Abandoned school in Ohio

Camden Public School, Camden Ohio
Date added: September 28, 2022 Categories: Ohio School
West side of site facing east (1997)

During the 1800s, a great number of one room schools were constructed in Preble County. A few township high schools were also constructed. These one room schools were generally districted by the townships, and were located centrally at the intersection of four sections of the townships. From the 1890s to the 1920s the centralized school came into prominence. The centralized schools were built to replace the one room school buildings. In Preble County, these centralized schools (sometimes called consolidated schools) included the following:

College Corner School, also known as Union School, built in 1893, with several additions. The building is no longer recognizable as the building originally constructed. It remains in use as a school. The school was built on the state line separating Ohio and Indiana.
Camden Public School, this building, built in 1904. The building is now vacant.
Lewisburg Public School, built in 1908, and remodeled and expanded in 1956. The building has been demolished and replaced with the Tri-County North School complex.
Jackson Township Centralized School, built in 1911. The school closed in 1974, and is now partially demolished and falling down.
West Alexandria School, built in 1911, with an addition constructed in 1950. This building is vacant.
West Elkton Consolidated School, built in 1913, with an addition constructed in the 1930s. The original section of the building burned in 1973 and was rebuilt on the same foundation. The building was remodeled in the early 1980s and is still in use as a school.
Dixon Township Centralized School, built in 1915, with additions constructed in 1930 and 1962. As of 1992, the building was in use as a Middle School.
Fair Haven Consolidated School, built in 1915. The school closed in 1964 and is now in use as an antique shop.
Gratis Consolidated School, built in 1915, with additions constructed in 1939 and 1956. The building was closed in 1983 and is now vacant.
Jefferson Township Consolidated School, built in 1915, with several additions. The building is still in use as a school.
Lanier Township Centralized School, built in 1915, with additions constructed in 1949 and 1953. The school closed in 1964 and is now vacant.
Morning Sun Consolidated School, built in 1915 as a replacement of the 1910 school building which was destroyed by fire. This building is now in use by Roberts Farm Equipment.
Camden High School, built in 1916, with additions constructed in 1950 and 1957. This building is now vacant and slated for demolition.
Monroe Township Centralized School, built in 1916.
Verona Consolidated School, built in 1918, with additions constructed in 1950 and about 1955. The school closed in 1990 and is now vacant.

As the consolidated schools were constructed throughout the county, the one room school buildings were closed. A number of these one room school buildings remain in the county, in use as residences and farm storage buildings, and some are vacant.

The Village now known as Camden was laid out in 1818 under the name of Dover. The town was incorporated by act of the Legislature in 1832 as Newcomb, the name being that of the senator from this district who promoted the bill in the Legislature. In 1839, the Village was renamed Camden, as a memorial to Camden, South Carolina, where a revolutionary battle was fought. The population of Somers Township, where Camden is located was 1,171 in 1820. By 1910, the population had grown to 1,839.

The first school organized in Camden was held in a log building, starting around 1820. A second school was conducted from about 1830 to 1853, and was located on East Central Avenue, a short distance west of the railroad near the Camden Depot. In about 1833, another school was held on South Main Street in Fowler's Hall, the old Presbyterian Church. In 1853, a large and commodious building was erected on West Central Avenue and North Lafayette Street, consisting of four large rooms and two entry halls. At the time, it was described as one of the finest school buildings in the county. From this school building, Camden's first graduating class, consisting of nine members, received their degrees in 1890. A wing was added to this schoolhouse in 1882 to accommodate increased enrollment. This four room, two story brick school building served the community until 1903 when a state inspector condemned it. The Board of Education decided it was more feasible to raze the building than to repair it. This building was demolished in the spring of 1904.

Construction of the Camden Public School was completed in 1904, with classes beginning on November 29, following a public dedication. The headlines of the Preble County News of December 1, 1904, stated, "A Thing Of Beauty Is A Joy Forever". The subheading of the article describing the dedication ceremony read "Brilliant Exercises Mark the Dedication of Handsome Temple of Learning." The new school building consisted of eight school rooms, Superintendents office, library, and eight cloak rooms. The rectangular school, 63 feet by 84 feet, was constructed with "Improved red brick, slate roof, and cement foundation." The original cost of construction totaled $15,198.67. The Camden Public School was constructed about 30 feet south of the razed school building location.

In the Preble County News of November 3, 1904, the Camden Public School was compared favorably to the Sherman Street School Building located in Middletown, Ohio. The appearance of the two schools is very similar. The Sherman Street School also had 8 school rooms and a Superintendents office, but had no library and fewer cloakrooms. It also had a single exit stair from the main entrance. The Camden Public School cost over $2,000 less than the Sherman Street School.

In 1905, the school became a four-year high school through an improved course of study approved by the Board of Education. In 1914 the school enrolled 167 pupils, of whom 73 were in the high school.

Except to install electricity, no improvements were made to the Camden Public School until 1937, when then modern restrooms and drinking fountains were installed. In 1938, a new furnace was installed, and in 1950, the building was fireproofed.

The eight rooms (plus four basement rooms) housed all of the public school grades from the time of its completion in 1904 to 1916, when the new Camden High School was opened. In 1915, the people voted to dispel rural school districts of Somers Township and consolidate with the Camden Village School District. Four years later there was another increase in enrollment when parts of the Gasper Township School District came to the Camden Schools.

The Camden Public School was last used for its original purpose in June of 1983. For sixty-seven years, from 1916-1983, the building housed either all or a portion of the district's children who attended grades 1 - 6. Several notables among those children were Mr. Walter Emmons "Smokey" Alston and Mr. Donald Elston of baseball fame, Mr. William Clayton Pryor, a well known newspaper man and author of children's books, as well as Dr. Richard G. Johnson, Science Advisor to President George Bush. During the Camden Public School's last days, the building, in addition to housing elementary children, once again provided classroom space for a variety of classes for ninth (9th) through twelfth (12th) grade. Subjects taught were math, social studies, Occupational Work Experience and Occupational Work Adjustment.

Since the building was sold by the school board, it has had several unsuccessful attempts at adaptive reuse as an antique and craft shop, and a flower shop on the first floor.