Granger ISD High School Building Historical Marker, Granger, Texas

Marker Text

Established in 1887, the Granger Common School District built three earlier school buildings (1887, 1906 and 1914) on this site before this structure was erected in 1924-25. A good example of institutional design of the period, the building features ornamentation of the Spanish Colonial Revival style, as exhibited in its "Alamotif" parapet, tile panels, cast-stone detailing at the parapet and entries, and an arched, ornamented main entry. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1991.

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GPS Coordinates
Latitude: 30.7206 Longitude: -97.4369

Address: 401 N Colorado St

History of Granger ISD High School Building Narrative: Loretta Skrovan Mikulencak -- Granger, Texas

The subject property, the high school building of the Granger Independent School District, stands in the northeastern quadrant of this small community, much as it has since its construction in 1924. It is a splendid edifice with large rooms and soaring ceilings. Steel casement windows comprise almost one entire wall of each and every room. The hallways are commodious, the stairways and landings wide and roomy, and a feeling of spaciousness permeates the premises.

Built-in the Spanish Colonial Derivative style popular at the turn of the century, the building is constructed of brick in hues resembling wet sand, on a concrete slab foundation with a level, gravel-surfaced roof.

Embellishments include mission-style parapets, tile mosaics, wrought iron, and an arched entrance. Originally, the flooring in the classrooms and the administrative offices was of rough slab lain over with wood over wood framing members, the interior walls, a combination of wood frame/plaster, just as they are today. (4) The structure's "piece de resistance" is the central wing extending northward, which today houses a grand, sunlit cafetorium. Originally, a slope-floored auditorium with a large balcony, its walls rise to majestic heights exceeding 20 feet. Casement windows line over two-thirds of the east and west walls from a level of four feet to the ceiling.

The magnitude of this construction at the cost of $135,000. is visual proof of how fiercely committed were the citizens of 1924 Granger to the establishment of an educational facility second to none.

(2) (8) Numerous accounts in early issues of the Granger News attest to how united this community was in its efforts to provide a quality education for its children. Although the township had not reached its projected goal of a population of 10,000 by the year 1920, Granger was, none the less, a prosperous and thriving community, and clearly, education was its top priority. (2)

Seemingly, that priority remained constant despite the erosion of the town's promise because 62 years later, in 1986, the citizens of the school district voted, overwhelmingly, to pass a bond issue in the amount of $ 700,000. for the renovation of this building and the construction of a separate elementary school. (12) Although there was some divisiveness on the matter of "renovation versus demolition" of the old structure, preservation prevailed. Only through the foresight of the Board of Education and the superintendent of that time and the historical orientation of a master architect did the old school building survives intact, its facelifted but unchanged from the image is presented at its dedication in long-ago 1925.

During the renovation, begun on June 1st, 1986, and completed by the summer's end, the brick outer walls were painstakingly re-mortared and the original steel casement windows repaired and retained.

For purposes of energy conservation, inner windows were installed, but these have the capacity of being raised to allow natural cooling during early spring and late fall. The floors that by 1986 resembled mountainous terrain were literally "jack-hammered" out, and new concrete floors were poured and carpeted. The walls of the entire interior were patched and repainted. A heating and cooling system was installed overhead, claiming only 22 inches of the 12-foot wall height, thus preserving the prized aura of spaciousness.

Miraculously, the structure, lovingly repaired and refurbished by caring craftsmen, is preserved in its original state and prepared to serve its beloved community for many generations to come.

Ultimately, however, no matter how grand or how worthy of recognition this edifice may be, in and of itself, it is still only the physical manifestation of its true essence. It is in the spirit of educational opportunity that abides within it; it is in its relationship to this community; it is in the bonding it has forged with those who have passed through its portals; it is in these attributes that its true worth and value lie. It is its role of caretaker of this tremendous spirit that renders it worthy, and that spirit had its beginnings long before this particular building came to life. That spirit came haltingly into being way back in the last century in the minds and hearts of the far-sighted pioneers who settled this central Texas area that came to be Granger. (2)

The development of the American Public School system was slow and tedious, and despite the passage of legislation in Massachusetts as early as 1642 and 1647, schools during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were, essentially, private and church institutions. Such schools were few in number, attendance was selective, and control rested in the hands of individuals and church groups. Growing demand for public education did not manifest itself until around the year 1800. Sometime later, largely as a result of the efforts of such men as Horace Mann in Massachusetts and Henry Barnard in Connecticut, the public school movement in America was launched. In the beginning, a small community became the unit that established a public school, usually a one-room elementary. Early laws permitted schools to be formed almost anywhere a half dozen families wished to establish one. If a community did not wish to do so, it could let matters stand.

This small-district pattern of organization remained the predominant method of establishment throughout the nineteenth century and, in places, even into the 20th. (5)

In Texas, as in much of the south, the pattern varied somewhat and was modified into county units. It was in one such unit, Williamson County, that the Granger Common School District came into being in 1887, along with many others that cropped up in surrounding areas and that would one day become part of what today is the Granger Independent School District, housed within the subject property. (6) That original school district had its beginnings, as did most schools of that era, in a white frame structure with a pot-bellied stove in each room around which the students gathered, in rotation, for warmth. (5)

In Williamson County, the organization of a public school system was already underway when the Civil War intervened.

By 1873 the county had 31 public schools, 36 teachers, and 1408 pupils. From the very beginning, some effort was made to monitor teachers' qualifications, and one J. W. Talbot was appointed to supervise the county's school system. In 1887 the "Superintendent of Public Instruction" office was created, and Professor Coleman was named to the post at a salary of $ 1000. per year. The schools remained under such county supervision until sometime in the 1970s when the State Board of Education and the Texas Education Agency took direct control of all school districts in the state of Texas. (6)

In the mid-1850s, Williamson County was but prairie, and the site of this school in what would one day come to be known as "Granger" was located in the Blackland belt of the easternmost reaches of that county.

One A. S. Fisher owned some 2000 acres in the area, and in 1884, he sold one-half interest in 175 acres of this tract to one W. C. Belcher. Together, they formed a partnership and platted the town. 58 blocks comprised that original township of Granger, and Blocks 42 and 47 of this original plat are the sites, not only of the subject of this application but of the original frame building constructed in 1887 and the two brick structures that followed, in 1906 and 1914. (1) (2)

Today the campus of Granger ISD has grown to encompass numerous other blocks, and its district boundaries have expanded beyond the original area shown on the enclosed plat dated 1924.

The growth of the district itself is well documented and came as a result of annexations to itself of the various common and independent school districts in the surrounding environs.

Williamson County court records affirm that the "incorporation" of the school district occurred on August 1, 1904, and that an extension of boundaries was enacted on August 8, 1916.

This action was confirmed by the 35th Texas Legislature on August 15, 1917. In 1932 the school was declared an independent district, again by the action of the state legislature. (1) (9)

A rich lode of documents ("requests to consolidate," "orders of elections to consolidate," "orders declaring results of elections," letters of requests to consolidate from the various districts, letters from the county school superintendents in the office at particular times to the Texas Education Agency Finance Division, acknowledgments by TEA of receipts of minutes from the Williamson County Board of Education, denoting actions on requests for consolidations, etc.) is on file in the archives in the Finance department of TEA, today. These documents disclose a trail of events that clearly indicate, in building-block fashion, how the current 101 square miles that comprise Granger ISD were acquired. (7)

The procedures to consolidation began with requests to the County Board of Education to do so by the districts involved.

If acted upon favorably by that Board, orders for elections were issued, and the citizens of each district then voted on the matter. If successfully voted on by both districts, the matter was again in the hands of the county superintendent and board, who then submitted the results to the Texas Education Agency. TEA gave final approval. (7)

In most instances, Granger ISD was already serving the children of the various districts long before formal consolidation occurred.

Records reveal that the Denson district was annexed by Granger on September 1, 1948, Moravia (# 83) on September 1, 1949. On February 1, 1949, Macedonia (# 66) merged with Palacky (# 7), and this consolidation became part of Granger ISD on September 1, 1955. Meanwhile, on September 1, 1952, Friendship (# 903) was allowed to retain its independent status by House Bill 246 and was not officially absorbed into the Granger system until September 1, 1958. Also, on September 1, 1950, Circleville (# 14) was consolidated with Jonah (# 26). On September 21, 1971, this particular combination was divided among four districts, Georgetown ISD (# 904), Hutto (# 906), Taylor (# 911), and Granger (# 905). Granger received slightly less than eight square miles, extending its southern boundaries to the San Gabriel River on the east side of Hwy 95 and also to the river for a few short miles to the west of the highway. The Granger Independent School District boundaries have remained static since that date, at 101 square miles. (1) (7)

In addition, in 1964 desegregation also brought unto the premises of the Granger school, the black students who had heretofore been housed in a separate facility known as Attuck High.

Two structures from that facility were also relocated onto the main campus. Known as Wing A and Wing B and situated west of the subject building, they are utilized to this day, used as classrooms and a band hall.

A simple recitation of the names of these various districts that are now part of the Granger school system attests to the diversity of a cultural and ethnic heritage that is embodied in what is now this school district and the building that is the outward manifestation of that rich heritage.

The acquisition of the properties that comprise the campus itself leaves no such clear-cut trail.

A warranty deed filed with the county clerk on March 22nd, 1922 and signed by one Frank Sorenson on March 20th, 1922, conveying a three-acre parcel of land to the Granger School District, described by metes and bounds denotes clearly that the area described includes Blocks 42 and 47 on which the subject building stands. And yet, that was also the site upon which stood the white frame structure that opened its doors in 1887 and gave birth to this school system and of the two brick buildings that followed as well as the current Granger High. Could it be that the buildings that preceded the subject of this narrative were erected on land that did not belong to the district at the time?

The remainder of the campus was acquired in piece-meal fashion, most in one, two, or three lot segments beginning in 1912, continuing in 1914 and 1926 with the majority of the area purchased in 1940 in a flurry of activity involving deeds, warranty deeds, and quit-claim deeds from varied individuals. During those years, the district also purchased various lots in other areas that it subsequently sold, exchanged, or disposed of by other methods. A city plat is attached denoting the area now in the school district's ownership. Lot 8 and 1/2 of 7 of Block 46 were acquired as recently as 1989 and Lot 6 and 1/2 of 7 in Block 55 were purchased at a sheriff's sale on the courthouse steps on February 5, 1991, to be utilized for possible expansion of district facilities since the site abuts the present campus to the east. (1) (12)

The history of the beginning of public education in this community and its continued growth is interesting, to say the least.

The quaintness of the language of the period, in news accounts, charming and genteel, belies the underlying strength of enormous proportions within the populace. A perusal of old documents and the early 1900 newspaper accounts of the events that transpired from 1887 to the present time reveals an extraordinary drama of determination and dedication on the part of the early settlers as well as those who followed in their footsteps. Some of these occurrences are difficult to understand in light of present-day social and economic conditions. For instance, what circumstances could have possibly prevailed in 1924 that prompted the citizens of that era to destroy two brick structures, one of which was a historic architectural jewel, and assume the task and financial burden of constructing the subject property? One of the predecessors was constructed in 1906, the other is 1914, so they could hardly have deteriorated to a state that would render them unusable or unsalvageable. Were finances not a consideration at all? We, in 1991, cannot imagine in our wildest dreams possessing the where with all to afford such a luxury of options. (2)

On the other hand, were it not for their vision, would the spirit of education have survived that little white schoolhouse that opened its doors in 1887? The simplicity of that beginning described in an early article that accompanied a photo of the simple frame building and was reprinted in the centennial edition of the Granger News is unfathomable to us today. The article simply states that "Professor Whitten was the first teacher and stayed for 3 years".

We surmise that the process continued after his tenure because the next reference that could be found to the school's existence appears in a 1906 edition of the News, stating that a brick building had been constructed in that year and that its first graduates were Dee Harbison and W. I. Hughes. The old frame structure continued to be utilized as the home economics department. In later editions of the newspaper, we learn that sometime around 1914 another brick building was erected to accommodate the continued growth of the student population. The elementary grades remained in the older structure, and the high school grades were ensconced in the new. The Class of 1920 was the first to graduate from the new high school. Copies of photos of these two buildings are attached and correspond with the sketches on a 1921 Sanborn Insurance Map that is also enclosed to substantiate the school district's existence at that point in time. (2) (3)

"A Report of Minutes of Board Meeting by Superintendent Womack" on May 15, 1913, News informs us that Professor W. J. Lewis of Midloathian had been hired to serve as principal and that the teachers engaged were Misses Emily Stanton, Mamie Fowler, Bessie Barker, Minnie Brown, and Hortense Rast. By resolution, the 11th grade was added to the curriculum. Claude Teer was named to serve out the unexpired term of one W. A. Miller whose resignation was accepted. In further business, J. S. Fox was re-elected President of the Board, Dr. M. R. Sharp was elected vice president, and Claude Teer, secretary. At this meeting, it was announced that 1913 graduation exercises would be held at Storrs Opera House and that Dr. J. C. Handy, President of Baylor University would "deliver the service" at the Baccalaureat ceremonies scheduled for May 25th. Another announcement made at this meeting, that the new high school would be ready for occupancy by September 1, 1913, was later proved erroneous because in 1914 editions of the newspaper the Board was still talking about "when the building is completed". (2)

The next segment of the saga unfolds on the pages of a February 1914 edition of the Granger News which informs us that "the school board has purchased an entire block in front of the old building and one lot southeast of the new building".

It further conveys the board's intent to "remove the cottages thereon in order to expand the campus area for outdoor activities for the children and to provide a park, a green area for beautification purposes". The board also set forth that "grass will be sodded where it can grow and sand be placed where it cannot". To that long ago Board of Education has also attributed the quote, "Granger does not propose to be left behind." C. N. Shaver was superintendent at the time. He was succeeded by C. D. Eaves who served until 1925. On May 28th, 1925, an announcement appeared in the News stating that A. S. Smith of Devine, Texas had been elected superintendent. The article also affirmed that Granger was completing construction of a $ 135,000. the school building and now employed "twenty-five or more teachers".

In September of 1925, the subject property became a reality. The community, bursting with pride in its monumental accomplishment threw for it a grand dedicatory celebration which was duly recorded in the local paper. The News extolled the grandness of its design and cited that more than 1000 citizens attended the ceremonies to admire its magnificence. John P. Trlica, a local photographer of the era preserved its brand new image for all posterity, and glowing accounts deemed that it was the finest school building in the state of Texas. (2) (8)

Such was this building's birth in 1925, but the events that preceded it, from 1887 onward also became an integral part of its essence at its very inception, and it holds all of them in its memory.

To that memory bank, throughout the years, this building has added its own experiences. This edifice remembers vividly the succession of superintendents that followed its first administrator, A. S. Smith Barkley, Morrison, Kotrla, Nalls, Goodjoin, Sides, Higdon, Kudla, all of whom helped form its destiny, down to the present superintendent, Raymond Etheridge, who was instrumental in ensuring its survival. Also, in vivid memory, it retains the educators it welcomed into its environs throughout the years of its life. A great number of them, too, played an essential role in preserving its heart and its character. But most of all, this building remembers the children it has sheltered for the past sixty-six years and beyond. It hears their laughter, still, and their footsteps in its hallowed halls continue to echo in its memory.

Ultimately, this structure's worth and its right to recognition can best be measured by the successes and triumphs of these children it has nurtured and sent forth to seek their destinies. There have been thousands of them throughout the years and each of their lives, each of their achievements have their foundations in this splendid edifice known as Granger High.

Author of Narrative: Loretta Skrovan Mikulencak -- Granger, Texas