Monday, October 10, 2011

Davey Discoveries

When I posted last, I had hoped it would be the first of a succession of Kent Schools-related posts.  Well, life had other plans.  After an unexpected trip to the hospital at the end of August, surgery, recovery, getting back to work, and other life adventures the past month-and-a-half, I finally find myself able to start catching up on blogging again.

 I decided to blog again about what many in Kent refer to as the Davey building.  It is currently Davey Elementary School, but opened originally as Theodore Roosevelt High School in 1922, as Davey Junior High School in 1959, and Davey Middle School in 1993.  After a major renovation in 1999-2000, it reopened in August 2000 as Davey Elementary School.  It is the oldest school building in the Kent City School District (DePeyster School is actually older, but no longer serves as a school).  As I talked about in my blog post about Davey last year, I attended the building for grades 6-8 in the mid 1990s during its run as Davey Middle School.  Even as a student I recognized the building's rich history and was always fascinated by it and how much it has changed over the years.  Recently, I've been able to find out even more about the building's early days and confirm some of my suspicions about how things were when it opened and even discover some things I never even knew!

Subbing at Roosevelt the last 2-plus years, I've spent some time in the teacher's lounge for lunch or other down time.  In the lounge is a display case of Roosevelt memorabilia, which includes a photocopy of the 1922 dedication what is now Davey.  I had been pining to get the case open to get that program and the 1959 program from the original portion of the current high school because I suspected the 1922 program had a map of the building when it was new which would answer some of the questions I had.  I finally was able to get it open last month and was more than thrilled to find that the 1922 program did indeed have a detailed building map that not only shows the building's layout, but even details like where doors and windows were.  I've also been participating in a Facebook group called "You Know You're From Kent if/when..." that has several history-minded people like myself and past Roosevelt graduates who attended school at "Old" Roosevelt and even scanned some yearbook pictures and/or shared experiences.  It's been a lot of fun!  Here are some of my discoveries and confirmations along with the building maps from the 1922 dedication of what was then Theodore Roosevelt High School.

I was particularly happy to see the picture on top of the southeast view of the school as it originally appeared.  The 1966 addition to the school was built on this side, so you can't see it anymore.  In the background you can see the end of the gym that is covered up and where the windows used to be on that side of the gym.

Approximate views from the 1922 angles as seen in 2006.  As you can see in this second picture, not much has changed on this side!

1922 map of the basement and 1st floors.  This confirmed what I suspected in my previous blog that the original balcony in the gym was three-sided.  Today only one side remains (far left side) and it is separated by a wall from the rest of the gym and the floor on it was leveled, so most people don't even realize it was ever a balcony.  Of course today the full balcony wouldn't work because a regulation-sized basketball court wouldn't fit on the floor below!  The basement plan also shows where the original doors to the gym were that have been bricked over.  Other points of interest include the boys and girls locker alcoves on the first floor, the "dental clinic" on the first floor, and a "foot warmer" where the display case is now across the hall from the main entrance to the auditorium (labeled as "Assembly Room").  I've been told the foot warmer is actually still there underneath the display case!  My lingering question is whether or not the "passageway" on the left (west) side of the auditorium was open air or fully enclosed like it is now.  The passageway on the right (east) side was most definitely open air with a roof prior to the construction of the 1966 addition.  I also never realized that the far left (west) side of the 1st floor was one huge room originally.  When I was at Davey it had long been divided into 3 rooms and today is divided into 2 rooms (music and art) with 2 offices in between.  This building was also the home of the entire Board of Education too!
Map of the 2nd and 3rd floors in 1922.  I was surprised to see the emergency exit on the front right corner of the balcony.  That doorway is still there, but goes into the back of the teacher prep room (where the copy machine is) that is located in what used to be a staircase.  Both staircases on the right side of the building were removed during the 1966 addition.  I couldn't help but notice how many staircases there are in this building (particularly staircases that are more than likely emergency exits), which leads me to believe it was influenced by the Collinwood School Disaster just a few years prior (1908).  
Another discovery made recently was the sign that was once over the front doors.  Last year a local antique dealer, Don Barrett, found a large metal sign that read "THEODORE ROOSEVELT HIGH" with "Class of 1933" in small letters below it.  Roger Sidoti, who was principal of Roosevelt until this past summer, bought the sign and it's currently sitting in the wood shop at Roosevelt.  There are some tentative plans to mount it and have it displayed at the high school.  Where it was mounted at Davey is still visible (the bolt holes are still there) and one of the posted yearbook pictures from 1959 (last year the building served as Roosevelt) show the sign above the door.  As far as I know it's only the second class memorial to get moved from "Old Roosevelt" to the current building, the other being a decorative medallion of the school seal from the Class of 1940 in the sidewalk in front of the main entrance off North Mantua Street.  It had previously been in the sidewalk that goes straight out from the front entrance at Davey.  All other class memorials are still at Davey.  The current Roosevelt building has very few class memorials.  Most class "gifts" these days are purchases of equipment or something low-key (Class of 1999, however, helped pay for the large metal Rough Rider sculpture at the main cafeteria entrance) versus the bronze plaques, lamp posts, and even a Bible verse (Psalm 90:12) that are all over and around Davey.  

Front doors of Davey Elementary School on October 5, 2011 showing where the bolt holes are still visible.
Sign sitting on its side in the wood shop at Roosevelt.  On the back are wedges that angled the sign down slightly.

Picture of the front doors at "Old" Roosevelt in late 1958/early 1959 in its last year as a high school.  The metal
sign can be seen above the keystone of the arch.  It even gives off a small triangular shadow showing that it was angled down slightly, which matches the structure of the sign currently sitting in the wood shop.  The lamp posts seen are still there and were restored recently!
Class of 1925 Memorial from Psalm 90:12.  This is over the main doors to the auditorium and is the first thing you see upon entering the school through the main front doors. 
School seal from the Class of 1940.  This is located in the sidewalk right in front of the entrance to the auditorium lobby facing North Mantua Street at the current Roosevelt High School.  It is the only class monument currently on display at the high school that was moved from the previous building to the current one that I am aware of.  It was previously located in a triangular area where the sidewalk from the main entrance (which lines up with the centerline of North Prospect Street) to what is now Davey met the intersection of Lowell, Whittier, Park, and Prospect.  When I was a student at Davey, there was a similar medallion in the sidewalk that had been placed there in 1959 for the dedication of Davey Junior High School.  It was removed during the 1999-2000 renovations and not replaced.  
Location of the seal seen above at the current high school building.  I had to brush it off before I took the picture above!  "New" Roosevelt opened in 1959.  This section of the building (auditorium addition) opened in late 1972.