Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Chariton High School: Honoring respectful renewal

Every time I drive by the Chariton High School complex I'm reminded that its principal building, completed during 1923,  is the same one my parents graduated from during the 1930s --- and that some of the students there today are fourth-generation descendants of members of those early classes. That's a sort of continuity that's kind of rare.

Today's building is only part of a larger complex --- a 1951 addition came close to doubling its size and a quarter of a century after that, the Johnson Auditorium, Gymnasium and Community Center wing was added to the west. But the oldest building always has been treated respectfully, as it was again during the last few years when a multi-million-dollar renovation was in progress.

So it was rewarding Monday night, as a member of the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission, to honor school board members and administrators with a plaque to recognize the respect given to the integrity of an historic building while updating it to meet the needs of the 21st Century. 

Shown in the photograph here are (from left) Martin Buck, preservation commissioner; Paula Wright, superintendent of schools; Alyse Hunter, Preservation Commission chair; Tracy Hall, high school principal; and Dave Rich, school board president.

Chariton High School occupies a full block north of the square that was first occupied during 1867 when Smith H. and Annie Mallory built their first home on its southeast corner, supplemented by gardens, orchards, stables and various outbuildings on its south half.

Not long after that, the Mallorys deeded a big portion of the block's west side to the Chariton school district and the city's second major brick school building, called Bancroft, was built there. Bancroft was followed on the same site as the 19th Century turned into the 20th by the Alma Clay Buidling, named for a legendary educator, and finally the Johnson wing. The east half of the lot was entirely residential until the early 1920s, when the decision was made to build the new, current, high school. Sam and Edith Beardsley's first funeral home was among the last residential holdouts at the north end of the block in the 1930s.

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