The story of a forgotten America.

Revisiting the Jefferson School

There are times when I revisit an old friend and discover something new, such as the case of the long-abandoned Jefferson School in Wheeling, West Virginia. I had not discovered much about the historic structure other than coming upon its demolition in 2013.

A few nights ago, I cracked open the newspaper archives of the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer and queried up schools along McColloch Street. I discovered articles from 1896 describing the need for an annex to the Clay School, which led to the construction of the Jefferson School, an eight-room annex that was dedicated on December 24, 1897.

When the Jefferson School was demolished, no one wrote a eulogy to its 100 years of service, citing only its deplorable condition as the only testament towards its character. It declined only because of a lack of code enforcement by the city and a lack of investment by its owners. With that, a symbol of good construction and impressive architecture was reduced to an unused grass lot with not even a historic marker to remark about its past.

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My grandparents lived on 15th Street. Their backyard faced the school McKinley school yard. I never remember anyone going to school there. We were never allowed to play in the school yard. It always seemed rather mysterious to us.

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