Building Description Douglass High School, Memphis Tennessee

Douglass High School is located on 14.86 acres at 3100 Mount Olive Road in northeast Memphis, Tennessee. The school faces south on a flat, grassy site containing a few mature trees. The grounds of the school occupy a parcel of Douglass Park and are bounded on the east by Holmes Street, on the south by Mount Olive Road, on the west by Ash Street and on the north by the rear property line. The main school building is situated on the south side of the site.

The present facility is the third school to occupy the grounds. A Rosenwald school, circa 1919, served the African-American community with grades one through eight until 1937 when a PWA elementary school in the Colonial Revival style replaced the Rosenwald school.

The main building (A) is an irregular shaped two-story red brick and concrete structure with limestone and concrete trim, banks of casement windows and was constructed in three stages. The easternmost wing of the main building was the first stage of construction, circa 1950, and utilizes a reinforced concrete frame construction technique. It is rectangular in shape and contains 31,360 square feet. The second stage, circa 1952, contains 30,423 square feet and is distinguished by an minimal Art Deco facade. This addition replaced four metal buildings heated with coal stoves. A 3,150-square-foot addition was added to the front of the building in 1960. A gymnasium, (B) containing 13,450 feet, circa 1955, was added to the complex and is located north and west of the main building. Immediately north of the main building is an auxiliary two-story brick veneer building (C) constructed in two stages. The initial stage, circa 1958, contains 23,085 square feet. An additional 17,000 square feet of classrooms was added to the east end of the building in 1959. Also constructed in 1959 was a 20,000 square foot irregular shaped auditorium (D) on the southwest corner of the property built on the site of the PWA elementary school. In 1960, a 2,053-square-foot building to house the ROTC Rifle Range was added to the complex. This building is no longer extant. The final phase of construction in the complex was a 23,000 square foot building designed for physical education and music education (E) and was constructed in 1971 and is non-contributing due to construction date occurring after the period of significance. The buildings are connected with covered walkways. Each addition reflects an architectural continuity of design to the original high school as the student body increased and additional facilities were added.

Douglas High School was designed by the architectural firm of Norton and Rice and built by Lee Construction Company. The architectural style is minimal Art Deco with classical influences. The dominant architectural features of the two-story brick main building are on the western end of the facade that faces south. The design focus is a pavilion that projects approximately ten feet from the facade and is composed of cut limestone. The cut limestone pavilion is one-and-a-half stories high, contains the main entrance and has a flat roof surrounded by concrete coping. The pavilion is topped by a copper flagpole on a raised concrete base. A limestone concave scotia rests on the limestone base just below the flagpole. The area above the pavilion extends slightly above the roofline creating a frieze and is surrounded by concrete coping. Douglass High School is incised into the frieze. The entrance is a pair of flat metal doors. Pilasters flank the main entrance. Creating a vertical emphasis on each side of the circa 1952 addition are pavilions that feature limestone engaged pilasters topped with a broken cornice. The fenestration of the south facade is comprised of banks of six light metal casement windows topped by a brick lintel with a concrete keystone. The north or rear elevation of the main building has a flat plane at the easternmost portion of the building. Windows on this elevation are of two types, single metal casement windows and double metal casement windows. The westernmost portion of the rear has a wing on each end. The fenestration of this portion is also comprised of single and double metal casement windows.

The original tile walls and terrazzo floors still exist in the hallways of the main building. Major original elements in the interior of the building include wood frame staircases. The hallways and classrooms are utilitarian and have a minimal amount of architectural detailing. However, the original porcelain water fountains, bathroom fixtures, tile toilet stalls, and some original slate blackboards remain.

The auxiliary classroom building, c. 1958-1959, is a two-story brick veneer rectangular building with concrete foundation, and flat roof. The fenestration of the building consists of triple and double six-light casement windows with soldier course brick lintels, and concrete sills. The building has a poured concrete foundation and concrete coping.

The auditorium, circa 1959, is a brick veneer, one-story flat-roofed structure with concrete coping, decorative brickwork and a multi-bay entrance supported by three columns in antis on the west facade. The irregular shaped building fans out on the southern end thus creating an arc-shaped interior conducive to musical performances.

The rectangular, steel frame construction, one-story, minimalist style gymnasium, circa 1955, is brick veneer with banks of three-light casement windows and a gable roof. A section on the east and west ends of the gymnasium is flat roofed with concrete coping. On the east portion of the gymnasium south elevation is a portico with a flat concrete roof and smooth concrete columns.

The band and physical education building, circa 1971, has an irregular plan with a flat roof and wall cladding in concrete pre-fabricated panels. The physical education portion of the building is two stories to accommodate the gymnasium, the exterior of the second story being of metal siding.