Westminster High School, Westminster, MD, in the 1920s
Catching with some old friends today, coupled with some recent reader questions, reminded me of a piece I wrote in March 2007 on the Westminster High School building on Longwell Avenue in Westminster.
The image above is from 1908, is the first Westminster High School building, 1898-1936, at Center and Green Street in Westminster, MD. Click here for a larger image: http://twitpic.com/d936f
This image is a 1977 picture of the second Westminster High School building, 1936-1971, at Longwell Avenue in Westminster, MD. Click here for a larger image: http://twitpic.com/d92z2
Westminster High School in the 1920s
March 28th, 2007 by (c) Kevin Dayhoff
East Middle School, located on Longwell Avenues just north of Westminster City Hall, originally opened as a new “Westminster High School” on November 30, 1936. It is one of two buildings in Carroll County built in the Art Deco style. The other is the Carroll Arts Center which opened as the Carroll Theatre on November 25, 1937.
Art Deco was all the rage from 1920 to 1940 but some argue that the style had a significant presence in architecture and art from 1900 to 1950. A highly decorative and elegant style, it was considered ultra-modern in its day.
The 1936 school building was not the “first” Westminster High School. The first was located at the corner of Green and Center Streets in Westminster and was built in 1898. By all accounts it was the first “public” high school built in Carroll County. It is accepted that the first “public” high school in Maryland started in Talbot County in 1871. By 1907 there were still only 35 public high schools in the entire state.
It was not too long after the 1898 structure was built that complaints began about the inadequacy of the physical plant. As with so many infrastructure improvements in Carroll County, getting a new high school built was fraught with a great deal of acrimony and dissent. In 1921, the Westminster High School yearbook, “The Mirror,” editorialized the increase in enrollment since 1898 with alarm. It had increased from “less than fifty” to over 260 students.
In those days the school housed all 11 grades. There were 7 students in the graduating class of May 1900. Compulsory school attendance was not passed into law until 1916; however, Lisa Kronman reported in an account entitled a “History of Public Schools in Westminster,” “the attendance rate was 93.8 percent of school age children.”
The Mirror lamented “we have seen the school out-grow its surroundings. The present building and equipment are entirely inadequate to the needs of the school…” The editorial explained dire consequences would result if the school were not replaced quickly. Of course, “quickly” in Carroll County took another 15 years.
According to historian Jay Graybeal, there were 139 schools in Carroll County in 1920. 107 had only one teacher. There were approximately 7500 students and 208 teachers. 158 of the teachers were female and only 9 were married as marriage was strongly discouraged for the county’s female teachers. As a matter of fact, a resolution, passed by the school board in the 1928 – 1929 school year, barred female teachers from getting married unless a special exception was granted.
Mr. Graybeal explained that high school teachers were paid an average $903.70 and “elementary teachers in white and black schools had average salaries of $537.85 and $431.87 respectively… Teachers who had served twenty-five years, reached the age of sixty, were no longer able to continue their duties in the schoolroom, and had no other means of comfortable support received $200 per annum” from a state financed pension system.
In 1920, the Carroll County public school budget was $204,000 and the school administration was a staff of four; Superintendent Maurice S. H. Unger, Miss L. Jewell Simpson, Supervisor; G. C. Taylor, Attendance Officer and Charles Reed, Clerk. In 1916, the state board of education was run by three individuals.
The Union Bridge Pilot reported on February 18, 1921: “Teachers' pay are being withheld owing in lack of funds and it appears the county has reached the limit of its credit.”
It is in this air, atmosphere, and environment that the county unsuccessfully tried three times, May 15th, 1922, September 26, 1927, and April 3, 1934, to get the voters to approve bond bills for roads and schools – to include a new Westminster High School.
E-mail him at: kevindayhoff AT gmail DOT com r visit him at http://www.westminstermarylandonline.net/
http://twitpic.com/d936f 1st Westminster High Sch bldg 1898-1936 Full story: http://tinyurl.com/kmgez3