Indiana and Louisiana Avenue

The Louisiana Avenue School

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Supporting the preservation and appreciation of Perrysburg's historic architectural heritage

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The Louisiana Avenue School:

 

There was a time when, upon approaching Perrysburg, one of the first things you saw from a distance was the imposing 80-foot tower of the old Louisiana Avenue School, a handsome local landmark and certainly the most dominant structure on the avenue for nearly 60 years.

The public school system here goes back to 1849 when voters first passed a $1,600 bond issue for construction of Perrysburg Union School. It, too, was located near where the present school stands between East Indiana and Fifth Street. Despite being a frame building that was, it is said, often used between terms by tramps and transients, it survived for 20 years until it was enlarged and bricked over.But in the early morning hours of May 24, 1894, a fire destroyed the building.

The local paper headlined the disaster "A smouldering Ruin! The Dear Old School-house!" In the same breath it said that it was never a suitable building for school, that "its long stairs (to the third floor) have been the cause of death of many a young lady who might be a healthy and happy woman today," and that its bad lighting was the reason a great number of people in town were wearing spectacles. (Perhaps the editor must have still been sore over a bad grade at one time.)

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Indiana & Louisiana Avenue 1899

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Indiana and Louisiana Avenue 2008

With Perrysburg's students of all ages suddenly without classrooms, the old Town Hall (built as a courthouse) and the former Perrysburg Journal Building on Front Street were immediately pressed into service. Six months later voters approved a $20,000 bond issue, and together with $10,000 collected from insurance, built the building pictured above.

Local architect Arthur Hitchcock of the Toledo firm of Bacon and Huber, which also designed the original Way Library building, drew up plans for a three-story Richardsonian Romanesque building of contrasting red and yellow bricks. Typical of that architectural style, and certainly the commanding features, were the massive square and pointed bell tower that rose from a three-sided bay to the left of the main entrance, and the rounded arch doorway. The large open belfry is said to have offered an unmatched view of the village and countryside. A more slender brick chimney, nearly as high, graced the rear of the building.

The school comprised 10 rooms (comfortably seating 50 students each, according to authorities, but could squeeze in 60 by crowding a little), and was expected to serve the estimated 700 school-age youth of the district for at least five years.

Some dissident voters claimed the building was too fancy. Why should it have a large third-floor auditorium with opera-style seating, they asked. The answer was that the steep hipped roof, with pointed corners, itself added a full story and a half. If the space was going to be there, what better place for an auditorium that was needed in town anyway.

The place was heated by coal-fired hot air furnaces, had oil-soaked flooring and for years depended on water from a well located about half way to the street. Every room was supplied with a bucket and a dipper.

The building served for both grade and high school until 1916 when, because some primary students were again being taught in the Town Hall, taxpayers voted for a $40,000 two-story high school wing in the rear. Filled to capacity again by 1929, school voters passed a $225,000 bond levy for a new high school building to the east on Elm Street (designed by the firm of Britsch and Munger). Completed in 1931, it was joined to the older building in 1957 when the connecting corridor on the Indiana side and the gym were built.

Following World War II, Perrysburg began feeling growing pains. By this time the old original Louisiana Avenue structure was out of use due to being condemned as being unsafe by the state. However, to accommodate bulging classrooms, $125,000 was approved in 1953 to renovate it. In 1954 the shaky bell tower, from which scampish students often delighted in hanging signs and banners, was dismantled, the high roof and auditorium replaced with the present flat roof, the double central stairway with solid oak banisters replaced by a single stairway, and new heating, plumbing, lighting, flooring and toilets installed.

It was a major overhaul but it preserved a going facility on about the same spot where formal public education began in this community 146 years earlier.

After serving for many years as Commodore Junior High School, the building complex was closed in 2002 as an educational facility after a new high school was built on Roachton Road and the Junior High moved to the old high school on East South Boundary.

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