Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: The Precious 1926 Building

By , 9 December, 2009, No Comment

The ZHS building (or campus) has been a pillar of pride and a theme of triumph and tragedy throughout ZHS history. The very first ZHS building was a badge of pride when in 1910 it was opened. At both the 1975 and 1977 Alumni banquets, former ZHS student, Simon Geiger, recalled with joy how he hauled the logs for the construction of the wood building in the early 1900s from Greer’s Mill with a team of oxen. The first ZHS building in 1910 was divided into two rooms. The building was sometimes maintained by the parents and they helped to clean the building.

Zephyrhills suffered several fires that devastated their school buildings. The first ZHS two story building located between 7th and 8th street was burned to the ground in 1926. A bond issue was passed and a new $50,000 building was opened at 10th Avenue and 10th Street in Zephyrhills. At the time, the local newspaper reported on August 27, 1926: “It is a very pleasing structure—practically fireproof.” Like the Titanic, whose builders boasted of being unsinkable, these words would prove to be somewhat prophetic for the community which suffered another loss during the difficult years of the Depression in 1935. The “new” brick building was  also  severely damaged by fire. The third ZHS building was reconstructed with the help of President Roosevelt’s WPA project and opened once again in 1937 with great pride at 10th Avenue and 10th Street.

Tales of quirky ZHS building attachments and nuances fill the history pages. A fish pond in front of the school building was maintained by principals in the 1930’s and 1940’s and was a signature piece for the school. Often the principals lived on the school campus similar to a parsonage on church grounds. Ritual surrounds the many building additions: 1967-the first gymnasium, after so many years of playing basketball outdoors; the annex building in 1947, the new campus on the Hercules property on 12th street in 1975; the football stadium in 1979 and the ZHS Activity Center in 1980.

I think one feels the sense of “home” in regard to the pride of the school building when they recall the visit to the 1926 building at 10th Avenue (what is now Raymond B. Stewart Middle School) upon its final open-house in 2005 just before it was demolished. Former students visiting the building recalled school and developmental milestones—their first kiss, a dreaded test, a school fight, a pep rally and so much more. 1955 Alum, Craig Miller, shared a folksy story in which he was asked by the school principal, Mr. McPherson, to rid the school of a skunk in exchange for some vacation from school; the story illustrates how the school was seen as an extension of home and stakeholders had somewhat of a collective sense of ownership for the school building.

Countdown to Centennial

Countdown to Centennial
By Madonna Jervis Wise and Clereen Morrill Brunty of the 100th Anniversary Committee, ZHS. Article originally appeared in the Zephyrhills News on January 15, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

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