Abandoned school in Ohio

New Straitsville School, New Straitsville Ohio
Date added: April 19, 2023 Categories: Ohio School
Front south and west side elevations (2000)

New Straitsville's success was due primarily to coal mining, although other forces contributing to its growth included oil exploration, clay-product manufacturing, iron ore and limestone excavation and the production of moonshine. The town grew and therefore outgrew its 1871 public school building. In 1916-1917 the New Straitsville School was built under the leadership of Superintendent W.O. Renner. It served an important role in the village of New Straitsville throughout most of the 20th century. "More than any other institution in the town, the New Straitsville Public School shaped the lives of young people," according to a local history (Gibson, Photographic History of New Straitsville). The design of the New Straitsville School was typical of schools being designed at this time. The "modern" school building served grades 1-12. (Kindergarten was first taught in the community from the 1930's forward in a church.)

New Straitsville's economy shifted from agricultural to industrial after 1870. This shift resulted in change in public education facilities too. The first school in the vicinity was a small wood framed building with only two rooms built c.1835 in Old Straitsville, about a mile northwest. Soon after the founding of New Straitsville, in 1871, a large two-story Italianate brick school ("the Old Red School") was constructed to educate the new community's children. It was built on Ball Street just east of Clark Street, on a hill overlooking the town. This building served as the community's only public school and center for activities until 1916 when the New Straitsville School was built to accommodate the town's growing population. Both 19th century school buildings in Old Straitsville and New Straitsville have been demolished.

School attendance was made compulsory in Ohio for all children ages six through eighteen with the Bing Act of 1921. This law led to a sudden increase in attendance in schools throughout Ohio, including in New Straitsville. Community growth in combination with mandatory attendance and the additional consolidation of one-room country schools fostered growth in the school in New Straitsville through 1936. In this year the graduating class of New Straitsville School peaked at 42 graduates.

World War II had a great impact on the Village of New Straitsville with many people leaving the town for more stable communities. By 1940 the town's population was down to 1,468. As the years passed, fewer students were attending and graduating from the school. The number of graduating students dropped to 17 in 1950. This number remained typical until The New Straitsville School District consolidated with the Shawnee School District in 1961 through 1963. During this period, the Shawnee School served as high school for both communities and the New Straitsville School served only as an elementary.

In 1964, these communities consolidated with several other villages, to form the Southern Local School District. A new high school, Miller High School, opened in 1964, east of the Village of Hemlock. With the new high school opening, the New Straitsville School remained as one of the elementary schools for the new district. In 1992 the New Straitsville School closed and has remained vacant since that time. New Straitsville's present day population is 860.

The New Straitsville School is significant under Criterion C as being representative of the distinctive style of urban schools of the early 20th century. It is the only public school and the only example of early 20th century / Classical Revival style of architecture in the Village of New Straitsville. Characteristics that contribute to its Classical Revival style include its symmetrical plan, flat roof, tripartite design with rusticated lower level, and multiple light windows. Distinctive details include the pair of Tudor arched main entrances, the shaped and stone-trimmed parapets, and the geometric decorative stonework on the front and side elevations.

The design of the New Straitsville School is reflective of legislation and nationwide trends in education across the country in the early 20th century. For example, a law was passed in 1889 that required school buildings to be safe and healthy. Another state law, passed in 1923, mandated at least 100 hours of physical education per student per year. This led to gymnasiums being incorporated into the design of most modern schools. Public pressure led to more legislation to expand curriculums to include vocational areas along with exposure to cultural events such as music and drama. The result of these influences led to a 'modern' school design which included classrooms with glazed doors to admit light to the corridors, fireproof construction and fire separation techniques not typical of earlier school design. An auditorium located at the front center of the building provided gathering space for non-academic activities as well as physical education facilities. The auditorium has adequate egress to the exterior. A U-shaped corridor, with stairs at each end, wraps around the auditorium and provides circulation throughout the building. The large classrooms are located in the corners and along the perimeter to take advantage of natural light and ventilation. The classrooms open directly to the corridors. The playground equipment was added to New Straitsville School under the leadership of Superintendent William J. Jones (1940-1961).

The architects of the New Straitsville School, Matheny, Allen & Mounts, practiced out of downtown Columbus between 1916-1917. E.S. Matheny practiced between 1915-1929, and Matheny & Allen practiced from 1917-1923. The only other building identified as being built by the firm or its principals is the Pickerington Carnegie Library, Fairfield County, designed by E.S. Matheny in 1915.

The builders, Taylor & Linn, were a general contracting firm out of Zanesville, Muskingum County. The company, started in 1910, remains in business today as C.W. Taylor & Sons, Inc. The company name changed ca. 1929, at the time of the depression. It operated as a family business until sold in 1992. According to Harry Taylor, grandson of C.W. Taylor, the company built "dozens of schools", in addition to industrial and commercial buildings, for the most part within a 50-mile radius of Zanesville. Partner, William Linn, also branched out into Indiana, particularly building Kresge stores. Other buildings built by this contractor include The Granville Inn (1924), Secrest Auditorium in Zanesville (completed in 1940) and the Zanesville Municipal Building in the 1950's. Major competitors of C.W. Taylor & Sons included the Paul Contracting Company and E. Mast & Sons, both of Zanesville.

Perry County was established in 1817 and Salt Lick Township in 1823. Jacob and Isaac Strait founded the rural community of Old Straitsville in 1835. Knowledge of the existence of rich coal sources in the hills south of Straitsville and the prospect of a branch line of the Columbus & Hocking Valley Railroad being built, led to the development of New Straitsville. This pattern of speculation and development was typical of the coal-producing communities in this region. John D. Martin of Lancaster, a Columbus & Hocking Valley stockholder, organized the Straitsville Mining Company and platted the town on a farm in the valley a mile southeast of the hilltop village of Straitsville. New Straitsville was laid out July 19, 1870 and the town lots were auctioned off by the mining company the same year. With the establishment of New Straitsville, the old town (Old Straitsville) became increasingly more residential in character. The last commercial business in Old Straitsville, a combined post office and store closed in 1934.

At the time it was platted, New Straitsville was a part of Salt Lick Township. In 1872, 14 sections of Salt Lick became Coal Township. New Straitsville, nestled in the valley of surrounding hills, grew quickly with its coal production. This "newborn town would become the most important, in coal production, of all the Little Cities in the Monday Creek watershed." Also contributing to the town's growth was the extension of the Columbus and Hocking Valley Railroad in the area completed in 1870. The shift from an agricultural economy to an industrial one created an increase in population. The town's population rose from 300 persons in 1871 to 1200 persons by 1873. Again the town's economy was boosted in 1889 with the discovery of oil in Perry County. Between 1888 and 1907, when the town marketed itself as "the most enterprising mining town of Ohio", the town's population was over 3,000. (Gibson, Photographic History of New Straitsville). Collectively, New Straitsville with several other quickly growing and prospering industrial towns in the Hocking Valley, including Shawnee, Haydenville, and Nelsonville, were called the Little Cities of Black Diamonds. Another notable aspect of New Straitsville is the subterranean coal fire set by union unrest in 1884 that is purportedly still burning today.

The majority of New Straitsville is currently residential and in poor condition. The New Straitsville School sits at the top of hill and is surrounded by homes. New Straitsville's main commercial street is a combination of discontiguous commercial buildings with apartments above. The New Straitsville School and a handful of other buildings are the only evidence of a once thriving community.

Building Description

The New Straitsville School is prominently located on a 1.8 acre parcel of land on a hill at the north east edge of the village of New Straitsville. Coal Township, Perry County, is a township comprised of primarily Wayne National Forest and strip mines, in addition to the small communities of (Old) Straitsville and New Straitsville. The New Straitsville School was built in 1916-1917 to replace an 1871 public school building. A building plaque on the New Straitsville School lists Taylor & Linn as the general contractors and Matheny, Allen & Mounts as the architects.

The New Straitsville School is a rectangular building with two symmetrical shallow wings at each side of the front elevation. A one-and-a-half story auditorium/gymnasium protrudes from the center of the body of the building. The auditorium/gymnasium is divided into three main areas; raised stage, gym floor with basketball hoops at each end and a sloped area for bleachers. There is an entrance placed between the gymnasium and each wing highlighted by a Tudor arch with stone trim.

The foundation and all of the exterior masonry is light colored brick laid with red mortar. The elevations are visually divided into three bands. The Lower Level is defined by a series of horizontal rustication consisting of pulled brick bands. The First floor is defined with brick quoins at the corners. Between the first and second floor a continuous projected rowlock occurs. The second floor has decorative cut-limestone squares alternating between the corbelled bricks that provide visual interest and patterning for the center of the side elevations and at the sides of the front elevations. Projected quoins occur at the building corners. Another brick rowlock band with decorative cut-limestone accents are above the Second Floor windows. The limestone coping at the top of the shaped parapet is accentuated by a decorative semi-circular brick detail at the center of each wing, side, front and rear elevations. The windows are steel casements with center openings for ventilation with limestone sills. Many of the windows are boarded up and/or the glass is broken.

The walls are primarily brick with some hollow tile masonry. Bricks on the interior and exterior are impressed with the marks "Steel Clay Moulding Chicago" and "Homespun Moulding Chicago." (It is interesting to note that although New Straitsville had the local Straitsville Impervious Brick Company in town since 1903, that these bricks were not locally manufactured.) The interior walls and ceilings are plastered. The floor structure is concrete with a wood subfloor and hardwood flooring in the classrooms. The hallway floors are exposed concrete. Some of the classrooms have original chalkboards made of slate. The two stairwells are concrete with simple metal pipe handrails. Both stairs terminate above the second floor into small offices. The classrooms have c.1930 light fixtures with decorative metal ends. Each classroom contains coat closets with coat racks and shelves. All of the interior doors and trim are wood. Many of the classroom entrance doors have transoms above.

The building is in fair condition. The interior finishes, in particular the wood floors and plaster finishes, are deteriorated due to water infiltration since 1992 when the building was vacated. The condition is worst at the basement level. The only alterations since the original construction are the addition of boys and girls bathrooms in the basement level and the conversion of classrooms to a kitchen and cafeteria also in the basement level (pre-1950). The front landscaping has been changed from steps leading from the street to the current circular configuration. Also, ca. 1960 a one-story concrete block mechanical area and fuel storage tank were added at the rear of the building, creating an earth mound. Two outhouses formerly sat northeast of the school building.

There is a surrounding window well moat that runs along the east side and part of the front and back. The continuous window well was designed to remove water that collects around the building due to a high water table from a ridge that rises behind the building. The Clark Street facade is fronted by a circular concrete walkway with a flagpole at the center. Concrete sidewalks extend from this area to the two main entrances at each side of the gymnasium. The steps to the main doors are concrete with the original handrails intact. A post-1940 playground/ball diamond sits to the west side of the building.

New Straitsville School, New Straitsville Ohio Looking northeast (2000)
Looking northeast (2000)

New Straitsville School, New Straitsville Ohio Front south and west side elevations (2000)
Front south and west side elevations (2000)

New Straitsville School, New Straitsville Ohio Front elevation (2000)
Front elevation (2000)

New Straitsville School, New Straitsville Ohio Front entry (2000)
Front entry (2000)

New Straitsville School, New Straitsville Ohio Front Auditorium Bay (2000)
Front Auditorium Bay (2000)

New Straitsville School, New Straitsville Ohio Front south and east side Elevations (2000)
Front south and east side Elevations (2000)

New Straitsville School, New Straitsville Ohio Rear north and west side elevations (2000)
Rear north and west side elevations (2000)

New Straitsville School, New Straitsville Ohio Rear Boiler Room Addition (2000)
Rear Boiler Room Addition (2000)

New Straitsville School, New Straitsville Ohio East side Moat (2000)
East side Moat (2000)

New Straitsville School, New Straitsville Ohio Center Front (2000)
Center Front (2000)