Old Central – Evansville’s first high school

Originally posted 12/14/2009
Evansville residents may wonder why Central High School is not very centralized within the city.  Geographically it lies more north than North High School.  For those old enough to remember Central used to be downtown when that area was still very residential.  Old Central was the oldest free public high school in continuous operation west of the Allegheny Mountains.  It was a massive brick complex spanning the entire block of 6th St, Vine St, ML King Jr Blvd (formerly 7th St), and Court St (formerly Division St).  It was torn down in 1973 and is now the YMCA parking lot.

Aerial view of Old Central 1970
Aerial view of Old Central campus

After holding high school classes in various locations, the city finally got a dedicated building in 1868 when Old Central was built.  It was simply called Evansville High School since no other secondary schools were in town.  Once Reitz High School was built in 1918, the name Central which typified its location downtown came about.

Evansville High School around 1890.  The original section had a new tower added and wings to each side.
Evansville High School around 1890

At first, the school was a small building compared to its final state.  It was a two story school house fronting 7th St.

Postcard of Old Central as it looked around the turn of the century
Postcard of Old Central as it looked around the turn of the century

In 1896 a clock tower and two wings were added.  This massive tower that dominated the Evansville skyline is what most people associate with Old Central.

The new junior high school at 6th and Vine
The new junior high school at 6th and Vine

Additions in the early 1900s saw the school expand to 6th St encompassing the entire block.

Old Central as it looked when the school closed
Old Central as it looked when the school closed

After 100+ years and numerous expansions, Old Central outgrew its location.  The downtown residents and families migrated north with the urban sprawl.  The new Central was built out on First Ave and in 1971 the school left its home downtown for a more spacious site.  The school sat vacant for a couple of years and despite some protests to preserve the tower as a downtown landmark the school was razed in 1973.  The block was slated to be used for a new building for the YMCA, but that never came to pass and Old Central is now nothing more than a parking lot.

Demolition of the Old Central tower
Demolition of the Old Central tower
Old Central gymnasium now part of the YMCA
Old Central gymnasium now part of the YMCA

The only thing that remains of the Old Central complex is the 1927 gym on the corner of Court and 6th.  Built in 1927, it is still used by the YMCA for an indoor track and basketball courts.  If you look at the stone above the door facing 6th St it reads “Gymnasium C.H.S.” for Central High School.

Old Central High School on HistoricEvansville.com

Old Daniel Wertz School

Originally written 3/19/2010

Howell Public School c1900
Howell Public School c1900

Many people know Howell as the area southwest of town.  It is a tight-knit community that sprung up from all the railroad activity at the Howell Railroad Yard.  The small town just southwest of Evansville experienced a boom.  Barker Ave, originally Front St, became the bustling downtown.  Residents settled and built homes, and churches followed.  Like any populated place the town had a school — Public School of Howell, Indiana or simply Howell Public School.  Built in 1886 it was a simple 2-story structure with a bell tower and was located on the northwest corner of Delmar and Emerson.  Eventually, schools were under the same umbrella of the township so the school was known by Public School District No 7.  As Howell grew, the school did too.  An addition in the rear along Emerson St was added in 1898.

Howell Public School early 1900s
Howell Public School early 1900s after additions

In 1922, the school was renamed to honor the community service of Daniel Wertz.

Wertz, Daniel 2
Daniel Wertz after several additions


The school continued to expand with additions in 1935 and 1958, but with the closing of nearby township schools, the school was maxed and its location limited its growth.  The decision was made to move Daniel Wertz to Red Bank Rd just south of Broadway, where it is now.  In 1986 the school moved and the old building was sold to Howell Baptist Church.  It was used as a storage facility for a short while and was finally razed about 1990.  Sidewalks leading to the old entrances are the only indication of Old Daniel Wertz which served the area for over 100 years.


Emerson St, 3100 block (2009)
The corner of Emerson and Delmar today reveals nothing of the old Daniel Wertz


Interestingly enough, during the 1937 Flood the majority of the Howell area stayed above the flood line.  However, if another flood of that magnitude occurred now, the new school would be under water where it is currently located.

Old Daniel Wertz at Historic Evansville.com

Going Old School: Carpenter School

Originally written 1/11/2010 – Examiner.com

Carpenter School
Carpenter School

Carpenter School was the second school built in Evansville erected in 1859.  It was necessitated by overcrowding at the Canal Street School (later renamed Wheeler School), and it was built using the same design plan.  Land was purchased from the Willard Carpenter estate and the school was built next to his home (the current WNIN building).  Carpenter School was situated on the north side of Carpenter St between Clark St and Ingle St.  You can see the school’s layout here in this old 1884 Sanborn map.  Carpenter School was also called Lower School since it was downstream and Canal St was called Upper School based on its relation to the Ohio River.

A major renovation in 1878 resulted in an addition to the school and a new facelift, making
the updated school hardly recognizable from its previous look. A new 6-room building was added to the front of the existing one.  The updated school building had an ornate tower and large arched entrance shown here.  Another renovation in the early 1900s saw the removal of the tower and squaring of the roofline as seen in the photo at left.

After operating continuously for nearly 100 years, Carpenter School was closed in 1957.  The population shift left the neighborhood school with declining attendance.  After a failed attempt to redevelop the historic school building, it was demolished in 1961.  WTVW Channel 7 is now located on this site.

Carpenter School on HistoricEvansville.com

Going Old School: Fulton Ave School

Fulton Ave School in 1894
Fulton Ave School in 1894

Fulton Avenue School, casually called Fulton School, was one of the oldest public schools in Evansville.  It was built in 1870-1 to provide education for the students of Lamasco.  It was located on the west side of Fulton Ave between Michigan and Virginia Sts where Lewis Bakery now stands.  Originally Fulton School was a single building with a tower, but a south wing was added c1880 and north one was added later to handle increasing enrollment. The school can be seen in pretty good detail in the 1888 panoramic map below and also here in this picture from the 1910 Sanborn maps.  The tower, which can be seen in many photos looking up or down Fulton Avenue, was removed sometime around 1920.  The Ragland Memorial Gym was added in 1927 to the rear of the school.

Fulton Ave School 1888

In the early 1970s, after a lawsuit forced the EVSC to desgregate its schools, a few neighborhood schools were closed, district lines were redrawn, and some students were bused to different schools.  Fulton School, as well as two other old schools Baker School and White School, was closed in June 1973 and torn down later that year.  Now the bakery encompasses the school’s old block with hardly a trace of the old school that stood for over a century.

The old style curbs in front of the Lewis Bakery outlet store can be seen in this street view from Google Maps

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