Kenner High School, Kenner Louisiana

Kenner High School was the first school to be built in the City of Kenner. It originally offered all grades, becoming a junior high in the late 1950s. Because the building is beneath the flight path of the nearby Lewis Armstrong International Airport, in 1993 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bought the property as part of the 1990 FAA Noise Abatement Program. In February 1995, a land swap between the City of Kenner and the FAA saved the school from demolition. The municipal government now owns the building and plans to restore it for use as city offices. Located along the north bank of the Mississippi River, the City of Kenner stands on ground under cultivation as early as 1720. By the mid-1840s these lands (consisting of three plantations) were owned by four brothers; Minor, William Butler, George R., and Duncan Farrar Kenner. (The latter achieved fame as a Confederate States diplomat and, later, for his innovations as a sugar planter.) By 1852 Duncan and George had sold their Jefferson Parish lands to their brothers, so it was Minor and William Butler who decided to subdivide the area into a town site when the newly formed New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern Railroad announced a proposed route across the Kenner plantations. The subdivision was apparently delayed by the 1853 death of William Butler Kenner; Minor was not able to hire a surveyor to complete the work until 1855. Kennerville, as the village was first known, developed very slowly. Although a foundry opened around 1858, it apparently brought few settlers to the town; and it appears that the majority of lots sold before Minor Kenner's 1864 death were used as truck gardens. German, Irish, and Italian immigrants, and a number of freed African-Americans, settled there after the Civil War. Kenner was incorporated in 1873 but lost its charter thirteen years later. Lumber and vegetable packing businesses opened there in the 1880s, a new city charter was granted in 1913, and the community was connected to New Orleans via the Orleans-Kenner Traction Company (a streetcar line) in 1915. Nevertheless, Kenner remained a small agricultural village far into the twentieth century. Today Kenner is a largely modern suburb of New Orleans.

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Dorr E. Felt Mansion, Laketown Michigan

The Felt Mansion was the summer home of Chicago businessman Dorr Eugene Felt, inventor, entrepreneur, and statesman. Felt invented the Comptometer, the first multiple-column calculating machine, and established the Felt & Tarrant Manufacturing Company to manufacture the product. He served as president of the highly successful company. It was a trend among wealthy Chicagoans in the early twentieth century to establish summer estates along Lake Michigan's east shore. Dorr Eugene Felt was born March 18, 1862, on a farm in Rockford County, Wisconsin, near the town of Beloit. After leaving school at the age of 14, Felt went to work in a machine shop in Beloit. At eighteen he moved to Chicago where he soon became foreman of a rolling mill. According to a 1921 profile in Illustrated World, it was in 1885, when Felt was twenty-four and working as a planer in a machine shop, that he was first struck with the idea of developing a calculating machine to aid the shop's accountants. He devised a prototype using a wooden macaroni box, meat skewers, and rubber bands. The model so impressed the machine shop's owner, Robert Tarrant, that he fronted Felt the capital and provided him with tools and workspace to construct a metal version of the device. Felt called the machine the Comptometer and, according to an article in the November 11, 1893 Scientific American, it was able to "compute addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, square and cube root by the application of which everything in arithmetic is calculated". There were other simple adding machines in use at the time, but Felt's was the first machine that could actually calculate numbers in a complex fashion. Felt patented his machine, improved it, and began marketing it. Though it met with initial resistance by accountants who thought it would put them out of a job, it soon gained acceptance and sales took off. The first machines were made by Felt himself but by 1889 sales had increased so dramatically that Felt opened a manufacturing plant, the Felt & Tarrant Manufacturing Company, located at 52-56 Illinois Street in Chicago. Felt served as company president until his death in 1930. The enterprise was a great success and sales were soon worldwide. Felt received three medals of excellence for his invention and the Comptometer was exhibited at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Felt also developed a calculating machine that listed and printed the figures being calculated. According to a competitor's brochure, "Mr. Felt's efforts include probably more important contributions to the adding machine art than any other inventor of the early period". Over the years, Felt was granted forty-six patents in the United States and twenty-five in foreign countries. While the majority of the patents related to the improvement of his calculating machine, his inventions ranged from a coupon cutter to an improved camera diaphragm controller.

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Maple Grove, Poughkeepsie New York

Maple Grove was built in 1850 as the centerpiece of a 35-acre rural estate, with a long entrance drive flanked by an allee of trees, vistas toward the Hudson River, and a full complement of outbuildings that harmonized with the main residence. Maple Grove was one of a number of country estates that were developed in the 19th century along both sides of the main road leading south from the city of Poughkeepsie, including the famed Matthew Vassar estate, Springside, and Locust Grove, the property of inventor Samuel F. B. Morse. Maple Grove was originally developed for New York City merchant Charles Macy, and in 1870 it became the country seat of the Adolphus Hamilton family, who owned it until the 1980s. In 1891, the house was competently remodeled to the designs of the Providence architectural firm of William R. Walker & Son. Despite a serious fire in 1985 and a number of years of neglect, the main house retains most features from its original construction and later remodeling. European settlement of the Poughkeepsie area began in the late 17th century and the village of Poughkeepsie became the county seat in 1717. By the late 18th century the village had grown considerably in size and importance as a port and industrial center, and farms were developed south of the village along South Road (Albany Post Road, now U.S. 9). The Hudson River Railroad connected Poughkeepsie to New York City in 1849 and Poughkeepsie was incorporated as a city in 1854. The South Road corridor in the southern part of the city and in the town of Poughkeepsie remained agricultural in character until the mid 19th century, when a number of the farms were developed into country estates by wealthy merchants from Poughkeepsie and New York City. Also, the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery was established there in 1852.

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Merit Underwear Company, Shoemakersville Pennsylvania

The Village of Shoemakersville developed along a transportation route, the Schuylkill River, as settlers (mostly of German extraction) moved inland from Philadelphia in the 18th century. In 1766, Thomas Wright and George and Henry Shoemaker purchased land which now comprises Shoemakersville. Early development hinged around transportation along the river and later the Schuylkill Canal. A number of early residents were boatmen on the canal. As development in the region continued, coal mining was taking place north of Shoemakersville, and runoff from the mines was polluting the river with pieces of coal and coal dust. This pollution reached the point where it became profitable to extract the coal from the river. This was the start of Shoemakersville's industrial activities. As the area continued to develop and transportation improved, clothing manufacturing became the major industrial base for the community. In the late 19th century, the textile industry came to cities like Reading because of the willing workforce residing in close proximity to developing textile mills and easy transportation to major markets. As the industry grew, towns such as Shoemakersville became the choice for establishing mills for much the same reason. The Merit Underwear Company is quite representative of this trend. The Merit Underwear Company was organized in Shoemakersville by several industrious individuals who lived in the community, had a desire to start a business and knew there was a ready labor force available. Shoemakersville also had easy access to Reading and larger markets. The Merit Underwear Company which specialized in ladies fine gauge, lightweight underwear had one line, the "Verna", which became internationally famous. This accomplishment demonstrated that a small company, in a small town had the ability to produce a quality product and have it reach the world market.

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Wilson Junior High School, Muncie Indiana

The construction of the Wilson Junior High School building reflects theories of school design prevalent in the early 20th century. These theories appear in several publications of the era that concern themselves with the architecture of public school buildings. Recommendations focus on health and safety issues. Stairways were to be constructed of slow-burning materials capable of resisting high temperatures and flames. They needed to employ sturdy balustrades of closed construction that would prevent the unnecessary failure of the stairway if children were to press against the balustrades in an emergency situation. The sturdy and fire-resistant terrazzo and concrete staircases of the Wilson Junior High School put these recommendations into practice. Wide corridors with glazed brick wainscoting, such as those of the Wilson School, were recommended to maintain clean, safe hallways. Good lighting was an important consideration for school buildings: theorists recommended natural and direct lighting throughout the building. In the Wilson School, large windows, clerestories and skylights bring natural light to corridors and classrooms, while the lightwell lends natural light to the stairwell. Glass partition-walls usher borrowed light into the hallways. Sanborn fire insurance maps of Muncie illustrate the development of the Wilson Junior High School and the surrounding Southside neighborhood, and show how the two evolved in unison. The 1911 map (issued ten years before the school was built) indicated that the neighborhood was still in the process of development: although its street grid was already in place, many lots were still vacant. The block bounded by 13th, 14th, Walnut and Mulberry, for example, was largely empty. Beyond the city's corporate boundary, then at 16th Street, lay open land. By 1934 the streets around the Wilson School were lined with frame houses of small to medium scale; only a few lots remained vacant. The map also illustrated both the 1921 and 1927 stages of the school building, which used "fireproof construction except for wood sheathing and exposed steel in roof." It noted that the walls were of brick, tile or gypsum block, and the floors and roof were constructed of reinforced concrete. The boiler room that now adjoins the west side of the building was labeled "from plans," indicating that it had not yet been built. It too would utilize fireproof construction with brick walls, concrete floors and roof. By 1954 the neighborhood was solidly built up with houses. The school's 1954 south addition, standing two stories high and 170 feet long, was clearly indicated on the map. Like the original structure, it was labeled "non-combustible." It featured concrete floors and a gypsum slab roof on metal joists. The wing contained specialized classrooms, and a spacious gymnasium adjoined its north end. Curiously, the boiler room wing was still noted "from plans."

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Irvine Grade School, Irvine Kentucky

Irvine Elementary School was established during a period of extraordinary growth. Fueled by the development of railroad transportation and the extraction of oil reserves, Irvine was settled by throngs of workers looking for social and economic opportunity. This new working class settled in the city of Irvine and began to raise families. Demands soon arose for adequate public educational facilities. The first public grade school in the city of Irvine, deemed the Irvine Public School, was founded in 1897. This structure was a one-story frame building with two classroom spaces. Entrance to the school was accessed through a lobby on which was superimposed a one-and-a-half story frame cupola. The population of Irvine continued to grow and in 1910 the Irvine Public School received a second story addition to accommodate an increasing school-age population. In February 1920, the Irvine Public School burned. According to local historian Hallie Johnstone, there were already plans for more ample facilities when the school building was destroyed. In order to more adequately serve the citizenry of the burgeoning town, the Irvine Grade School was constructed of brick in the popular Mission style. Funds for the new structure were raised through the efforts of a group of prominent local citizens headed by attorney Robert Friend. Friend formed an advisory board, which acquired donations and selected the first governing school board. Regrettably, there are no extant school board records from this time, nor are there any extant newspapers available. Thus, we have no knowledge as to who chose the form and style of the school's architecture or how much was spent on construction of the building.

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