Saving the District’s Artwork and Architecture
When Cincinnati Public Schools began its rebuilding plan in 2002, many of its buildings were architecturally striking and historically significant. Back then, about a third of CPS' buildings were constructed before 1940 — six were a century or more old — and Cincinnati Public Schools’ older buildings were impressive examples of school architecture featuring such styles as Collegiate Tudor, Colonial Revival, Romanesque Revival and Jacobethan. These schools are traffic-stoppers, with castlelike facades, gargoyles and grotesques, clock towers, domed roofs and column-flanked entrances.
Inside, the older buildings housed artwork such as stained-glass windows, Rookwood-tile drinking fountains, terrazzo, friezes, and bronze and marble treasures.
In spring 2002, the Cincinnati Board of Education established the Building Artifacts Fund. Donations and other money designated for the fund will help pay to salvage, store and re-use architectural elements from older schools slated to be closed during the 10-year Facilities Master Plan.
Many of the district's historic buildings, such as Withrow and Hughes high schools, have been fully renovated. Buildings no longer to be used as schools have been or will be sold. The district sought and received waivers from the state’s Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) to allow CPS to renovate several historic buildings.
In summer 2002, before the former Condon School in Avondale was demolished, the building was stripped of many architectural elements. Some of these elements were incorporated into the new Rockdale Academy, built on the Condon site. Proceeds from predemolition auction of Condon’s interior items were placed in the Building Artifacts Fund.
An elaborate terra-cotta architectural piece — depicting a globe and an American flag motif — was carefully removed from the parapet of old Condon School and now adorns an outside wall of the new Rockdale Academy.
Several other architectural pieces, such as Rookwood tile from around a fireplace, were removed before Condon came down and may be incorporated into new construction.
Photos by Robert A. Flischel and Robert T. Ohr