Abandoned school in Kentucky

Irvine Grade School, Irvine Kentucky
Date added: January 04, 2023 Categories: Kentucky School Mission Revival

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.

Whatever the case, it is clear from examination of the Irvine Grade School that the building was conceived of as a permanent member of the community. Very few school buildings in Estill County were built of brick or stone before the mid-twentieth century. The majority were built of frame with a distinct minority constructed of log (Estill County Court School Records, Annual Report and Settlement of the County School Superintendent, 1920). In fact, in 1920, according to the Annual Report of the Estill County Superintendent, of the 72 educational facilities, there were no school buildings constructed of brick or stone in the county. Furthermore, most of these schools were diminutive in size, with only one teacher conducting lessons. The Irvine Grade School, by contrast, employed at least four teachers and a principal to assist children with learning processes. In the 1930s, this situation had scarcely changed. A county-wide planning survey, undertaken by the federal government's New Deal agency the Works Projects Administration, indicates that there were only two school buildings constructed of more permanent materials, like brick or stone. The nature of public instruction was not mentioned in this report. A 1939 survey of school consolidation across the Commonwealth of Kentucky demonstrates that there were merely two brick school buildings with four or more teachers in charge out of 64 total county schools. The Irvine Grade School, then, symbolizes the necessity and desire for a durable, stylish school building to accommodate the growing population of the city of Irvine.

Shortly after the construction of the Grade School in 1920, a detached frame L-shaped annex was built near the northeast corner of the lot. The classroom annex was not noted on the Sanborn Map documenting the city in 1923, but appeared on the 1930 map. Ruth Wilson, local resident and Irvine Grade School teacher, notes that the annex structure became necessary to house a rapidly increasing school-age population. The annex functioned as classroom space for the first through the third grades. The annex building was destroyed in 1939 with the addition of two symmetrical wings to the north and south sides of the building. Wanda Wilson, who taught at the Irvine Grade School for forty years, believes that the additions to the School were a venture of the local Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.). No records are available which might shed light on this matter. Inspection of historic interior fabric suggests that the school cafeteria was placed in the basement at the same time as the 1939 additions. This conclusion was reached because the foundation blocks visible in the basement stairwell on the older part of the building is the same as the foundation on the 1939 wings. Before the cafeteria, Ruth Wilson noted that children either brought their lunches with them in a lunch bucket or they returned home for lunch. Construction of the cafeteria allowed for a more orderly lunch hour and for a defined space through which to accomplish this end.

Building Description

Irvine Elementary School is located at 228 Broadway in the heart of Irvine Kentucky, population 3400 persons. Irvine is the county seat of Estill County, which is located in the easternmost portion of the Outer Bluegrass cultural region. Situated two blocks from the central courthouse and two blocks from the Kentucky River, the school building is surrounded by residential structures from the early-to-mid 1900s, including bungalows and small colonial-style dwellings. The Irvine Grade School maintains a predominant position on the landscape; it is placed at the top of a gentle slope overlooking the Broadway residential neighborhood. The lot on which the School sits is approximately one and three-quarters of an acre. A cafeteria/gymnasium addition for the Elementary School was constructed circa 1961 and has been purchased by the Estill County Masonic Lodge for their headquarters. A one-story frame classroom building was located near the northwest corner of the lot in the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s. This L-shaped building was dismantled in 1939 when the Grade School received two brick wings on either side of the original building to accommodate a growing school-age population.

The Irvine Elementary School presents characteristics typical for public school architecture constructed in the early twentieth century. This two-story brick building is sheltered by a flat roof topped with rolled tar and is distinguished by two projecting bays on the front facade, which serve as recessed entrances to the structure. The building's weight is carried by a brick masonry foundation on the original portion of the structure and a molded concrete block foundation on the 1939 classroom additions. There were two building campaigns that presently define the structure's appearance. The main section of the school contains four classrooms on each floor and an auditorium. It was constructed in 1920, according to a datestone on the building's front facade. In 1939, the school was altered through the addition of two classrooms per floor and cloakrooms on either side (the north and south facades) of the original structure. Thus, a total of four classrooms were appended to the original building in 1939. The main section of the building is built of solid brick masonry, while the 1939 additions are constructed of brick veneer. The skeleton of both portions of the school are sheathed with brushed machine-made bricks; the 1920s brick color is lighter and the mortar is a soft, lime-based mixture. The 1939 classroom additions, however, make use of a darker-colored brick with a hard Portland Cement mortar. The older section of the building utilizes common bond coursework, while the 1939 additions appear to employ a traditional Flemish bond technique of coursing.

The primary facade of the Irvine Grade School, which faces west, is presently characterized by two projecting entry towers. These square-shaped towers are crowned by Mission-style parapets with stone decorative inlays and stone coping along the parapets' edge. The towers are also distinguished by decorative craftsman-style brickwork. A corbelled brick belt course defines the second floor of the structure on the twin towers; the belt course is capped with stone. Between the matching towers, there is a rectangular stone plaque that reads: Irvine High School. This feature suggests that the building served as a high school at some point in the distant past, however, the building has always functioned as a grade school. No one appears to know the rationale for incorporating this element, nor are there any records that shed light on this matter. Above both main entryways to the school are two wood sash windows with geometrically patterned glazing, separated by a single wooden mullion. The towers also have two one-over-one aluminum replacement windows on both second stories.

On either side of the towers there are six one-over-one aluminum replacement windows on the first and second stories that provide light for classroom spaces. All of these windows are capped by stone lintels. The sills are made of stone as well. Additionally, there is one one-over-one aluminum replacement window on each floor of both 1939 classroom appendages. These windows, which are capped with poured concrete sills and lintels, are placed on the side of the brick wings facing the main body of the building. There are no street-facing windows on the sections built in 1939. Finally, on the southernmost tower there is a stone plaque, which provides the building's construction date. The building is fenced by a low-poured concrete wall. The shape of this fencing mimics the Mission-style parapets on the school building.

The east facade of the building, which is one of the portions constructed in 1939, is distinguished by a central projecting entry bay. This square-shaped bay provides access to a side passage. Above the double entrance doors is a set of geometrically patterned wood sash windows. On the second story of the protruding bay, there are two double-hung aluminum replacement windows divided by a wooden mullion. There are decorative stone inlays on this facade as well. As was the case on the front facade, six-one-over-one aluminum replacement windows are mirrored on either side of the entrance bay. The same pattern is noted on both stories. All windows have poured concrete lintels and sills. What appears to be poured concrete coping stencils the crown of the wall on the east facade. A low-poured concrete wall forms a visual barrier along this side of the structure. The wall rises to produce a handrail for a set of six stairs that land directly in front of the entryway. This section of the wall appears to echo the decorative parapets on the building's main facade.

The rear facade of the Irvine Grade School, which faces east, is defined by a smoother, less-expensive variety of brick than is found on the main section. The rear of the two 1939 wings are fairly plain with two one-over-one aluminum replacement windows on each story. The original building contains eighteen one-over-one aluminum replacement windows on the first floor. There are two entrances on the rear facade; both doors are on line with entryways on the front facade. On the second story, there are sixteen full-size one-over-one aluminum replacement windows and six smaller one-over-one aluminum replacement sash. Windows and doorways on the older section of the school are topped with gently sloping double-course brick arches. The window sills are made of stone. Windows located on the 1939 addition are capped with poured concrete lintels. The sills are poured concrete as well. A brick furnace flue, which was erected during the 1939 remodeling, assumes a central location on this less-public facade. There is an entrance to the basement immediately to the left of the furnace flue. It is possible that the basement was dug out during the 1930s renovations. This would explain the molded concrete block foundation that is scattered throughout the basement space. A parking lot is extended to the property line at Armour Street.

Lastly, the north facade of the Irvine Grade School is a mirror image of the building's south facade. Like its twin on the other side, this facade contains a central projecting square-shaped bay with six one-over-one aluminum replacement windows symmetrically placed on either side. This pattern is repeated on the second story. The bay provides access to a side passage through a set of steel replacement double doors. Above the entryway, there are two geometrically patterned wooden sash windows. On the second story of the bay, there are two one-over-one aluminum replacement windows. All windows have poured concrete lintels and sills. Stone or poured concrete tracery is observable near the crest of the wall, as are decorative stone inlays Unlike the building's south facade, there is a modern open breezeway addition. This appendage furnished all-weather access to the circa 1961 gymnasium and cafeteria.

The interior of the building follows a strict symmetrical floor plan. The front entrances lead to a set of double hallways from which a central auditorium space is accessed. Directly to the rear of both main corridors are a set of stairs and exit doors to the rear parking area. Entry from the south and north facades leads to another hallway through which eight classrooms can be approached. There is one set of stairs upon entry from the north and south facades. Thus, the floor plan resembles a T-shape on either side of the centrally located auditorium. This floor plan is repeated on the second level. A balcony occupies the central position on the second story. All classrooms are lit with at least six windows and each room has available cloakroom space. The basement provided cafeteria space from the late 1930s to the early 1960s, when the cafeteria/gymnasium addition was built.

The interior of the Irvine School building retains most of its historic architectural fabric. All of the classrooms have their original woodwork, radiators, and solid oak flooring. Only five of the sixteen classrooms have dropped-height ceilings with acoustic tiles; the majority still possess their original plaster-on-lath finish. Additionally, the original plaster finish remains on each wall in the building. The auditorium is in a remarkable state of preservation. Iron and plywood attached theatre seating, oak flooring, and woodwork remain in this space. The theatre's ceiling has been dropped about a foot and covered with acoustic tiles. The original plaster ceiling is still intact under this 1960s alteration. During the 1960s, the building also gained carpeting and suspended ceilings in the central hallways and steel fire doors on all of the classrooms. The school's staircases were carpeted during this time as well. The staircases retain their historic balustrades and newel posts.