Historic Structures

Belview School - Underwood School, Underwood Tennessee

Date added: August 2, 2022 Categories: Tennessee School

Belview School was originally organized and located in a building nearby on Puncheon Creek Road. It is not known exactly when it was organized, but the school was definitely in place by the 1890s when a picture was taken of the original building. The school was named for Mr. Belview who came from Guthrie, Kentucky to be the first teacher in the original schoolhouse. This first schoolhouse was later dismantled and the building materials were used to build a local residence. Then in 1936 the Macon County School System purchased property on which the current building stands. The current Belview School was built by local builder Leo Butrum in the same year. The first teacher in the new school was Lewis Bandy who taught grades one through eight. Belview continued to operate as an active school until c. 1959 when it closed due to consolidation of public schools in Macon County. Since its closing the school has been used as a meeting place for local residents. A reunion of former students is held annually at the school.

The basic design of the school is based on standardized plans that were widely available in the first half of the twentieth century. Standardized plan book designs for schools became increasingly popular in the first few decades of the twentieth century. Several states began to design and distribute plan books. In 1907 the Tennessee Department of Education published its first set of standardized school plans. This plan book was distributed to school officials across the state. Designed by the architectural firm of Adams & Alsup, these plans recognized the need to build schools that better addressed sanitation, use of space and aesthetics. Plans found in this book were used for several rural schools in Macon County, including Clines School, the first Enon School, and Sycamore Valley School.

An updated set of plans was published by the Department of Education in 1928. George Mahan, an architect from Memphis, designed these plans. The plans were created as part of statewide building fund whose purpose was to update and replace outdated and neglected schools with special emphasis to be placed on the poorer communities in the state. In addition to fifteen different plans of school buildings ranging from single teacher schools to seven teacher schools, the 1928 plan book also included plans for a privy and two school site plans. These plan books also gave guidelines for preferred locations and materials of the schools.

Another set of standardized plans was widely circulated by the Julius Rosenwald Foundation. In 1915 the foundation released a pamphlet that contained designs for rural schools and related buildings. Then, beginning in 1920, more designs were created for a variety of school sizes. These designs were created by S.L. Smith who worked from the Rosenwald Foundation office in Nashville. These new designs were published in the book Community School Plans in 1924. Like other standardized plans, the Rosenwald designs were concerned with providing rural areas with schools that provided a high level of sanitation, lighting, ventilation, and aesthetics. Rosenwald plans featured large banks of windows for increased lighting and ventilation, and also had an open interior space for use as a community meeting space. Large banks of windows were to be placed on one side of the classroom in order to have natural light coming from a single direction and reduce glare and eyestrain. Rosenwald's emphasis on building quality, cost efficient schools, and the wide availability of the plan books to local builders made their standardized plans popular for rural schools that did not receive Rosenwald funds.

Even though it is not a Rosenwald School, Belview has striking similarities to the Rosenwald Two Teacher Plan Number Twenty that was included in the 1924 book. The biggest difference between the two is that the plan has two entrances flanking a central front gable section, and Belview has one central entrance located in the front gable end. The side gable orientation with a front facing cross gable, large banks of windows on the rear elevation, and plain side elevations are major shared characteristics of Belview and the Rosenwald plan. The center partition of the main classroom space was designed to provide two distinct classroom spaces while also providing a single large interior space for community meetings and gatherings.

Macon County has several rural schools whose designs were based on standardized school plans. Galen Elementary School is a variation of plan 3-B from the 1928 state plan book, and Clines School, Sycamore Valley School, and Gumwood School were all variations of "Design No. 1-A of a Model One-Room School" from the 1907 state plan book.