Original West Main Street school opened Sept. 5, 1892


In the early 1800s, various one-room schoolhouses served the settlers in this area. As some readers will remember, they were still going strong in the country well into the 20th century. But as the population in Pleasant Valley (and then Plain City) grew, larger school buildings in town became necessary.

In 1876 a two-story, four-room schoolhouse was built on South Chillicothe Street. It was called the Union School. In 1879, another Union School of the same design was built to the north of town, in the vicinity of what is now Pastime Park. The South Chillicothe Street school served students in Madison County, the other was for Union County students. In 1883 a high school was organized at the South Chillicothe Street school by Superintendent S. A. Albright. It was a three-year program. The first graduating class was in 1886 and consisted of three students, Olive Black, J. L. Haner and Anna Shepper.

By 1891, the decision had been made to combine the two schools, and construction began on a much larger school on West Main Street. It was three stories, with a striking central tower, and included 12 classrooms and an auditorium. It was built at a cost of $35,000. The Union County Union School was torn down, and the Madison County school was sold to the town for $1,250. It became the “corporation building,” now known as City Hall. (The second floor was removed in 1929.)

The new Plain City School opened on Sept. 5, 1892. Students who lived in town walked to school; those in the outlying areas came in a horse-drawn school wagon (which was enclosed in the winter and heated by a small kerosene stove). First through sixth grades were on the first floor; seventh through 12th were on the second floor. The auditorium was on the third floor, but this floor was eventually condemned and used only for storage.

Jane Bidwell Anderson, who graduated from the school in 1933, left a written description of the building.

“Entering the front door of the school building, a wide stairway led to the main floor; two small stairs on either side led to the boys’ and girls’ basements.

“At the left inside the front door was the rope for the bell that Otto “Happy” Arthur rang several times a day. Occasionally one could see some students hurrying toward the school as the “last bell” was ringing.

“There were six rooms on the main floor, grades one and four on the left, grades two and three on the right. The long hall contained drinking fountains, and at the rear were grades five and six. At either end of the hall, two stairways led to the second floor.

“At the rear of the upstairs hall were grades seven and eight. Miss Mabel Arthur taught grade seven. Miss Louise Scheirer was the eighth grade teacher.

“The four high school classrooms were in the front of the second floor. A third floor had been condemned and was used only to store furniture, etc.”

While a big step up from the school buildings that had served Plain City before, the West Main Street School had its limitations. There was no meeting room or library; most gatherings were held in the freshman room. School floors were oiled wood. (What would the fire inspectors say today?) There were no storm windows, and heat was furnished by an old coal furnace. In cold weather students often wore their coats during class.

In the early days, there were separate boys and girls lunchrooms in the basement where students could eat their home-packed lunches. Later, the Home Economics room became the cafeteria, where hot meals could be purchased — 15 cents bought everything on the menu. Mrs. Hod Wilcox was the cook, assisted by volunteer mothers.

Despite what we would see as deficiencies, the students loved their school and cheered mightily for its teams.

In 1924, the first volume of the school yearbook, The Plane, was published. The next year’s volume was dedicated to a popular high school teacher, Miss Flora (Florence) McCampbell. Two years later, Miss McCampbell hung herself in the stairwell of the central tower that led to the condemned third floor. Two students on an errand for the principal discovered her body.

By the mid-1930s, the old school was crowded and outdated. With help from the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, the town was able to tear down the old school and erect a larger and more modern building in its place. The new building was dedicated on March 6, 1938 and served the town until 2011.

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The original Plain City School on West Main Street opened in 1892. This building housed first through 12th grades until 1935.
http://www.plaincity-advocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2017/09/web1_OldPlainCitySchoolpicbw.jpegThe original Plain City School on West Main Street opened in 1892. This building housed first through 12th grades until 1935. Contributed photo

In 1909 the Advocate printed these cheers for the Plain City High School athletic teams. Not quite what we are accustomed to today.
http://www.plaincity-advocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2017/09/web1_HighSchoolCheerspicbw.jpegIn 1909 the Advocate printed these cheers for the Plain City High School athletic teams. Not quite what we are accustomed to today. Contributed photo

http://www.plaincity-advocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2017/09/web1_PlainCityHistoricalSocietylogobw.jpegContributed photo

By Rosemary Anderson

Plain City Times

Rosemary Anderson is the vice president of the Plain City Historical Society.