Glynda and I were on our way back from Prosperity on Wednesday and decided to take the scenic route through the country. Our route retraced part of my trek when I paddled Boyds Mill Pond last week (the dry part, not the pond.) As we were driving on Indian Mound Road I spotted a building, and made a U-turn to check it out. The Mount Olive Community Center has exactly the same design as Algary School in Shoals Junction. It had to be an old school now repurposed as a community center.
…and here’s the Algary School for comparison.
I love it when I find another matching old school. It’s kind of like historical Concentration (without the turning over cards bit.) It makes, sense, though. Using a consistent floor plan and design saves money We do it today – I helped with the construction of three schools in Spartanburg Five that use the same floor plan, and I know of many in Greenville. The question I had was whether or not this particular design had any historical significance.
Of course, one of the most famous early school designs were the Rosenwald Schools. There were many of these throughout South Carolina. The schools were designed to be replicated quickly and cheaply. At first I thought these might be Rosenwald Schools, but the design is slightly different. Here’s Hope Rosenwald School – the center projection is much more pronounced, and the school is more symmetrical:
Overall the Rosenwald Schools seem to be a bit shorter, too.
I was curious. Ron Knor, a professor at Mercer University who was at the Hope School Dedication and has a paper published on that school, suggested that Algary and Mount Olive might be the work of Rudolph Edward Lee. Lee was in the very first graduating class of Clemson College, and went on to design many of the buildings on the campus. The school of architecture is named for him. Apparently he also designed rural schools. I can find lots of information on him in regards to Clemson, not nothing about the schools he designed. I may have to make a trip to Clemson to view his papers.
Even so, the Mount Olive school predates the Rosenwalds. The Rosenwald Schools came into prominence in the 1920s, and there are references to Mount Olive in the Laurens Advertiser as far back as 1905. Here’s what the two schools looked like in their prime, per the South Carolina School Insurance archives. First up is Algary School:
Here is Mount Olive School:
I checked the rest of the school insurance photos to see if any other schools were based on this design. I found seven others, listed as follows in the archives:
- Antioch, Spartanburg County
- Pond Branch, Lexington County
- Clayton Colored, Richland County
- Rock Hill Colored, Orangeburg County
- Saint George, Orangeburg County
- Ashley Grove Colored, Barnwell County
- New Harmony, Allendale County
– Looks like this has been expanded.
I didn’t bother with posting the pictures, but if you click the link, you’ll see them.
In addition to these I found two others that look like they use the same floor plan, but the external details are slightly different. These are as follows:
Some of these are listed as “Colored”, but this design wasn’t exclusive to African American schools. Some of the archival photos show White students in attendance.
As I was poring over the archive photographs I noticed lots of other similar architectural styles. I’ll do a bit more study on those and see what I can find. I’ll also be looking for more information on Rudolph Lee’s schools, and see if these Algary and Mount Olive are of his design.