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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Central High School

Central High School


This is a fairly typical example of a somewhat later, and larger school than the building in the background. Built in the commercial Romanesque-revival style, it has windows which are somewhat larger than might otherwise be seen. The Romanesque is undeniably present in the use of rusticated trim, the flat or rounded arches in the windows (rounded arch windows in the upper floors are very typical of the Richardsonian), and the concealing of the entrances to the building within large, tunnel-like openings. The west-facing building stand close to unpaved Ransom St. in the foreground. Two bicycles stand to the left of the main entrance, and a young man leans against the building to the right. A horse-drawn carriage and a wagon are at the far right.


Full Details

TitleCentral High School
Current AddressNo longer exists
Pre 1912 AddressRansom & Lyon
ArchitectWilliam G. Robinson
ContractorHauser, Hayden & Co., Grand Rapids
Date Constructed1892
Original OwnerGRPS
Original UsePublic School
Information SourceThomas R. Dilley; Grand Rapids Board of Education Minutes

The commercial Romanesque-revival style is characterized by general massiveness, both of the building itself, and of the heavy details employed. It differs from the true Romanesque, or even Romanesque Revival, in that it is built largely of brick (Romanesque and its revival is more typically built of rusticated stone, and more rarely, smooth cut stone, but brick is cheaper). The banding in the walls, marking the floor levels is interesting, and may be a hint of a greater consciousness of the structural aspects of the building in the mind of its designer, a factor which was seen in a little bit of the domestic construction of the time (i.e. the stick style), and was, of course seen much more clearly in the decades which followed. The large, slightly elliptical arch (as opposed to a round, true arch) in the upper end of the building is a bit unusual, but probably was necessary to fit within the design. This sort of element, which would have been structural, and not merely decorative in an original Romanesque structure, is very typical of the style. The decorative ends of the arches, called bosses, are reminiscent of medieval structural elements, and were used with wild, decorative success by both H. H. Richardson and later, by Louis Sullivan.

The building committee selected red brick facing with red oak finish as the finish of the exterior, which was installed by Messrs. Hauser, Hayden & Co., forerunners of Owen, Ames and Kimball. The cost of the building was $69,140.

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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