Gas City High School - East Ward School, Gas City Indiana
The Gas City High School was the first Gas City building designated for the education of high school students, and was the largest and grandest building within the neighborhood and the community.
Harrisburg began as a speculative development in 1867, when John S. Harris platted 97 lots. Harris' entrepreneurial venture took advantage of the proposed Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis Railroad, which began passenger service autumn 1867. By 1868, the town had grown and Harris platted the town's first addition. Two more additions were soon added. The town's population grew to 750, and then dropped prior to the discovery of natural gas in 1887. Free building sites and cheap energy propelled the influx of businesses and residents, including children. Capitalizing on economic development opportunities Harrisburg's name was changed to Gas City on March 21, 1892. Between May 1, 1892 and February 1, 1893, fifteen new factories located in Gas City, employing a total of 4025 workers. It was also during the period of rapid growth that the city services were improved. Water works were installed in 1892 and electricity was in place by 1894.
Initially school was held in frame schoolhouses scattered around the area. The hiring of the teacher, the teacher's qualifications and the curriculum were individually and locally controlled. As early as 1870, Mill Township enumerated students and controlled which school each student attended. There were six school districts with a total of 298 students. (There was no data for district 2.) Districts 1, 3 and 7 are within the legal description of Harrisburg: Township 24, Range & East. District 7 had 34 colored students.
The county board of education administered the school system in the early days. The county was divided into thirteen townships. The responsibility for educational matters for each township was delegated to the township trustee. Harrisburg was in Mill Township. Some opposition to the consolidation of schools occurred because few of the students had adequate means of transportation beyond the rural school. In 1874 several of the frame schoolhouses were closed in favor of Harrisburg's first consolidated school building. A three-room brick structure at North "A" and First Streets was constructed in 1874, and served elementary students. This change is reflected in the sudden increase of students in District 2. There were 107 district 2 students enumerated in 1875. Harrisburg's high school students attended school in nearby Jonesboro. The 1877 Grant County Atlas lists one graded school in Harrisburg.
After the influx of factory workers during the gas boom, the high school students began attending school in Gas City. The first High School was held in a downtown building at 2nd Street, and later moved to a building at First and Main streets that was later used for the Indiana Dry Goods Store. Students subsequently moved to the Mississinewa Hotel occupying the last downstairs room in the Hotel Annex. Grades 7 and 8 also met in the Hotel. All these students moved to the newly constructed Gas City High School building January 1895. The class size varied, but steadily grew throughout the next 12 years, decreasing in the years when a January class was not admitted. Students did a mix of grade-levels work. By 1895, the State of Indiana approved the three-year course of study. Ten pupils were doing all high school work and 18 were doing part high school and part grade school work. From January 1895 to 1898 the seventh and eighth met in room eight, and the remainder of the building was used for high school students. The first high school class was graduated in 1897.
Over the next 25 years room use was rearranged to meet the needs of the student population at any given time. For example, from 1898 to 1902 room eight was used only for the eighth grade. In 1900 the four-year course of high school study was commissioned. With the change of courses, more space was necessary. The chemistry lab was set up in the northwest room of the basement in 1900. And, in 1903, Physics and Botany began meeting in the northeast room of the basement. Superintendent Isaac W. Cripe instituted a completely new arrangement in 1915. Rooms on the east side of the hall were combined into two assemblies and the six and six plan instituted.
The student population completely outstripped the physical space of the school by the early 1920s. An addition was designed and built by the original builder, John H. Waldron in 1923. Improvements were also made to the original building with the removal of the old furnaces and the installation of a steam heating plant. The new furnace room, detached from both school buildings, was outside to the south of the main buildings. This change made two additional classrooms available in the old basement. One was used for manual training equipment; the other room was for the school nurse and janitorial supplies. Other improvements included replacing the old pine floors with hardwood floors, the addition of slate blackboards, and new window shades.
The 1923 building is connected with the old building by an enclosed passageway in the basement and on the second floor. This leaves the grade rooms on the first floor of the old building undisturbed by the high school. The new building was dedicated and was put into use on January 1, 1924.
The lower floor of the new addition was a gymnasium. It had a fine basketball floor with baskets at the east and west ends. Bleacher seats along north wall would seat 500. Additional seating was available using chairs stored under bleachers. The room would seat 800 for entertainment using the basketball floor, and 700 for basketball games using stage for seating. The south side of the room had a shower at each end with dressing room and toilet above.
There were also tennis courts, baseball diamond, 12' wide track, sidewalk, campus lights and landscaping. Summer athletics were popular at the school. Sadly, none of these outdoor athletic sites remain.
As the rural one-room schools became overcrowded and inadequate, citizens began requesting better facilities for the students. After a successful November 4, 1947 vote to establish a joint high school, a group was organized on March 11, 1946 to plan for the first consolidated high school. After the last class was graduated from Gas City High School in spring 1946, the name was changed to Mississinewa Joint High School.
The first board of the consolidated Gas City and Jonesboro schools was functioning by August 1, 1948, the beginning of the fall term. The Mississinewa Joint High School began operation in the former Gas City High School building with students from Jonesboro also attending. The school was recognized as a first class commissioned school and was admitted into the North Central Association of Colleges and High Schools in 1949. The next year, by an act of the Indiana legislature, the elementary students were permitted to be included in the joint school system. The board voted as such on August 1, 1949. Thus the Mississinewa Joint School system was established consolidating all the Jonesboro, Gas City and Mill Township schools. Shortly thereafter the Mississinewa Holding Corporation with more than 500 shareholders established for the purpose of building a new high school building. After three years of fund raising, planning and building, the building was dedicated on March 13, 1951. With the removal of the high school students to the Mississinewa Joint High School building, the former Gas City High School became the East Ward School where junior high school and elementary students were educated. In 1977, a new Mississinewa High School was built. The 1951 building became the R.J. Basket Middle School, and the 1894-1923 building became the East Elementary School. A new elementary school was built on the north-east corner of the lot of the Gas City High School in 1967. In 1992 the East Elementary School was closed for student use, but continued to be used by the school corporation for storage. It was remodeled in 2003 and is now the school corporation office.
The Gas City High School at 400 E. South A Street, Gas City Indiana, is a nearly square, two-story Romanesque Revival, brick and stone building. Constructed in 1894, it is topped with a pyramidal roof and offset gables on all four elevations. In 1923, a two-story rectangular brick addition and a separate heating plant were completed. The two buildings are constructed of similar materials, but the facade of the south addition was intentionally designed "unadorned" to keep the building cost lower. A two-story "bridge" connects the buildings with the intent to keep the high school and elementary school students apart. The school occupies the west half of a city block in a residential neighborhood.
The building's primary facade faces north on South A Street. It is divided into three sections of a central tower flanked by an east gabled section and a west section with small through-cornice dormer. Each section 1s set back from the one to its east.
The most outstanding feature is the tower's central entry. Six stone steps rise to the wood floor entry level. It has a large rough-cut limestone Roman arch supported by short Frank Furness-style Doric columns below carved square imposts. Recessed under the arch, two wood single light doors with fixed side panels replace the original two eight-panel wood doors. Original fluted pilasters with corner block paterae are present. The original fanlight window was replaced with four-part divided light Lucite windows. Beadboard wainscot flanks entrance below painted smooth-surface plaster. The second story has two rectangular windows with 20 divided-light Lucite panels in the upper three-quarters of the original window opening. The lower quarter 1s a clear light awning-style window. Aluminum covers the wood jambs. Limestone belt course, which spans the entire north elevation, runs below the window at the level of the sill. A wider limestone belt course, also spanning the entire north elevation, tops the windows at the level of the header. The attic story is what remains of the original bell tower. Two original arched, double-hung windows are surmounted by a brick eyebrow arch and flanked by corner tourelles, foreshortened when the upper two-thirds of the tower was removed giving it a false machicolated appearance. A continuous limestone belt course spans the north elevation running under the windows at the sill level. A limestone belt course also circumvents the tower base at the level of the imposts and at the base of the deeply corbelled false machicolation. Missing from the tower are the large arched openings and the bell contained within, the steeply pitched pyramidal roof and its narrow metal spire, and the upper section of the corner tourelles, which rose above a metal frieze and ended in engaged conical peaks.
The east gabled section has four bays of windows and is topped by a gabled attic story. This section 1s visually anchored by a foundation of five courses of roughcut stone capped by a smooth stone water table. The building's lowest level is partially below grade and has four, square windows within the foundation wall. The glazing has been replaced with Lucite configured with five divided lights in the upper half and one clear light in the lower half. The next window to the west has two rows of five divided lights rather than a lower clear light. The alternating pattern continues in the two windows to the west. The jambs are covered with aluminum.
The first floor has four original arched windows surmounted with a brick semicircular arch and eyebrow arch. The rectangular windows have been replaced. The east window has 20 divided-light Lucite panels in the upper three-quarters of the original window opening and the lower quarter 1s a clear light awning-style window. The next window 1s an all-Lucite divided light window. The last two windows alternate with a lower awning window first then an all Lucite window. Aluminum covers the wood jambs. A limestone belt course runs under the windows at the sill level and at the impost.
The four second-floor rectangular windows alternate a lower quarter clear awning window with a full Lucite divided light window. A narrow limestone belt course runs at the sill level and wide stone banding is at the header level.
A large gable spans the attic. A brick semicircular arch and eyebrow arch surmount two small, arched, double-hung original wood windows centered in the gable. The gable is capped with stone and has a stone finial. Corner brick tourelles, whose stone bases begin just below the sill level of the second floor windows, flank the east section. A third limestone beltcourse spans the attic at the windowsill level. The tourelles have a conical stone cap.
The west section is similar to the east section from the foundation to the limestone belt course above the second-story windows except there are five bays of windows rather than four bays. The windows alternate between clear awning and full Lucite windows with three awning windows in each story. The top of the second story 1s marked with a corbel table interrupted by a through-cornice dormer in the center of the section. A limestone belt course at the top of the corbel table is a continuation of the limestone belt course spanning the north elevation at the sill level of the attic windows. The small gable dormer is above the third and fourth window bays, and is flanked by small square pillars. The gable has a stone cap and stone final. The west end of the west section 1s finished with a small tourelle similar to those described in the east section, beginning just below the second-story limestone belt course at the sill level and ending just above the terminus of the roofline.
The nearly square shaped building is surmounted by a pyramidal slate roof with decoratively patterned rectangular and segmental slates and topped with a louvered cupola. The cupola has fluted corner boards with capitals, bracketed eave, louvered sides, but does not vent the attic. There is a small gabled triangular window with original mullions on north slope of pyramidal roof nearly obscured by the bell tower. The roof 1s intersected with the ridgepoles of large gabled sections. The east gable faces north with the roof sloping east and west. The north slope of the west elevation gable extends the west end of the roof.
The south elevation is similar to the north elevation, but is carried out in two sections rather than three. The gabled west section is similar to the gabled east section on the north elevation. As there is no central bell tower, the entrance and east section are on the same plane. The foundation is typical of the building, five courses of rough limestone capped by a smooth stone water table. The west two of the five square fixed Lucite windows in the foundation wall have clear light in the lower half of the window. The entrance is at grade and the entry is flush with the brick wall. The semicircular brick arch is higher, reaching the second-story sill level limestone belt course. Below the arch, four sections of multi-light Lucite windows replace original windows. A wide steel horizontal band is at mid-arch. Steel entry doors are replacements of the original The remainder of the east section is similar to the west section on the north elevation. However, because of the lack of bell tower, the deeply corbelled cornice runs the width of the east section except at the through-cornice gabled dormer where the brick 1s laid in common bond. The dormer is the same as the dormer on the east section of the north elevation. A pyramidal slate roof with decoratively patterned rectangular and segmental slates is topped with a louvered cupola, The cupola has fluted corner boards with capitals, bracketed eave, louvered sides, but does not vent the attic. There is a small gabled triangular opening, originally a mullioned, on south slope of pyramidal roof. The roof 1s intersected with the ridgepoles of large gabled sections. The west gable faces south with the roof sloping east and west. The south slope of the east elevation gable extends the east end of the roof.
The east elevation is similar to the south elevation except there 1s no entrance. The roughcut limestone foundation spans the entire elevation. The south section 1s virtually the identical to the west section of the south elevation. The north section has two bays of windows rather than an entry. The bays are set wide apart on either side of a centrally located multi-flue chimney. The windows follow the typical pattern for each floor, and all have a lower clear light awning window. A large metal multi-section tube vent runs diagonally from the first second floor window in the north section ending at ground level at the north window of the north section. The roof 1s similar to the south elevation. An additional element of a multi-flue chimney constructed of decoratively patterned brick pierces the base roof in the center of the east elevation.
The west elevation is similar to the east elevation. There is a centrally located multi-flue chimney constructed of decoratively patterned brick. The roughcut limestone foundation spans the entire elevation. The major difference is a three-story brick "bridge" located in the center of the west elevation connecting the 1923 annex to the original building.
In 1923, John Waldron designed a Prairie style rectangular annex set back and west of the original Gas City High School. It 1s primarily constructed of brick with an asphalt roof, stone windowsills and wood windows and doors. The building is longer than it is wide. Full-height pilasters on the north and west elevations add a decorative element to the building. A beltcourse (a soldier course edged above and below with a stretcher course) between third and second levels reinforces the liner design on the north, west and south elevations. The windows do not align between the two buildings. All the windows are original.
The 1923 annex is connected to the original high school via a brick three-story bridge. The flat roof structure retains the original north elevation single-light double-hung window openings on both the first and second levels. There were never any openings on the main level or on the south elevation of the bridge.
The north elevation is the primary facade. It has five bays; a central bay of paired windows and doors flanked by two bays of single windows. The original wood double-hung windows have single-light sashes. The bullnose limestone foundation is smoothly finished. The first-floor single-story central projecting entry pavilion has double bi-directional doors with horizontally divided lights in the upper half. Light 1s admitted via a six-light transom and small side windows on the entry pavilion. The entry is just slightly above grade and achieved by a slightly inclined concrete slab inside the vestibule. Two window bays on each side flank the first-floor entrance. The east bay of windows is two windows high with the first floor and stair-landing windows slightly shorter than the other north-elevation windows. Raised sections of brick from foundation to roof imitate brick pilasters at the corners of the building and between the two bays flanking the entrance.
The second floor has five bays of windows. Two bays of single windows flank the central bay of paired single-light double hung windows. The windows are all of similar scale and proportion and have stone sills. A horizontal band of solider brick edged in stretcher course runs between the first and second floors. The two-pitched roof 1s flat on top with shallow angles and wide overhangs.
The west elevation is longer than the north elevation. Six raised brick pilasters are evenly spaced along the elevation creating five sections with windows in between the pilasters. The bullnose limestone foundation is smoothly finished.
The first-floor windows are of varying sizes and levels. The single long narrow rectangular double-hung window, centered in the lower half of the north section, has single light sashes, and matches the north elevation windows. The next section (south) has one small four-light window in the upper right quadrant of the section. The middle section has two double-hung wood windows with two divided lights in each sash centered in the upper two-thirds of the section. The fourth section windows are similar to the middle section, but are more widely spaced apart on the wall. Finally, the south section has two windows one above the other near the corner. The lower window is the same size and scale as the small window in the second section. The upper is a smaller version of the double-hung divided light window.
The second-floor windows are situated directly above the first-floor windows, and have uniform wall placement so the tops of the windows and sills are at the same level. All windows except the north section window (which matches the north elevation windows) are similar in design. The windows are wood double-hung with two lights in each sash. The north section has one window, the second and middle sections have two windows each, and the fourth section has three windows. Finally, the south section has two windows. A horizontal-band of soldier brick edged in stretcher courses runs between the first and second floors. A louvered vent, just above the brick belt course, is in all but the north section. A large metal multi-section tube vent runs diagonally from the south second-floor section ending at ground level in the middle section.
The two-pitched roof is flat on top with shallow angles and wide overhangs. Down spouts from roof to ground are on the north end of the north section and the south end of the fourth section. A large roof vent is located near the midpoint.
The south elevation is divided into three sections: a two-story central projecting section about half of the width of the elevation with east and west sections. The smooth bullnose-shaped stone foundation spans the south elevation. Two first-floor two-over-two wood windows are set wide apart. The second story has four two-over-two wood windows set high on the wall. A louvered vent, just above the brick belt course, is below the windows at each end. The west section has a boarded lower square window opening that is slightly smaller the window above. The upper window is a single-sash two-over-two window. The soldier belt course divides the wall. The second story has two windows with sills at the same level. The large two-over-two double-hung wood windows appear to meet the roof overhang. A louvered vent 1s under the east window just above the belt course. The east section is a mirror image of the west section. The two-pitched roof has a hipped extension over the projecting center section. A tall square brick chimney intersects the southeast corner of the roof.
The east elevation has one pilaster near the south end. The stone foundation is smooth. The first floor has one two-over two light window high on the wall toward the north end. The second floor windows are large two-over-two double-hung wood windows. There is one window in the south section, a pilaster, a group of three windows and a pair of windows to the north; the connecting bridge is at the north end of the elevation.
The two-pitch roof has a large roof vent near the midpoint and downspouts near the north and south ends of the building.
The first and second stories of the original building were designed for classrooms, and the basement was used for the lunch room, restrooms and laboratory facilities. During the 1923 building project, the original Gas City High School building underwent changes that maximized the usable building space and upgraded the durability of the finishes. The original entrances and window openings are intact. The window sashes were replaced with fixed Lucite divided light windows; some windows have clear glass awning windows in the lowest part of the opening.
In general, wainscot in rotunda, first and second-floor rooms varies in height depending on the room. Single, double, and in some cases triple rows of boards, are placed above the wainscot in the cloakrooms and around the rotunda; some still retain hooks. The original pine floors were replaced with oak in 1923. Original doors and hardware have been retained in most cases. All the door openings have an operable transom above. Wide fluted trim around windows and doors is embellished with carved plinth blocks. Nearly all chalkboards and the continuous cupped wood chalk trays are in place and in good condition. Functionally, the chalk tray is the dado rail. All the woodwork is painted. Most of the ceilings are acoustic tile. Plaster ceilings are exposed in some locations as acoustic tile has fallen from furring strips. Metal fluorescent lights are suspended from ceiling. Classrooms have steam heat. Ornate grills of original heating system still in place, but are blocked from behind. Plumbing pipes and electrical wiring installed as upgrades are surface mounted.
The basement is laid out with rooms or passageways surrounding an octagonal rotunda. The three ways to access the basement are split returns from the main floor on the south wall, through a west passageway from the 1923 addition or the primary entry via the original south doorway. Double doors open to a landing. Split returns go to the first floor and a doublewide stair leads down into the rotunda. The rotunda is a large, open space that was used for the lunchroom for many years. With no fixed seating, no evidence of such use remains. Large classrooms are located in the northeast and northwest corners. The old shop classroom and boys' toilet is in the southwest corner. The girls' toilet and teacher lounge is in the southeast corner. Some of the original indoor plumbing fixtures, such as toilets and sinks, are present. All the square Lucite or Lucite and clear light windows are high on wall. The basement is constructed of cement block walls, iron support posts in the rotunda and concrete floor throughout.
The conceptual plan of classrooms surrounding an octagonal rotunda is carried out on the first floor. Primary entry is via double entry doors on the north wall lead that up a flight of six steps into the expansive rotunda. The first-floor rotunda has four doors evenly spaced around sides that lead to classrooms in the northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast corners of the building; four doors lead to cloakrooms that are between the classrooms with two on the east and two on the west sides of the building. The corner classrooms are large open spaces with multiple windows on the exterior walls and chalkboards on the interior walls. The rotunda is finished with bead board wainscot and painted plaster walls.
Traffic flow throughout the building is by way of a grand staircase at the east end of the rotunda. The staircase has a doublewide central rise to a landing and split returns to the second floor. Flanking the south stair are split staircases to the basement. The newel post has a square base, beaded embellishments of raised panels and corners, bull's-eye on the upper section and a graduated round cap on the chamfered top plate. The stair has turned balustrades with square caps and bases.
The second-floor central rotunda is virtually straight on the west side making it hexagonal. The west side is similar in plan to the first floor with corner classrooms and adjacent cloakrooms. An enclosed stair to the attic is between the cloakrooms. The east side is divided into two rooms, a very large north room and a typical size south classroom. This large space was partitioned in 1923 and still retains the original chalkboard partition walls recessed in the original double south entry. The north entry door has not been altered, and can be seen here from the rotunda and from inside the room. Later a more complete south partition wall was added to separate the large north room into two rooms. At the north end of the north room, a door communicating with the rotunda was added when a second partition wall was added, making a total of three classrooms on the west side of the rotunda. When the partition wall was later removed the communicating door was enclosed and used as a "built-in" bookcase. The ghost of this second partition wall, added in the mid-20th century then removed, can be seen under the beam. The classrooms in the northwest and southwest corners of the second floor are much the same as those on the first floor. Glass front cabinets are noteworthy in both classrooms. The painted cabinets are in the southwest room, once the home economics room. Unpainted cabinets are in the northwest room where science was taught. This room is typical of all classrooms. The bridge to the 1923 addition is attached on the west side of the second floor.
The attic is a large, open, unimproved space. Two brick walls support the bell tower. A wood ladder leads to the first level of belfry. The central area has wood planks over the joists, but the remainder has open joists. Each elevation has double windows in the gabled end. Smaller dormer windows are at opposite end of each elevation; the bell tower on north elevation has two double windows. Each slope of the pyramidal roof has a small triangular window. Only the north window retains the original mullions, the others are boarded up. Large air handlers connected to the east chimney are still in place.
The centrally located double entry doors of the 1923 addition open into a large stair hall. The first-floor space, partly below grade, is largely gymnasium space. The gym, designed to be very flexible, used the stage area for seating at basketball games and the gym floor for seating at stage events. The original stage is intact. Small locker/shower rooms flank the stage and are accessible via stairs. The bleachers are original except where repaired for termite damage. The bleachers are arranged in two sections separated by the entry aisle. The magnificent pressed metal ceiling and boxed beams is completely intact. The original gym floor has been replaced with vinyl tile. The backboards and scoreboards are not original. Two rooms at the west end of the first floor were used for offices. The walls and ceiling are plaster.
The stair leading to the second floor has one landing and return where a door leads to the balcony over the gymnasium bleachers. At the second-floor level, the bridge to the 1894 building is visible at the end of the hall. The second floor has a central hall with the boys' and girls' locker rooms midway down the hall and one large room at the south end. Lockers still line the central hall, and can also be found adjacent to the girls' restroom. Smaller classrooms, three on the west and two on the east, have the original chalkboards, window sashes and doors. A long narrow room, used at one time for typing class, lies at the top of the second-floor stairway. This room is longer and narrower than all the other second-floor rooms. It has the unique feature that there are two openings in the wall that are visible from this and the adjoining room. The large south room has windows high on the wall to accommodate the tall library bookcases. An intact skylight is unique to the library room. A partition wall (the same design as the partition wall on the second floor of the 1894 building) divides the large space into two spaces: one is large and the other is the size of the corner classrooms (identified previously as one of the three classrooms on the west side of the second floor). The second floor's painted plaster walls and simple wood trim is intact.
The 1923 building project also included the one story power plant on the south side of the site. The flat multi-height roof has tiled edges. Original tall, narrow wood doors on the south elevation have upper divided lights and cross-braced bottom panels. The north elevation has a wood entry door. The east, north and south elevations have a bin door high on the wall.