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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Central School, District No.1

Central School, District No.1


This three-story brick building, with a tower rising from the southwest corner, is a fairly typical example of school construction from the mid-19th century, in the Second Empire style. It is characterized by a boxy arrangement of squares and rectangles; the tower is topped by the decorated Mansard roof, typical of the style, with an entrance at its base. The windows are typically symmetrically spaced singly or in pairs, and are most often topped with decorative lintels in a true or segmented arch. Construction is generally of dark brick, atop an elevated basement level of rusticated ashlar, usually granite.


Full Details

TitleCentral School, District No.1
Current AddressNo longer exists
Pre 1912 AddressRansom, Lyon & Barclay
ArchitectThomas Pratt, Northampton MA; Reuben Wheeler, supervising architect, Grand Rapids
Date Constructed1867
Original OwnerGRPS
Original UsePublic School
Information SourceThomas R. Dilley; History of the City of Grand Rapids by Albert Baxter

Many buildings in this style had one or more towers as part of the design, at the base of which would be an entrance to the building. It is characterized by a boxy arrangement of squares and rectangles, usually topped by the decorated Mansard roof which is the moniker of the style. The style was favored for buildings of this sort not only because it was then fashionable in appearance, but because it allowed for large, rather open rooms, and easily accommodated large windows. In this instance, it is likely that the city fathers were attracted to this form because, sitting atop the highest spot in the city, it would make a statement about the importance of education in the overall plan, and would assist in demonstrating the cultural sophistication of the community.

The building, heated by steam and lighted by gas. contained twenty rooms and had room for 600 pupils. The lower floor was occupied by eighth-grade pupils, and the two upper floors by high school students. The office of the superintendent was located on the first floor of the tower. The Kent Scientific Institute, the forerunner of the Public Museum, occupied several recitation rooms.

CollectionColl. #91, Grand Rapids Illustrated Coll., History & Special Collections Dept., Archives, Grand Rapids Public Library

Reproduction and copyright information regarding this image is available from Grand Rapids History & Special Collections, Archives, Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids, MI

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