As Paula Shannon and I were discussing the present renovation of the Parks Department she asked if I had seen where some of the siding had been removed from the side with the double door entrance. She was curious of the strange preponderance of bricks underneath. 

Being younger than I, she didn’t remember the building that had been connected to that area. The double doors than now serve as the entry to the building were formerly at the end of a long hall way with classrooms on either side.

I thought we might all enjoy seeing the magnificent building, of which, Portland was so proud, and with good reason. Beginning with the decision in 1913 by the county school board to establish two first-class (four-year) high schools in the county in towns meeting certain guidelines and requirements.  

The community desiring such school was to furnish not less than seven acres of land with a building to cost not less than $10,000 thereon, constructed under the supervision of County High School Board.  Portland was the first community to meet all the requirements, so they were selected for the first and the other went to Gallatin.

I’m sure the citizens eagerly watched the progress as the building went up and by 1915 the building was ready for students. One can only imagine the thrill! In the year 1915. there were only two brick buildings in the City of Portland, and they were on Main Street.

At that time the building was designed to accommodate elementary through high School students. As the town and school population continued to grow there were several additions.  I’m not sure what year the last addition was completed but it housed the cafeteria that also served as the gymnasium.  In 1931 another high school building was completed. 

When I entered school in the early 1950s, I remember being in Mrs. Beulah Reddick’s first grade class on the right side of the front entrance. Interestingly, I returned to that same room for my eighth-grade year under Mrs. Dorothy Turner. They were two of my favorite teachers. After the first two rooms on either side of the entrance, there were steps to access the second floor and then classrooms on either side of the hallway all the way to the back to the double doors that opened into the cafeteria. 

When you entered the cafeteria, you turned to the left and went through the line.  The service area is still the same in today’s Parks Department building. That was the addition to the 1915 school that is still standing. It was saved when the front part was torn down in about 1962. 

At that time a new elementary school had been built on Gibson Street in the late 1950s and the new High School on South Broadway was occupied. And the 1931 school became the Middle School. I’m not sure why the 1915 building could not be saved, I suppose it was deemed beyond repair, but that was a period when the city was beginning to speak of revitalization and making everything look new!

Johnnie Freedle is a member of the Highland Rim Historical Society.

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