Sunday, November 30, 2008

Harris School

It sits like a mausoleum on the 800 block of Southard Street, but when it was built it was modern and solid and attractive enough to merit being publicized. This postcard which I found on the Key West Travel Guide web page shows the Harris School as it was around the time it was built in 1909.

And this is how it looks today from the south side:On the north side the front portico still looks the same as it did in the postcard, but the passage of time has given some trees a chance to sprout:
The passage of time may explain the apparent passive aggressive nature of the handicapped parking space. Give it enough time and the tree won't leave enough space even for a bicycle to park:The Harris School started out in life as the equivalent of a high school I believe and ended it's educational career as an elementary school in 1980. Late enough to make mention of skateboarding which was quite popular back then as I recall.The school building used to be surrounded by other cement structures of a 1950's or 60's style and they included the MARC house an acronym that has a rather dated flavor to it: Monroe Association for Retarded Citizens. They used to have splendid plant sales in back and I recall cycling Carstens Lane in the rear of the property and seeing rows of plants filling the back of the building. These days the land around the Harris School has been razed: Somewhere over in the right side of the photograph there was also a culinary school and we used to get cheap high quality meals there, as guinea pigs for the high school chefs. It was a loss when they closed, and then there was the promise that the culinary school might re-open in the Harris building. That clearly didn't happen:There were plans aired to hand the building over to a foundation for use as an "artist's colony" in the heart of the city but negotiations seemed to fall apart between Rodel and the school district. So the building languishes and sits there as sturdy as ever:
The walls look like they're made of stone are actually a kind of stippled cement. I've seen similar at the school district's facilities building on United Street. But for all it's solid Victorian air Harris School is sad and abandoned:
When negotiations were at their height a couple of years ago people standing on the sidelines expressed incredulous horror at the thought of the school being knocked down, as it needs huge amounts of work to be brought up to code and made usable. With the economy wobbling the way it is right now I wonder what possible use they can find for the pile.