Building Description Waco High School, Waco Texas

The Waco High School complex includes three buildings: the main school building, an auditorium, and a music building, all of which contribute to the property's significance. The high school complex is located at 815 Columbus Avenue in Waco's Central Business District. Constructed in 1910-1912, with a major addition completed in 1929, the three-story, high style Classical Revival building sits on a raised basement. Designed by architect Milton W. Scott, stylistic features include the monumental fluted Ionic columns supporting a large pediment, the triangular arched pediments at the secondary entrances and segmental arches over the windows behind the columns. The building is clad in buff-colored brick and the cornice, window sills and belt courses are cast stone. The windows are regularly-spaced 1/1 double hung wood windows with single light transoms. The building faces onto Columbus Avenue in what was once a residential neighborhood that slowly turned commercial in the early twentieth century. The 1924 Gothic Revival style gymnasium is a rectangular plan, steel framed structure with masonry back up. The original steel trusses are extant and support a slightly barrel arched wooden ceiling and roof. The 1955 music building is a one-story, mid-century modern structure clad in buff brick. Occupying an entire city block, the complex as a whole has undergone few changes.

The site of the Waco High School is bounded by Columbus and Jefferson Avenues and North 8th and 9th Streets. The full block site is urban and consists of three buildings: the high school, gymnasium and music building; one object: a flag pole; and a surface parking lot. The street grid shifts approximately 45 degrees off of a true north-south alignment a result of the town plat conforming to a bend in the Brazos River, located five blocks to the northeast. The building faces southeast onto Columbus Avenue in Waco's Central Business District, the center of commercial, civic and entertainment activity until 1953 when deadly tornado struck downtown killing 114 people and seriously injured 145. The tornado demolished 196 buildings and an additional 396 were subsequently torn down due to extensive damage. The tornado, coupled with the rise of suburban shopping centers, lured businesses and shoppers away from the downtown. Today, the area is populated with a good representation of early-to-mid-century commercial buildings interspersed with swaths of open land, the scar of the tornado and Urban Renewal.

The 1912 Waco High School is a three-story, Classical Revival building on a raised basement. The building faces southeast at 815 Columbus Avenue and is a symmetrical five-by-five bay building constructed of reinforced concrete with a buff brick exterior and classical cast stone detailing. Built in phases, the original footprint included only the front rectangular portion of the building: the central block and wings. This original building opened for classes in 1912 a year behind schedule, and was later expanded to an E-plan building. The North 8th Street ell was added in 1915 and the central and North 9th Street arms were added in 1921 transforming the rectangular shaped building into an E-plan. The final 1929 addition along the Jefferson Avenue (rear) facade enclosed the arms of the "E" shape and maintained the two interior light courts.

The main facade is composed of five bays with an A-B-C-B-A pattern with the outer and central bays projecting from the building plane. Buff colored brick is the dominant exterior material with the exception of the raised basement that has a stucco finish. Brick detailing include a horizontal raised brick course each eighth row on the first floor and blind panels and spandrels defined by raised brickwork on the second and third floors. A projecting cast stone belt course divides the basement and first floor and the first and second floors. The windows are regularly spaced 1/1 wooden double hung sash with single light transoms with the exception of the basement level windows which have no transoms. A full entablature runs the perimeter of the primary and two secondary facades with the architrave and cornice in cast stone and the frieze in buff colored brick. Behind the cornice is a low buff-colored brick blocking course with a cast stone cap. The window sills are also cast stone.

The central entry bay (C), the most decorative aspect and the focal point of the building, is three bays wide. The entry is via a set of stairs to the first floor; there is no basement entry. A staircase leads up to the recessed, paired doors topped with three, nine-light fixed wooden transoms. There is a cast stone flat arched pediment marking the entry. Above on the second floor is a monumental temple front composed of four monumental fluted Ionic columns extending the full height of the second and third floors and supporting a full entablature and tympanum. Behind the columns are recessed wooden 1/1 sash windows with single light transoms, one window per bay and three per floor corresponding to the bay divisions defined by the columns. These windows are similar to those found on the rest of the building with the addition of three-part sidelights corresponding to the upper and lower sashes and transoms. The second floor windows have a pressed copper segmental arch supported by decorative consoles in line with the brick spandrels that define the space between the second and third floors. In the frieze are raised metal letters spelling "High School." Behind the temple front is a raised brick blocking course or parapet with cast stone cap.

The two flanking bays (B) are comprised of five regularly spaced windows at each level. The window pattern is repeated on the other facades of the building and has a 1/1 wooden sash window at basement level, with 1/1 wooden sash with transom on the first, second and third floors. The first floor has a projecting horizontal brick course every eighth course. Spandrels, created by a raised brick frame, define the space between the second and third floors. The two outer bays (A) have a three bay composition formed by two windows with transoms per floor divided by a central, blind, flat arch.

The secondary North 8th and North 9th Street facades are mirror images of each other and are composed of an A-B-C-B-A pattern and continue the brick and cast stone detailing of the primary facade. At the first floor level of the second and fourth bays are pedimented entries with fluted Ionic columns in antis flanked by brick pilasters that reference the temple front on the main facade. The paired, multi-light entry doors are topped with wooden decorative star-patterned transoms.

The windows along this facade are the same 1/1 wooden sash with single light transoms as seen on the primary facade. On close inspection, it is possible to see the slight differentiation in the brick color indicating the various construction phases along these two secondary facades of the building.

The first and fifth bays (A) of the secondary facades are each four bays wide as defined by regularly spaced windows. The second and fourth bays (B) project slightly from the building plane and include the pedimented entries. The reference to the main facade continues above the entrances with the repetition of the pressed copper cladding with segmental arches and the addition of the three-part sidelights. The central bay (C) is the largest and is composed of four bays with a symmetrical appearance. However, detailed analysis of this bay reveals that it is slightly irregular and reflects the expansion programs. The first, second and fourth bays are defined by four equally spaced windows; third bay has five equally spaced windows. Between the second and third bays are single windows that correspond to the interior staircase and are slightly off the regular rhythm of this otherwise symmetrical facade.

The rear facade faces northwest to Jefferson Avenue and was completed in 1929. This three bay facade has an A-B-A pattern with no openings in the two outer bays. The central bay has six equally spaced bays with large steel multi-light casement windows.

The interior corridors, one per facade, connect to form a continuous square with no noticeable change from one construction phase to the next. All of the corridors are wide with classrooms on either side; each room has access to natural light and ventilation. The most noticeable change from one building phase to another is the use of the steel multi-light casement windows on the rear facade and some later alterations of classrooms on the first floor below the auditorium.

The "E" plan of the school is typical of early twentieth-century multi-story buildings whose access to natural light and ventilation resulted in ever-changing building foot prints. The modified E-plan has morphed into a square "O" plan and the corridors connect throughout the entire building.

The measurements of the corridor widths correspond to the different building campaigns. The oldest portion of the building, the front portion parallel to Columbus Avenue, has a corridor width of 15 feet. The secondary facades (North 8th and North 9th Streets) have a 7'-4" corridor width and the corridor in the rear (parallel to Jefferson Avenue) is 9' wide. The basement ceiling height is 8' and the first through third floors have a ceiling height of 13 feet. The majority of the floors are covered with 6-by-6 inch linoleum tiles over concrete. The interior walls are plastered. The ceilings show the structural concrete beams and over the years acoustical tiles have been added-yet, the majority have since fallen. In a few of the classrooms, acoustical drop ceilings have been added. Most of the original doors and transoms are extant as are the radiators and the classroom chalkboards with chalk rails supported by decorative consoles. The baseboards and window sills are wooden with a simple molding. The classroom doors are typically wooden paneled-type with three lower panels and a large upper light. Secondary doors to utility rooms are five-paneled wooden doors. There are a few classrooms with wooden tongue and groove floors and some later additions include parquet flooring.

The auditorium and its balcony are located in the central arm of the "E" are accessible from the main front corridor from the second and the balcony from the third floor.

The gymnasium was built in 1924 and is a five-by-six bay, rectangular plan, steel framed structure with masonry back up. The original steel trusses are extant and support a slightly barrel arched wooden ceiling and roof. The Gothic Revival style building is ornamented with cast stone decorative elements including gothic arched doorways, a crenellated parapet, brick buttresses on the side elevations and elaborate cast stone detailing on the front facade.

The interior of the gym is full height with exposed steel trusses. The ceiling is wooden. On the opposite end from the front entry doors is an elevated stage. Along the two sidewalls is a viewing balcony with access stairs on each end. The balcony is wooden and has wooden bleachers. The perimeter walls of the building are brick and the interior walls are plastered. There are decorative plaster capitals below the anchor point of each of the metal trusses. The windows are steel, multi-light casement windows. Behind the stage in each corner is a metal staircase that leads to small offices on the second floor.

The 1955 Music Building was designed by Easterwood and Easterwood architects and is a one-story, mid-century modern structure clad in buff brick. There is a breezeway along the facade closest to the gymnasium supported by slender metal columns. Some of the windows have been sealed along the North 9" Street facade and several of the planter boxes on this facade are deteriorated. On the interior, the walls have been covered with paneling and a drop ceiling has been installed.

Two new suburban high schools, the new Waco High School and Jefferson Moore High School, opened in time for the start of the 1971-1972 school year and rendered this building obsolete for use as a high school. WISD maintained the building in its inventory as the Metropolitan Learning Center from 1981 to 1987 and then as an Alternative High School from 1988 to 1991. WISD struggled to find a use for the building and unfortunately a joint venture with a private firm to turn the building into an educational center in the early 2000s was short lived and failed. The building has stood vacant ever since and was purchased by the current owners in October of 2007. The current owner is developing plans to rehabilitate the building. The school building and gymnasium will be rehabilitated into residential rental units. A new use for the Music Building has not yet been determined.