Abandoned school in Indiana

Horace Mann Public School, Indianapolis Indiana
Date added: August 04, 2022 Categories: Indiana School
North and west facades (1985)

The Horace Mann School #13 is the second oldest public school remaining in Indianapolis, and the most intact and architecturally significant of the few public schools remaining from this era. The building is a fine example of the Italianate style, retaining most of its original exterior detailing, including the bracketed cornice, segmentally arched, hooded windows, and hipped roof. The building was designed by Edwin May (1824-1880) the well-known architect of the Indiana State Capitol Building and of many county court-houses, including those in Franklin and Sullivan, Knox, Decatur and Hamilton Counties.

In May of 1873 Edwin May was commissioned by the School Board to develop plans and specifications for a basic school building with the intention that the plans would be used at three different locations. The plans for the new schools were for an eight classroom building capable of being enlarged to a 12-room facility. Ground was broken for the construction of School #13, a 12-room facility, in July, 1873. Moses K. and Joshua L. Fatout were selected as the contractors for the building, having worked for the School Board on several other early buildings and additions, including an early School #5 and School #17. The construction of School #13 was completed in the fall of 1873 at a total cost of $32,078.41. The building was nearly identical to School #17, also erected in 1873, at 1102 North West Street (demolished 1984).

When completed, the two-story building consisted of eleven regular classrooms with a total seating capacity of 530 students plus a domestic science room, a principal's office, and a German instruction room. The building was heated with coal stoves in each room and light was provided by two gas lights per room.

In 1918 a boiler unit annex was erected on the northeast corner of the school grounds to provide steam heat for the building. The annex also contained toilets and drinking fountains. Then, in 1948, the interior of the building was remodeled, reducing the number of classrooms to nine, creating a second floor auditorium, and providing a principal's office, teachers' restroom, a small reception room, and a nurse's office.

The school, originally known as the "13th Ward School" and the "Buchanan Street School," was officially designated the "Horace Mann School" in 1904. Horace Mann, father of public education in America, had visited Indianapolis in 1854 to speak at the formation of the State Teachers Association.

The school's curriculum in the early days included reading, writing, arithmetic, physiology, drawing, music, phonics, and physical and political geography. German was taught to grades three through eight. There were separate white picket fenced playgrounds for boys and girls. The school had no shop equipment and sent the male students elsewhere for shop classes.

In later years the inner-city neighborhoods began to deteriorate, and walk-in attendance at Horace Mann dropped; land was vacated for the building of the interstate highway system and population required to support a school declined so that in 1972 the school was closed. The building was renovated in 1986 into 20 apartments.

Building Description

The 1873 Horace Mann Public School #13 is a square plan two-story Italianate style building characterized by symmetry of elevations and plan. A random ashlar limestone base supports red brick walls laid in common bond, with every seventh course in header bond. Windows are segmentally arched. An intact, formed sheet metal, continuous bracket eave of three foot projection bounds a moderately sloped, hipped, slate roof which has a flat apex. The eaves are broken on each side by a centered wall dormer.

The north and south facades are nearly identical. Each is eight bays wide with a central entrance which occupies the center four bays, which are slightly projected with a 1-2-1 arrangement. The south entrance is entirely smooth limestone, while the north entrance is brick and limestone. These entrances rise to become gabled wall dormers which interrupt the eaves. The paired upper windows here are trimmed in sheet metal with a quatrefoil motif, under a brick arch trimmed with stone. The gables have metal copings.

The east and west facades are identical, nine bays wide, in a 1-1-1-3-1-1-1 pattern. The central windows are grouped below a gabled wall dormer. This gable is marked by a triangular window with stone points. The three windows below are separated by narrow brick piers and each window has its own segmental brick header arch, but in turn the three windows are under a common flush brick relieving arch.

The segmentally arched wood double-hung windows are tall and elegant with simple projecting brick heads and limestone sills. The smooth limestone trim on the building, while sparingly used, is occasionally decorated with incised floral and leaf designs. In addition, there are inscriptions: "1873" in the north entrance gable, and "Horace Mann School" and "13" in the south entrance gable.

There were five classrooms on the main floor and four classrooms and a small gymnasium with stage on the second floor. The high ceilings are pressed metal. The stairs at each end of the center corridor are cast iron with massive newel posts and a simple "X" patterned railing. Hard plaster walls have painted brick wainscot.

The school playground is on the north yard of the school, lawns are on the west and south, an alley is to the east, and there is a flagpole at the southwest corner. A 1918 two-story red brick, flat-roofed boiler house with a tall, freestanding, round brick chimney occupies the northeast corner of the site. It also provides toilet rooms and drinking fountains to the school.

Modest working class residences surround the site on the north,east, and west sides. However, the right-of-way for an Interstate highway (I-65) and its access road crowd the school on the south side but, at the same time, give it more public exposure.