Wednesday, September 19, 2012

John Marshall High School - Before and After

With the recent 1909-1960 John Marshall High School reunion, I figured I'd pull together a few pictures of the old building that resided at 8th and Marshall Streets in downtown Richmond (the "new" John Marshall High School is on Old Brook Rd in Richmond's north side).
"John Marshall High School opened in September 1909, even before it was completed, with grades 8-11. It was named for John Marshall (1755-1835), the eminent Virginia jurist and Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The school was located on the site that had been his garden; the John Marshall House still stands in the same block.

Ground was broken for this building on March 23, 1908; the cornerstone was laid on September 30, 1908 (its contents were turned over to the Valentine Museum in 1972). The annual report for the year ended July 31, 1909, includes a picture of John Marshall High School. The dedication events (December 9, 1909), spanning a day, attracted well over 1,200 persons and included parades, a chorus, and a 21­gun salute from the Richmond Howitzers as the flag was hoisted. The large three-story stone building had an impressive temple portico with four Doric columns and a 1,500-seat auditorium (but no gymnasium).

When John Marshall was conceived and built, it was considered the grandest, most expensive schoolhouse ever erected in the South. Local newspaper articles referred to it as "The People's University" because its planners intended it to be a higher education building for the great majority of people who were not privileged to attend high school and college at that time. John Marshall was said to have a prestige unequaled by any other public high school in the state.

John Marshall closed in June 1960, and the faculty and students were transferred to the new John Marshall High School on Old Brook Road. A School Board resolution of October 26, 1960, declared the building surplus to the City and stated: 'The building and grounds are a part of the Civic Center, and the abandonment of John Marshall to become a part of the Civic Center was one of the conditions that led in the building of the two new high schools...the John Marshall building is now located in an area that is primarily commercial, and therefore has become an undesirable site for a public high school..." The decision to demolish the old building met with some protest, but it was razed in September-October-November 1961; gavels made from its timbers were presented to School Board members in February 1962. The John Marshall Courts Building is now located on the site of the old John Marshall High School."

Click the photos below for the high resolution images. First up, a brand new John Marshall High School in 1910:

Next, four sad pictures of the demolition of the school in 1961:

Top photo courtesy of The Library of Congress, all other photos courtesy of VCU Libraries

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