. The high school was featured in the Atlanta Constitution in 1913 detailing the cramped conditions of the students and the need for more funding to pay for the proposed new school lot on Washington and Woodward Avenue. The new school would cost $75,000, yet only $10,000 was deposited toward the new building. Meanwhile, while funds were being secured, English Commerical High students moved into the old rickety wooden structure of the former Crew Street Elementary. At this time, the Crew St. school building would easily be over 40 years old and in ill repair.
By 1915, English Commercial High had grown significantly with the consolidation of the business department of Boys High School. The student body total was now over 220 students. Finally, after much delay, the new English Commercial High moved to a rented building at 232 S. Pryor Street (later named Pryor Street) and would go on to acquire abandoned homes on the same strip of Pryor Street to build more classrooms and an auditorium. However, despite the added space English Commercial High would face more overcrowding issues in 1923. By 1947, the school was shut down due to overcrowding and the newly implemented co-educational school system for high schools. High schools would no longer be separated by gender, therefore English Commercial High was now obsolete. What’s more, schools began to incorporate the same business based curriculum along with the traditional curriculum,. Lastly, many parents found the downtown area to far to commute and far too dangerous for students to attend. English Commercial High was ultimately demolished in 1982; the only thing Commercial High alumni were left with were distant memories.
Cooper Street School (1922 – 1973):
Servicing the diverse working-class Mechanicsville neighborhood, Cooper Street School was built to accommodate the overcrowding of the Formwalt school.
Craddock School (1889 – August 12, 1982):
The Craddock school was a primarily African-American school dating back to the 1880’s. However, Craddock Elementary was known by another name prior to being renamed in 1954 after Robert Lee Craddock in 1954, after a popular African-American religious and civic leader who resided in the Gray Street community. Upon its opening in 1889, Craddock was originally named Gray Street School, the first all-brick school structure built specifically for African-American’s. Some residents also referred to the school as the Fifth Ward school, which was a popular phenomenon at the time due to the school board naming schools for the wards they resided in. At the time of its opening in 1889, then Superintendant Slaton described Gray Street School as one of the finest schools in Atlanta.
Craddock remained operational until the mid-1970’s when then Superintendent, Alonzo A. Crim discussed closing the Craddock school in 1975 (along with E.R. Carter and F.L. Slaton schools). The decision was met with anger and protests from local parents, who cited the decision as racially motivated. The protests worked, as Craddock remained open until February of 1982. By March of 1982, the Board of Education officially shuttered Craddock’s historical doors. Unfortunately, the old Craddock school would burn to the ground one hot summer in August of 1982.
Crogman School (1923 – 1979):
Located at 1093 West Avenue in the ‘Pittsburgh’ area of Atlanta, GA, the Crogman school began within the Gate City Church until an explosion of enrollment forced the school to find larger accommodations. Local citizens managed to collect over three hundred dollars toward the purchase of land for the building of larger quarters. The new, two-room school would be eventually be built at the corners of Ira and Mary Street. But, it too became too crowded and a newer, larger facility would be purchased off the corner of Windsor and Arthur streets. But, the Crogman school would ultimately move a third and final time after Clark Atlanta University donated land for the construction of a larger school, this time located at the corner of Fletcher and West View Avenue. This would mark the name change for the school from the “Pittsburgh” school to the William H. Crogman, after the first African-American president of Clark Atlanta University, who also happened to live in the Peoplestown area, adjacent to the Pittsburgh area.
In addition to being the first African-American president, of Clark Atlanta University, Dr. Crogman was the first African-American teacher to teach at the Freedman’s Aid Society in South Carolina. He would then travel to Atlanta to earn a degree at Atlanta University. He would later become the first Professor at Atlanta University when it first opened on Whitehall Street. Dr. Crogman passed away in 1931 and would be remembered as a well-respected Professor with an illustrious career.
After years of overcrowding, the Crogman school would ultimately expand in 1950. Tucker & Howell Architects would add an additional 13 classrooms plus a state-of-the-art cafeteria/auditorium to a tune of $209, 968. Unfortunately, due to the drastic decline of enrollment, not to mention deterioration of the original facility, Crogman School was closed in 1979. The Butler Street Y.M.C.A. would go on to lease the Crogman school in 1979 as youth programs facility. After years of being occupied by the Y.M.C.A., the school would ultimately be transformed into loft living spaces which is how the former school is being used today. Luckily, the Crogman school was saved from demolition, a rarity in Atlanta lately.
Davis Street School ( 1887 – 2016):
Built in 1887 on donated land from the city of Atlanta, the Davis school opened with just 6 small rooms. Originally located on the corner of Thurmond and Spencer, the Davis Street School would often appear in the papers as a school with deplorable conditions. The hallways of the school would flood whenever it rained, due to the drafty building, over 90 students were reported ill during a particularly brutal winter in the early 1900’s. The building’s conditions were so rough, that the principal had to wear a rain coat and use and umbrella in her office during rain storms.
Due to the constant rezoning of school districts and the rapidly growing population of Atlanta, the Davis Street School would constantly face issues of overcrowding as would the majority of the first crop of 19th – century Atlanta Public Schools. The school would go on to add additional rooms throughout the early half of the 20th-century, but it would do little to remedy the overcrowding issues. One interesting factoid about the Davis Street School is it being utilized as some sort of guineas pig for the introduction of physical education in public schools. After besting every APS elementary school (white schools) in May Day activities, the Davis Street School was the first of its kind to receive playground material. Swings, balance beams, see-saws, etc., were installed in 1901.
By 1928, talks of converting the school into an African-American elementary school began circulating. In April of 1928, the Atlanta Board of Education began to discuss and set forth a proposal to abandon attempts to keep Davis Street School as an all-white school due in part to the large settlement of African-American families nearby. By the late 1940’s, Davis Street School (and various previously all-white schools) was in near shambles. The front yard of the school was covered in weeds and trash decorated the front lawn.
Davis Street School would experience a remarkable renovation over the course of several years; beginning with its name. One year after the death of distinguished philanthropist Mary McLeod Bethune in 1955, Davis Street School was officially renamed as Mary McLeod Bethune School (or Bethune School) in May of 1956. Over the course of 3 decades, the school would have experience expansion projects to accommodate the growing student body. In the year 2000, Bethune Elementary underwent a $10 million dollar renovation project with state-of-the-art computers, software, lighting, etc. Unfortunately, the school is currently slated to shutter it’s doors now that attendance is down. More than likely, it is due to the gentrification of neighboring communities.
Decatur Street School ( February 27, 1872 – ?):
Locating information for the Decatur Street School was absolutely painstaking, and yet after days of research, I could only find the school listed in the 1874 Atlanta City Directory. Subsequent volumes of the Atlanta City Directory do not mention Decatur Street School at all, even as early as the 1880’s. In 1874, Decatur Street School enrolled 226 students, a much smaller student body than the other seven Atlanta Public Schools in 1874.
Further research revealed that in September of 1874, Decatur Street School was reopened as a primary school, with the previous student body being transferred to Ivy and Calhoun Street schools. After this small blurb in the Atlanta Constitution, not much else is mentioned. This is a school I’ll have to revisit.
- “GEORGE ADAIR SCHOOL READY IN 30 DAYS.”. 1912 The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Jun 02. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/496605168?accountid=11226.
- Little, Jessie. “Battle Hill School.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Apr 15, 1900. 1, http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/495576897?accountid=11226
- “HERE IS COMPLETE SCHOOL BUILDING PROGRAM FOR CITY.”. 1922 The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Mar 16. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/498522345?accountid=11226.
- “NORMAL SCHOOL OPENS MONDAY.”. 1905 The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Aug 20. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/495986395?accountid=11226.
- William Douglas, Staff Writer. “Memories of Commercial High Grow Dearer and Fonder.” The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984), Jan 29, 1984. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/1635991545?accountid=11226.
- “OLD CREW ST. SCHOOL WILL BE USED AGAIN.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Jul 31, 1913. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/496583539?accountid=11226.
- To Start Clearing Slums for Grady Homes Project.” Atlanta Daily World (1932-2003), Jan 14, 1940. 1, http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/490608463?accountid=11226.
- “FIRST PICTURE ENGLISH COMMERCIAL SCHOOL.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Apr 28, 1912. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/496539775?accountid=11226.
- “CORNERSTONE OF NEW ASHBY STREET SCHOOL LAID WITH THE MASONIC CREEMONIES.”. 1911 The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Apr 02. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/496468138?accountid=11226.
- “SCHOOLS WILL USE OLD HISTORY BOOK.”. 1919 The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Jun 27. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/497494926?accountid=11226.
- “Ashby St. School Re-Named For Late Rev. Carter.”. 1944 Atlanta Daily World (1932-2003), Aug 11. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/490746300?accountid=11226.
Mason, Herman Jr. Black Atlanta in the roaring twenties. Place of publication not identified: Diane Pub Co, 1997.
“FIRE CUTS SCHOOL ON ASHBY STREET.”. 1926 The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Dec 23. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/499804694?accountid=11226.
“FINANCE COMMITTEE-HEARS RITCHIE PLAN.”. 1927 The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Feb 15. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/499875876?accountid=11226.
“E. L. Connally Elementary School is Dedicated here.” Atlanta Daily World (1932-2003), May 07, 1976. 3, http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/491460136?accountid=11226.
Acheson. “FORMWALT STREET SCHOOL IS GROWING VERY RAPIDLY.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Mar 02, 1897. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/495388730?accountid=11226.
Sam Hopkins Constitution, Staff Writer. “Book Closes on Old School.” The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984), Aug 13, 1980. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/1613347658?accountid=11226.
“Formwalt Preservation Sought by Cook, McNeal.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Nov 28, 1943. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/504222840?accountid=11226.
“Davis Street School Abandonment Urged as White Institution.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Apr 11, 1928. 8, http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/500247297?accountid=11226.
- Weaver, C. L. “Hazards and Neglect Handicap to Schools.” Atlanta Daily World (1932-2003), Sep 26, 1948. 1, http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/490865203?accountid=11226.
- BOULEVARD SCHOOL PURCHASE IS VOTED.”. 1922 The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), May 31.
- “MORRIS BROWN BUYS BOULEVARD SCHOOL.”. 1922 The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Jul 01.
- “COMPLETE SCHOOL BUILDING PLAN ANNOUNCED; 13 NEW ELEMENTARY STRUCTURES ARE PROPOSED.”. 1922 The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Mar 16.
- Hancock, Herman. “Your City Hall.” The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984), Mar 21, 1948.
- PETER SCOTT Journal, Staff Writer. “Old School Buildings Still House Education.” The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984), Jun 24, 1979.
- “Crogman School …Closing Marks 69 Years of Service.” Atlanta Daily World (1932-2003), Sep 13, 1979.