MOUNT VERNON — With the city’s purchase of the former Hiawatha School complete and City Council’s approval to bid for demolition, the former education institution will be demolished before year’s end.
The facility was opened in January 1922 and was used for grades one through six. Transfer was approved in 1933 from Clinton Township to Mount Vernon School District along with Elmwood Elementary. In 1963, it was used as a partial middle school and was later closed in 1973 and most recently used as offices for Kno-Ho-Co Community Action Agency.
“I loved that school,” said News publisher Kay Culbertson, who attended grades two through six at Hiawatha School before moving on to Pleasant Street School for grades seven to eight. “I really loved all the teachers; everyone there was so friendly.” Culbertson shared numerous memories while thinking back on her days at the school, recalling a ditch with bridges along Sychar Road, a large tree out front and a big ball field in back of the school where she would play. “There have been a lot of changes inside,” said Culbertson after touring the facility Monday.
In August 1952, additional classrooms were added on to the east end of the school building. Running water was then added to the school for the first time in November 1952. Other interesting facts about the school gathered at the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County follow:
•March 1931, sufficient funds were raised to provide hot lunches for the students for the remainder of the school term.
•October 1932, second-hand books were needed, including arithmetic, geography, history of American people and farming.
•November 1934, students spent the day in Columbus at the Ohio State Museum and the Ohio State-Iowa football game, chaperoned by teachers Florence Gearhart, Audrey Wright and Lucille Lyons.
•November 1938, school repair contract was awarded for laying of a new roof, painting exterior woodwork, caulking, painting walls and resetting some coping, all for $162,000.
•February 1953, students celebrated Ohio’s 150th anniversary. A large mural depicting a scene along the Ohio River was done in chalk by Beverly Crawford, Suellen Fidler, Gary Rine, Eugene Boucher, Pearl Loney and James Pollock.
•April 1956, Arbor Day was celebrated with students setting out a pine tree furnished by the Ohio Department of Education. The tree was planted by Max Walton and Bob Shepard. Diana Boucher was announcer. Robert Porter read a proclamation by Governor Lausche. Girl Scouts Sue Todd, Gretchen Garrety and Jane Warner led the Pledge of Allegiance.
•The League of Friendship conducted their first meeting at the school with Principal Howard Wacker presiding.
The City of Mount Vernon officially purchased the building, along with 2.596 acres, on Friday with the intentions of building a new fire station on the property.
“We’ve been looking around, using a consulting firm, and we feel this would be an ideal location to serve this end of town,” said Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis. The mayor added that specs will be drawn up and bids advertised with hopes of tearing down the school building by the end of 2010.
With the city now in possession of the building, Mount Vernon Fire Chief Shawn Christy was already conducting rescue training procedures there on Monday. Numerous rooms within the building were filled with artificial smoke. Training participants would then enter the building through locked doors, wind their way through dark, smoke-filled hallways and properly remove dummies from the facility within a certain time frame.
While a new fire station is planned to be constructed, it is believed the property is large enough to accommodate a training structure as well. “We think the space here is sufficient enough to build a training facility,” said Christy, allowing for continuous training exercises for fire and police rescue personnel. Christy added he hopes the station will be constructed in the next two to three years.
“There may be opportunities for grant money for this project, but I believe it is likely the funds will have to come from the city,” said Mavis. “If our income tax issues are renewed, it may be possible to provide funds within the next few years.” Mavis added that even though Mount Vernon has not been hit as hard with the recent recession as some cities, he is hoping that “things turn around” as far as the financial outlook, adding that the city is still largely dependent on tax revenues.
The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, and the Mount Vernon Historical Society, both contributed historical information for this article.