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Central High: Buyer Needed to Save Historic St. Louis School Before It's Too Late

Categories: Architecture

NaffzigerCentral2014.JPG
Except as indicated, all photos by Chris Naffziger
Central High School, at the corner of Garrison and Natural Bridge.

Central High School has seen better days in its 100-year-old history. Boarded up since 2004, the building at the corner of North Garrison and Natural Bridge avenues now shows the signs of almost a decade of abandonment. While many of the vacant schools in the St. Louis Public School District have fallen victim to scavengers, Central High seems to have suffered far more than others with vandals destroying or walking off with its exterior stonework and copper.

One can only wonder how much damage vandals have committed inside the shuttered building. Meanwhile, neighbors and those with a connection to the school can only watch the building's slow-motion destruction.

"It was -- and still is -- a fine building, so on a practical level I'm disheartened that it isn't being put to some use," says Kara Clark, a graphic-design professor who attended the school back in the 1990s.

See also: Old Breweries Tell the Forgotten Legacy of Falstaff Beer in St. Louis

It wasn't always like this. At one time the St. Louis public schools were the envy of educators across the nation, thanks to its grand buildings designed by architects William B. Ittner and Rockwell M. Milligan. Drawing inspiration from the great private educational institutions of Great Britain, Ittner and Milligan created veritable castles of learning over several decades, including Central High School.

MoHistYeatmaned.jpg
Photo courtesy of Missouri History Society
Central High School in its heyday.

Originally named Yeatman High School, the building was to fill the need for additional classrooms in the rapidly expanding city of St. Louis. By 1900 the city's population was nearing 600,000, and yet it had only one public high school, the former Central High School on Grand Boulevard. The school district turned to Ittner for two new high schools: Yeatman and McKinley High School on the south side. McKinley opened in 1902, Yeatman opened in 1904. Three years later, Yeatman added two new wings to accommodate its ever-growing student body. In 1927 a tornado destroyed Central High School, bringing even more students to Yeatman, which changed its name to Central High School. The building last housed the Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, which moved out in 2004.

PowersCentral2002.jpg
Courtesy of Robert Powers, Built St. Louis
Central High School in 2002, before its closure in 2004.

St. Louis Public Schools has suffered declining enrollment since it peaked in 1967 at more than 100,000 students. One by one, the district has closed its buildings to keep in line with its shrinking student body and to save on maintenance and other costs. Every so many years parents hold their breath, hoping their child's school will survive the next round of closings. Currently, St. Louis owns several dozen empty schools, in varying degrees of repair.

Read more about the plight of Central High.


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29 comments
Angie Cunniff
Angie Cunniff

I graduated here in 1996. Such a shame to see it being wasted for so long. What can we do to help? And how can I get in to take photos?

Jim Phillips
Jim Phillips

Way sad. This entire story is sad, let alone the building.

Phil Janovick
Phil Janovick

Really ??? Our city would be that ignorant to let this be destroyed Really ????

Laura Dee
Laura Dee

Wish I was rich so I can go save awesome buildings like this!

Michael M Moore
Michael M Moore

I say tear it down and put in its place a dollar tree store...yeah that will brighten up the neighborhood...another dollar store...or how about a check cashing place...

Steve Keller
Steve Keller

Architecture isn't the point. Education is. This neighborhood needs a new center for education and doesn't have any money to fund it.

Stancy Tarheel
Stancy Tarheel

just make it an historic landmark and use goverment funding or is that easier said than done

Polly Phillips
Polly Phillips

It is such a shame. never again will our country see such architecture.

Linda SansSouci
Linda SansSouci

What a great looking building. I home someone buys & develops it, leaving the historic features......

Stu Katz
Stu Katz

My Mom graduated Central in '34

Rob Allen
Rob Allen

WTF do you know, your "great city" is worse than St.Louis.

Rob Allen
Rob Allen

Knock it down, there isn't anything that can be done with that POS. The only thing it's good for is to make a housing unit for hookers and crack heads...something else Stl needs more of.

Isabelle Jean
Isabelle Jean

Had a lot of great days in that school. So sad to see it now.

wgferg
wgferg

It's not hard to sell. They city has a grandiose fantasy of how much a 100 year old school building is worth. Instead of auctioning the schools to get "fair market value", they're going to hold onto them into they are nothing more than a demolition ball target. It's pretty obvious to anyone that something that hasn't sold for 10 years, isn't priced at fair market value.

whoq
whoq

Just a block down from beautiful Fairgrounds Park... how could it be so hard to sell in this lovely neighborhood?

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Shut the fuck up fat fuck

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Great idea coming from the fucker from farmington, country fried asshat

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

@whoq I'm sure your mom would be interested since she spends so much time on the side of the road up there anyway

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