Historic Structures

Warren School, Warren Texas

Date added: September 22, 2022 Categories: Texas School

The 1935 Warren School is the only building of its size and era remaining in the small East Texas community of Warren. Warren, which had a population just over 300 in the 2000 Census, received federal assistance to construct the school through the Public Works Administration, which also aided the county in remodeling its courthouse. Texas Planning Board records indicate the same architecture firm, Steinman, Steinman & Golemon of Beaumont, worked on both projects.

Warren, Texas is located in central Tyler County, 12 miles south of Woodville, the county seat, and about 90 miles north of the Texas Gulf Coast; Beaumont is the closest large city. The Warren School building is located two blocks west of the intersection of US Highway 69 and FM 1943 East on County Road 1515. The community began as a lumber mill town in 1883, the same year the Texas & New Orleans Railroad arrived in Tyler County. By 1890, the population had reached almost 900. During the 20th century, the population declined, dipping as low as 260 in the 1950s and 1960s but surpassing 300 in 1990.

The Warren community organized a one-teacher school in 1881, and within 10 years added two more teachers. Legislation enacted in 1907 created the Warren Independent School District. In 1915, the school added a fourth teacher. Two years later, the New Jerusalem district merged into Warren, and the community used a horse-drawn wagon as the first vehicle for transporting students to and from school. In 1919, the school district spent $10,000 constructing a four-room brick building on the east side of the highway that bisects the community. Pineville schools consolidated into the Warren district in 1924; by this time, the school used a Ford truck to transport these students to Warren. In 1931, Pipeline, Neal, Hyatt, and New Hope districts merged with Warren, further enlarging the area served by the school. The district used several buildings on the south side of town as space for classrooms and other functions.

As part of the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, Warren and Woodville school districts and Tyler County received funds for construction projects. The Texas Planning Board administered the state's funds and projects, which included mapping, infrastructure, agricultural programs, and building rehabilitation and construction. That year, Tyler County received almost $70,000 to remodel the courthouse in Woodville, the Woodville school district received $7,000 to complete its football field, and the Warren school district received about $27,000 to build a new school and other facilities. Texas Planning Board records indicate the architectural firm of Steinman, Steinman & Golemon of Beaumont worked in some capacity on the courthouse project, and the plaque on the building states they served as designers of the school. Herman Weber Construction Company served as contractors for the school. Although community tradition holds that C.E. Goolsbee deeded almost 12 acres to the school district for the project in 1934, school board minutes indicate that he deeded 11.75 acres to the district in February 1934 but had received 7.8 acres from the district in January of that year. In any case, the site the school sits on today is 11.75 acres and is part of a larger campus composed of six other tracts of land owned by the district, totaling more than 30 contiguous acres of land, much of which was deeded to the district by C.E. and Ella Goolsbee. Other individuals who deeded property over the years to the district include Louis and Lillian M. Bradberry.

At the time the Warren School was built in 1935, the surrounding neighborhood consisted of residents, two cafes, a barber shop, dry cleaning establishment, two general stores, two gas stations/garages, post office, feed store, and several churches. Today, that same area no longer has a post office, but it does have several businesses and churches, as well as a number of residences in the immediate vicinity, with many more in the outlying areas.

In 1936, area voters approved bonds to add four rooms to the building, two on each wing. The two on the north wing were equipped for Business Administration courses, and the two on the south wing were for first and second grades. At this same time, the district added the building on the north side of the building that would be used as a gymnasium and for physical education and vocational/agricultural courses; this gymnasium was constructed to match the main school building, with the same two colors of bricks and some similar but pared down decorative patterns. Also in 1936, Village Mills schools consolidated with the Warren district, and Hicksbaugh School started sending part of its students to Warren. This brought the total enrollment to 370 elementary and 130 high school students.

The district continued to add facilities over the next several years, with a homemaking/cafeteria building constructed in 1939. All phases of taking care of the home, cooking, and sewing were taught in the homemaking part of the building. Hot lunches were served to the entire school. Sometime in the early 1940s, the district built a boiler house, and steam heat replaced the wood-burning heaters previously used in each classroom. Around 1945 or 1946, the district built a separate cafeteria building closer to and behind the main building. It was used until a new high school and cafeteria were built in 1951-52, at which time the former cafeteria became a space for use by a Boy Scout troop and as a nurses' station, and the main school building became the elementary school. Since the 1950s, both the homemaking and the 1945-46 cafeteria buildings have been razed or moved from the premises.

Before the district stopped using the 1935 school building in 1988, the district and community regularly used the auditorium for a variety of programs. At one time, almost every Friday night a different class took responsibility for presenting some type of program to the entire school. Country-Western bands, including Cliff Bruner, Moon Mulligan, Johnny and Jack, and others played there for a nominal fee. Senior class students used musicals to raise funds for trips at the end of the school year, and gospel music groups and "singings" were also periodically held in the space.

In addition to academics, the school offered sports programs for its students. It originally had a six-man football team, which was discontinued due to lack of funds during World War II; it began again in the early 1950s. Both boys' and girls' basketball teams were very strong during the 1940s and 1950s, progressing frequently to regional and state playoffs during that era. The school also had volleyball and baseball teams.

Building Description

The two-toned brick Warren School, completed in 1935, has an E-shaped plan, with the main, east facade a long series of nine-over-nine double-hung windows flanking an entry pavilion with Italian Renaissance Revival detailing. Simple geometric designs in the contrasting orange and cream colors of brick carry the simple style throughout the rest of the building's exterior, which is in good condition despite missing panes of glass in the windows. Although currently used for school district storage, the district, area residents, and alumni wish to stabilize and rehabilitate the building for community use. The 1936 Warren Gymnasium is located just north of the main building. Although changed somewhat from its original appearance, its two-toned construction and relationship to the main school building still convey its original role as an addition to the growing school. In addition, a small boiler house on the east side of the main building remains from the early 1940s.

The symmetrical east facade of the Warren School building consists of seven bays and is divided into five sections: the two outermost bays and the central entry pavilion projecting slightly from the long mid-sections in between them. The primary material of the building's exterior is brick, but the architects employed contrasting orange and cream colored bricks in their design. The two outer bays and entry pavilion feature stone ornament including fluted pilasters, which are imitated on the mid-sections by lighter bricks framing each window opening.

The two outermost bays project forward slightly, and the stepped parapet wall is also somewhat higher than the main roof. Central to these outer bays is a modified Greek cross element created by light-colored bricks set in soldier and header courses inlaid in the running bond of the darker bricks. At the void outside each corner of the cross is a square of cast stone. Pairs of fluted stone pilasters flank the cross element. The broken bases of the urns that once adorned each stepped pilaster capital can still be seen. Stone and light bricks frame the bay, with a brick base, stone base for each pilaster, unadorned stone frieze between the pilasters at the roofline, and lighter brick on the outer walls. Outside the pilasters at the roofline, soldier courses of the lighter bricks finish the visual frame.

Central to the facade, and separated from the outer bays by two long bays of windows, the entry pavilion features the most elaborate detailing. Corresponding to the outer bays, the central bay is flanked by paired, fluted pilasters. Two sets comprise the outer edges of this middle section of the elevation; two more pairs flank the entryway. Between the pairs on either side of the doorway is a single nine-over-nine double-hung window that matches the others on the facade, with dark brick headers framing the window and a span of light bricks set in a soldier course above the windows. This band continues across the frontispiece, seem to run behind the pilasters and only stopping at the spring points of the stone arch in the very center of the facade. Above each window, a stone cartouche features bas relief of a shallow urn within concentric circles. The cartouche is encircled in headers of dark brick set into the dark brick panel between the soldier course above the windows and a band of smooth, light-colored stone that runs across the entry pavilion at the same level as the soldier course along the roofline of the remainder of the facade. Above this and centered above the cartouches are stone panels outlined in headers of the light brick, set into a dark brick panel. The stone panels convey the date of the building's construction, with "19" on the left panel and "35" on the right panel. Above these and running along the roofline is a second band of smooth, light-colored stone. The simple cornice line steps up at the center of the entryway, above the arch, with a flared pediment. Below the pediment and at the same level as the date panels, a wide panel of stone inscribed with "WARREN SCHOOL" is framed in light brick. The arch below has a simple profile, adorned only in a small curvilinear keystone. Below the arch, a stone entablature with simple cornice, unadorned frieze, and architrave rests atop two columns on the inside, and two engaged, half-round columns on the outer edges, tucked behind the fluted pilasters that extend the full height of the entry. The columns and engaged columns rest on simple stone or concrete plinths, have simple bases, smooth shafts, and Corinthian capitals. Typical to Italian Renaissance Revival, the doors are recessed behind this decorative display. Covered in plywood, the double doors are wood frame. A transom spans them with two rows of 11 lights, the glass still in place. It is framed in a light-brick soldier course that echoes that which spans the windows on the rest of the facade. The light-colored stone base of the entry pavilion matches the light brick used on the remainder of the building (and the stone used on the outer bays of the main facade). A plaque placed within the entry on the right lists building construction information, including the architects, contractor, and "Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works Project No. 2056."

The length of the facade between the entry pavilion and the outermost sections each feature two bays of four nine-over-nine double-hung windows. Currently, the lower half of each window is covered with plywood, although interior photos indicate the glass remains intact in many of the windows. Each window is set into a narrow frame of the darker brick, with a dark brick sill in rowlock bond. A soldier course of light-colored bricks spans each window, and these spans are interrupted by the vertical sections of light-colored bricks separating each window. Between these and above each window, a horizontally oriented rectangle of light bricks is inlaid into the dark brick panels. A soldier course of light-colored bricks runs the length of the bays, complemented by the light-colored brick band running the length of the building from the ground level to the window sill level. Between the two bays of each side of the facade, a plain panel of the darker brick, set in running bond, matches the size and shape of the window openings, and even includes a rowlock sill. The two-tone design emphasizes verticality, even with the long facade, due to the repetition of the vertical windows spaced closely together and separated by the lighter colored brick elements.

If viewed in plan, the north wing's north elevation would be the base of the E. This elevation consists of four bays, the first two of which are separated by a doorway at the end of the long hallway of the main interior hallway. As on the east elevation, each bay of the north facade contains four nine-over-nine double-hung windows. Plywood covers the lower halves, and the upper halves retain their muntins but not their glass. Each window is framed in darker brick, with a soldier course of the lighter brick spanning them and a panel of dark brick with a rectangle of light brick above. The entry is emphasized by a break in the roofline, a flared pediment of stone edged in light brick above a cartouche set into a panel of dark bricks. The cartouche features the same shallow urn bas relief ornament as on the main facade. Below a soldier course of light bricks, the doorway, recessed from the wall, is framed by dark bricks. A slight overhang projects out from the wall over the entry; the simple cornice is supported by two curvilinear brackets. The two remaining bays of the north elevation, the two on the right half of the facade, are slightly recessed from the plane of the two bays flanking the entry; these were part of a 1936 addition. These bays on the right side repeat the pattern of four windows separated by a solid brick element that matches each window in shape and size. Vents appear within the first, fourth, sixth, ninth, 10th, and 15th panels above the windows and spaces between windows.

The west elevation is composed of five sections, with the first, third, and fifth in one forward plane, as the three ends of the E-shaped plan, and the second and fourth the recessed portions within the E, serving as walls within two courtyards within the negative space of the E. The west facades are described here and within the courtyard descriptions that follow.

The first section is a wall of darker brick framed within the lighter brick on the edges and base, with a single light brick soldier course wrapping around from the north elevation from the course spanning the windows. A similar band of soldier coursed light bricks wraps around below the parapet wall. Recessed from the main plain of this largely unadorned wall is a set of four concrete stairs leading to a door cut into the wall and accentuated only by a flat arch of dark bricks set in a soldier course of dark bricks spanning the doorway.

The second section repeats the same use of brick: dark brick for the majority of the wall, with light brick at the base and in a band above windows and at roofline. Unlike on the north elevation, light brick is not used between the windows. From left to right, four windows identical to the majority of those on other elevations have plywood covering the lower halves, with the muntins and possibly some glass remaining in the upper halves. The window pattern changes after the fourth window, which is followed by a wider separation from a fifth window, which is also shorter in length than the others. It is a six-over-six double-hung window, also covered in plywood, and it corresponds to a bathroom inside the building. A downspout painted to match the light brick comes down from a conductor head between the first two windows and then again at the far left side of the wall after the fifth window.

The third section is the west end of the auditorium inside the school. Other than the continuation of the light and dark brick patterns, it is without ornament.

The fourth section is the mirror image of the second, with the six-over-six window on the left and the four nine-over-nine windows grouped on the right side of the facade.

Similarly, the fifth section of the west elevation mirrors the first, a dark brick wall trimmed in light brick and with a small recessed portion with largely unadorned doorway on the courtyard side.

Looking west into the first, or northernmost, courtyard, a classroom wing with a hallway along the courtyard is on the left, and the auditorium is on the right. A classroom and restroom are directly ahead. The hallway on the left features three nine-over-nine light windows that look out onto the courtyard (with plywood across the lower halves). Three each of regularly spaced downspouts and vents aid in drainage from the roof behind the parapet wall. The wall straight ahead is as described under the second section of the west elevation above: The second section repeats the same use of brick: dark brick for the majority of the wall, with light brick at the base and in a band above windows and at roofline. From left to right, four windows identical to the majority of those on other elevations have plywood covering the lower halves, with the muntins and possibly some glass remaining in the upper halves. The window pattern changes after the fourth window, which is followed by a wider separation from a fifth window, which is also shorter in length than the others. It is a six-over-six double-hung window, also covered in plywood, and it corresponds to a bathroom inside the building. A downspout painted to match the light brick comes down from a conductor head between the first two windows and then again at the far left side of the wall after the fifth window. The auditorium on the right side of the courtyard features six nine-over-nine windows and then a six-over-six at the western most end; this last window corresponds to the backstage area. Again, vents and downspouts are regularly spaced along the elevation.

The second, or southernmost courtyard, is a near mirror image of its counterpart as described above, although in addition to six windows plus a seventh corresponding to the backstage area, the auditorium also features a doorway from the backstage area. It is similar to those on the other wings of the E, this time with five concrete stairs leading to a paneled door with two-light transom above it.

The south elevation corresponds almost exactly to the north facade, with four bays of four windows, and an entryway with a flared pediment rising slightly above the parapet wall between the two bays closest to the main, east elevation. Each window is framed in darker brick, with a soldier course of the lighter brick spanning them and a panel of dark brick with a rectangle of light brick above. The entry is emphasized by a break in the roofline, a flared pediment of stone edged in light brick above a cartouche set into a panel of dark bricks. The cartouche features the same shallow urn bas relief ornament as on the main facade. Below a soldier course of light bricks, the doorway, recessed from the wall, is framed by dark bricks. A slight overhang projects out from the wall over the entry; the simple cornice is supported by two curvilinear brackets. The two bays of the west side of the south elevation, the two on the left half of the facade that were part of the 1936 addition, are slightly recessed from the plane of the two bays flanking the entry. Vents appear within the fifth, 10th, 11th, 14th, 16th, and 19th panels above the windows and spaces between windows.

Although initially configured in a T-shaped plan, since 1936, a year after the initial construction, the main Warren School building has been E-shaped in plan, with the spine of the shape running south to north and the main entrance on the east facade. This spine is the main volume of the building, and it is double loaded with classrooms and other spaces divided down the axis by a hallway that has doors at either end. Following the building's completion in 1935, the school district added two classrooms each on wings on the north and south ends of the hall, thus forming the top and bottom members of the E. These wings are single loaded, with classrooms along the outer walls and a hallway along the inner walls, each facing a courtyard. An auditorium makes up the middle member, the perpendicular element that once teed into the main hallway. It subdivides the west elevation into five sections, including two courtyards made by the three members of the E.

Classrooms are largely used for school district storage, although how secure or suitable the conditions are is unknown due to the number of missing window panes. The auditorium, with white-painted walls, still retains its original detailing, from the simple profile of the proscenium arch to the high picture rail and the crown molding wrapping around the room at ceiling height. The original window configuration is still apparent, despite lower window panes being covered. Much of the building's original hardwood flooring remains.

In 1936, when the district added four classrooms to the main school building, it also constructed a building on the north side of it to be used for a gymnasium and vocational/agricultural classes. Built with the same two colors as the main building, the rectangular volume is primarily faced in the darker color brick, with the light color at its base to match the other building, in a band running around the building below the clerestory windows on its west elevation, and at the roof line, which is capped with simple coping. The east facade features a low metal awning that hides a row of six square, six-light windows with light-color brick sills. Flanking the row of windows are two doors on the outer edges of the facade. Three longer horizontally oriented windows serve as clerestories. The south elevation has no fenestration, but a grid of lighter bricks, with vents and a single cartouche, echo the fenestration and contrasting bricks on the main school building. The west elevation features two rows of eight square, six-light windows, one row just above the light-colored brick base, and one row of clerestories above the soldier course of light brick that provides some ornamentation for the building. Downspouts providing drainage for the flat roof are spaced regularly on the west elevation, one at each outer edge, and one between the third and fourth and fifth and sixth windows. Historic photos indicate the fenestration patterns have changed somewhat over time. Also, the original entry on one side of the building, which featured a design more closely related to the main school's ornament, has been removed. Although the gymnasium is still in use, it has been altered somewhat from its original design, most likely at the time of the new building construction in the 1950s. It is unclear what the extent of the changes was, but the footprint is generally the same, as is its relationship to the main building.