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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Where Did Old South High School Go?

One of my best friends attended South High School in Salt Lake City. I mentioned to my friend recently that I had been hanging around that campus; Salt Lake Community College now owns it. I walked all over the campus today taking photographs, and when I got home, I looked online to compare what I had seen with any images of the campus as it was when it was still a high school.


There are very few online photographs of the high school at all, and I saw none from the interior that are from the period. According to an article on Wikipedia, the high school was inaugurated in 1931 and closed in 1988. The photographs for that article were all taken in 2013, so what you see is what Salt Lake Community College did with the old campus. I am puzzled. With more than 50 years of service as a high school, why are there so few photographs online? Are all the former students still mourning and unable to face the task of scanning and uploading pictures from their high school glory days? Or was the time spent there so bad that they prefer not to memorialize it? Oh dear.

Is there anything left my friend would recognize, I wondered. Here are a few things I think are timeless, followed by the major changes.
I think this northeast corner must be unchanged from its original look. I can’t say the same for how big the tree is now, nor for where the paving and grass may have been altered. The overall look of the school is one of a modified fortress. It is a long, high brick building with tower-like effects and sort of crenellated effects.

Look at this decoration. The school was built in the 1920s and early 1930s, so it had all sorts of pretty art deco details in its construction. I’ll show you some of the interior decor a little later that continues the same theme.

This view is of the front of the school from the extreme north end. It is a long school! It stretches almost two blocks, so a walk from one end to the other I think might be almost a quarter of a mile. What a way to keep the student body physically fit: make them have classes at each extreme end, with only ten minutes between classes! That’d get them running.
On the front of the building are three huge concrete panels saying “South City Campus”—the few old photographs I did see show that these panels, if you couldn’t already guess it, used to say “South High School.” I wonder how different the landscaping is now from what my friend remembers. I do like what they have done. A lot of water-wise planting is mixed with geometric shapes and beautiful old and newer trees.

On the south end of the building an addition was put on. This houses the Salt Lake City School District’s Innovations Early College High School Career & Technical Center. I have little idea of what that all entails, but I do see these students a lot, changing classes and shrieking as high schoolers do about whatever-it-is that excites them these days—the opposite sex, technology toys, clothes, gossip and social life. With the exception of the modern toys, not much has changed about the behavior of high school students forever.

Here is my composite of how the south end of the school looks these days. I sort of wish the architects had used some of the decorative elements of the original: brick with some cool colored stone patterns. Ah well. At least it isn’t truly awful. At least, I don’t think it is.

That takes care of the south end of campus.

On the east side where I understand there used to be a football stadium are now parking lots and other landscaping features. There also happens to be a huge building addition, three stories high and stretching from the south end to the Grand Theater. Here are my views of these things.
On the extreme southeast corner, this little patio area is tucked away behind walls. I think it needs more garden greenery to be anything charming, but perhaps it is just getting started.

This is the huge addition on the east side, south of the Grand Theater.

Here is the east side of the campus from the Grand Theater and northwards. Sorry my composite is so rough! I don’t have access to Photoshop right now. Maybe later in the summer!

Whittier Elementary School is behind the east side fence. I wonder if anyone I knew went to Whittier back in the day. I have no idea how long it has been there. There does not seem to be any historical information on the school website.

This church is tucked into a slot on the north side of campus on Kensington Ave. It belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and serves congregations in the Sugarhouse area. I was going to look them up and tell you exactly what wards and when they meet, but that website was down for maintenance when I was writing this, so if I remember to update it, you will see that information here. It looks like a pretty old building; I bet it is more than 60 years old. (Okay, I know that is not very old in terms of churches throughout the world, but in Salt Lake City that is sort of middling old.)

We are entering the building through the back door to the Grand Theater. This actually lets us access that big new addition on the east side of the campus. That is where most of the art and communications classes are held for Salt Lake Community College.

As you can see, the panels in the entrance foyer change color constantly. It is a peaceful space, but everything echoes in it.

So just to the left of the colored panels we go through this doorway and turn right.

This hallway cuts through the building from back to front, leading us to the main foyer on the west side of campus.

I promised you more Art Deco details, and here they are: the Grand Theater box office window, next to the main entrance foyer.

This would be the main entrance to the school as well as serving as the lobby for the Grand Theater. You can imagine crowds here decades and decades ago, especially on a snowy or rainy day, checking to see if the bus or Mom with the car were out front yet.

I think because of the design that these may be modern art glass, but I don’t really know. The “Prisoners of Conscience” window in Salisbury Cathedral in England dates to post-World War II, and this style is a little like that. I like it a lot.

The stairwells have to be original. At least I hope they are! I love them. They are very lovely. Besides this wide staircase, on the other side of the theater is a similar space but not a staircase. It is a wide, wide, ramp leading to floors above and below. I wish I had photographed it, but I thought, Oh, that must be new, must be in keeping with the ADA . . . . But I think now it was original with the building. Maybe my friend can tell me.

This staircase had an element that caught my eye.

See this lovely decorative brick-tile work on the ends of the stair rails? They are not properly stair rails, but what do you call them when they are solid little walls that you can hang onto? Whatever they are, I love them.

Isn’t this interesting? On the south end of the building where the addition joins, the whole add-on is revealed in the stair landings with their original windows, all blocked up. I think this would be a poignant reminder to anyone who used to go to school here, about what has changed and what has been lost. A view is lost, for one thing.

I stood at the south end doorway to the new section and looked back along the very long hallway toward the north end. You cannot even see the north end! Now that is a long hallway. All one has to do for a daily workout is to walk this hallway from end-to-end, then up the stairs, traverse it the other way, then up the stairs to the third floor and do it once more. That would be a great workout!

This is the view out the front windows on the south end, near that doorway to the new section. State Street has surely changed a lot in the years since South High School was in session!

This is the view through that doorway to the south addition. Oh, did I forget to mention that I had climbed one of those staircases to the second floor? Well, that will explain why the view out the front windows was from much higher up than I am tall. Because I am quite short, as some of these pictures have revealed, if you look carefully.

I headed back through the building from west to east, entering the new part on the second floor so as to show some of the lovely open space designed into the classroom blocks and study hall blocks.
On either side of the open spaces are blocks of classrooms. Because this is a high-tech communications school, some of the rooms are filled with equipment for making and editing video, audio, and other kinds of communication media. People are always wandering around with laptops, or else they are part of the arts programs and have musical instruments under their arms, or giant portfolios containing, one imagines, Great Art. Every week on certain days you hear the jazz band practicing, trying to sound exactly like the Glenn Miller band sometimes, or a saxophone or clarinet wailing out a new jazzy riff. As you pass down narrow hallways between the two sides of the school, a piano might be pounded on behind a door. In the airy spaces of the new building, you can hear one of the professors with a booming voice one hallway over, and you imagine that before the class is out the next hour, that teacher will be hoarse. But it never happens. Strong vocal chords are fostered in this school, apparently.
Through this upper window we are looking down into the library for this campus. It looks pretty small, but every campus of this school has its own library, and of course all the materials are available to order at any one of the 13 or 14 campuses around the valley. The two stories of open space gives a feeling of expansion, a symbol, surely, of what one hopes is happening to the mind while it is being educated here.
Out the south windows here is the balcony above and next to that little patio garden we saw earlier.
As we stand next to the windows of the balcony on the south end looking west, we see the second story classrooms of the alternative high school housed in this building. As the sign says, no college students are supposed to invade their space, and all visitors are supposed to sign in at the office on the left. Probably a similar sign is posted downstairs. There is very limited access to this part of the building, for the protection of the high schoolers (and maybe to the relief of the rest of the campus?)
But here come three of the high schoolers back up to their space, probably having run downstairs to the college bookstore for a snack or something. You can see the open doors to the little branch bookstore down there across from the bottom of the stairs.
It is time to leave through the same doors we came in, the east door opposite the Grand Theater. Another time I will come back and photograph the theater itself. It is an incredible sight! If you hear of any productions that interest you being put on in that theater, it is worth going just to see the place itself. But more about that another time.

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