Walnut Street Elementary School, Wooster Ohio

Date added: October 18, 2022 Categories: Ohio School

The Wooster public school system had been divided into four districts in 1850, one in each ward of the city. The District #4 school (later known as the Walnut Street School) was built in 1853-4 on the site of the present school and operated at least through 1896. The present building was built in 1902 as a part of the school board's rebuilding of their ward system conducted between 1891 and 1909, Of these buildings, all but the Walnut Street School have been demolished.

The district approach to distributing school buildings in relationship to population has been maintained in Wooster with changes in older district boundaries and additional districts as the population of Wooster shifted. Walnut Street School is the last vestige of Wooster's earlier neighborhood school districts. Walnut Street School served as a district school from 1902 to 1971 when the district it served was enlarged and a new structure, the Lincoln Way Elementary, was built.

Building Description

The Walnut Street School is a 2-story rectangular brick building divided into eight bays on each facade. The Walnut Street School is located in a high-density, residential neighborhood in downtown Wooster. The school property is bordered on three sides by single family homes ranging in age from 40 to 90 years and is one-and-a-half blocks from the heart of downtown Wooster.

The integrity of the original design remains undisturbed today except when the main building is viewed from the south. This facade was indistinguishable from the north facade until 1954 when a multi-purpose room of 44' x 76' was attached by a fire stair. The addition was tastefully done and the integrity of the main building remains intact. The 1 1/2 story addition is a plain brick rectangular structure with some cut stone detail. Upper and main level windows on this facade of the main building are undisturbed, but one of the four main level windows was sacrificed for the addition.

The old school is red brick and measures 88 feet wide and 74 feet deep. The main facade, facing east and fronting South Walnut Street, consists of two sections that protrude three feet creating a central balconied portico, 16 feet wide. The balcony of the portico is at the level of the top main floor windows. The entablature of the balcony is basically a restatement of the plain roof entablature above with smooth frieze and dentils, but without modillions. The balcony is supported by brick extensions projecting two feet beyond the main walls of the main building sections, Adjacent to these extensions are two columns of rusticated ashlar stone. Both the brick extensions and stone columns sit on six inch thick stone plinths. Each plinth caps podium-like extensions protruding from the raised rock-face, rusticated, ashlar stone foundation, Above the balcony is a large Palladian window with a wide, round arch sash and architrave trim, The rectangular side windows are flanked by pilasters, On the left side of the arch of the center window is a large circular stone with the number "19"; on the right side of the arch is same with "02", Above this central portico on the large, ridged, four-slope hip roof is a five window shed dormer. The two protruding sections of the main building facade are enveloped by low sloping pyramidal shaped roofs that connect to the main roof section, Other roof features include two large brick chimneys, one on each end of the main roof ridge, enhancing the classical symmetry of the building. Main level windows on the building are elongated and rectangular in groups of four repeated twice on each facade except the south, Each window has ashlar stone sills and smooth stone lintels. The lintel stones are a flat arch design highlighted with large projecting key-stones. The upper level windows are somewhat smaller but arched. The sills are identical to those on the windows below, but the lintels are segmented, smooth stone hoodmold style with keystones. The four arched lintels of the upper windows are connected in an arcade effect to form a continuous line above the group of four windows.

The north facade of the building is identical to the front (east) with four arched over four rectangular windows on the east and west sections, In place of the portico is a section 16 feet wide extending from ground level to the cornice and protruding outward 15 inches creating a central tower effect. This tower section, being brick and having raised brick quoins identical to the rest of the building, is capped by a pediment, The pediment is highly developed repeating the detail in the building's cornice, The tympanum is deep set under the projecting cornice and is made of brick. In the center of the tympanum is a recessed circular window approximately 18 inches in diameter and flanked on four sides with six inch cut keystones. This pediment is repeated on the south facade and it is presumed that the circular windows in the tympanum were preserved from the original old Number 4 Schoolhouse that stood on the same site from 1854 until it was sacrificed at the turn of the century so the present school could be constructed. It is known that much of the material in the previous school was saved and reused in the present school building. Directly below the elegant pediment are two arched upper windows and two rectangular main level windows. Each of the four windows contain wooden doors installed for a later fire escape. The 1-1/2 story addition is attached by the 2-story fire stair at the protruding section directly below the pediment on the south facade. The west, or rear, of the main building is simpler and less ornate. The series of arched upper level windows and rectangular windows directly beneath them are identical in size, placement, and detail to the rest of the building. The wide entablature continues, uninterrupted across the rear of the building, repeating the delicate, classical details with modillions, dentils, and a frieze without enrichment. A vertical center section 16 feet wide and flush with the main wall originally contained two arched upper and two rectangular main level windows, but were completely boarded over when a fire escape had been attached some years ago. The fire escape is now gone and a small over-head door has been placed at the main level. A large concrete block and cement ramp was added in the early seventies to service this entry. The general condition of the exterior is excellent. The brick and stone work are in original condition and have never been more than spot cleaned with detergents. The asphalt shingle roof encompassing the elegant brick and stone work below probably replaced an original slate roof in the late sixties. All external wooden trim has been well maintained.

The interior of the building has suffered from neglect with no heat in the main building. Only the addition is heated with its own boiler. All mechanical systems in the main building have long since been removed or destroyed. The floor plan, typical for elementary schools at the turn of the century, is simply a large room in each corner of both the main and upper levels. Each room is approximately 900 square feet. Large halls separate the east and west (front and rear) of each level. The halls are divided in two by the massive chimney chases extending from the basement to the roof. The grand stairway begins as a double stairs in the main level foyer and leads to a landing just below the magnificent Palladian window. From this landing the double stairway combines into a large single stairway and beginning at the base of the Palladian window leads to the upper level. The grand foyer on the main level is repeated at the top of the stairway on the upper level and both are crowned by a 12-inch plaster arch across the expanse of the ceiling. Originally, an identical grand stairway existed on the opposite side of the building, but was removed in the 1930s or 1940s to create two additional classrooms, one on each level. Doorways opening into the foyers and halls have operable glass transoms. All interior trim is of yellow pine in excellent, original condition and none of the interior woodwork has been painted. Another interesting feature is the intricate woodwork covering the entire surface of the Palladian window. The interior, excluding the 1954 addition, has been unheated since 1972. Thus, especially the main level, considerable paint loss and some plaster loss has occurred. The hard maple floors have buckled in a few places. The raised basement is in good condition although, to prevent vandalism, the windows have been bricked in. The previous owners of the building, the Wooster City Schools, partially used the old school as cold storage. The addition served as their maintenance headquarters.