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Abandoned Places – William Hooper Councill High School (WCHS), Huntsville – Part 1 of 3

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Jan. 21st, 2013 | 10:20 am
posted by: jj_maccrimmon in abandonedplaces

I was researching a photo article I wanted to offer to several publications including Alabama A&M (University). The article focused on a little known abandoned gem lying in the heart of downtown Huntsville. In the winter of 2011, I managed to get a guided tour of Huntsville’s former segregated African American high school. William H. Councill was the founder and first president of what became Alabama A&M (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alabama_Agricultural_and_Mechanical_University) in 1890. Councill, a former slave, rose to become a lawyer, newspaper editor, legislator and Alabama Supreme Court Justice. He was without doubt one of the rare cases of success in the Jim Crow era.

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Exterior photo School022FCa_zps278978a6.jpg
It seems appropriate then that the US Martin Luther King Jr holiday (and several days after), I offer some images of the high school building named in his honor.



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Insecure photo School016FCa_zps4d2031f7.jpg
The main entrance

WCHS (http://www.huntsvilleal.gov/gis/HistoricMarkers/site/marker_031/page.htm) opened in 1892 on the site and the campus was closed in 1966 when the state integrated the schools. After closure, the school system turned the property over to the city for use as a community center and home to a number of civic organizations including the Huntsville Community Choir, Huntsville Ballet and the Boys and Girls Club. To the best of the records I can find, the last tenants were moved out of the building in 1991-2 (http://www.hmdb.org/Marker.asp?Marker=36065). Built in 1927, the structure was in need of a substantial renovation to replace decayed electrical systems and a completely new roof.

Outdoor views

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Signs - Community Center Organizations photo School014FCa_zps8dc22fcf.jpg
The Community Center Directory

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Exterior Wall photo School013FCa_zps3be75911.jpg

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Boarded entrance with a sleeping pallet photo School018FCa_zps243d2dc4.jpg
A sleeping pallet used by the homeless lay in front of this boarded up doorway

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Fire bell photo School020FCa_zpsdef18b28.jpg
Fire alarm bell

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Boarded but secure? photo School009FCa_zps400b6858.jpg

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Guardian photo School008FCa_zps894893f0.jpg
This guardian kept a close watch on us

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Back of the Gym photo School006FCa_zps7f6530a6.jpg
Exterior of the gym

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Stripped photo School004FCa_zpsb1edd463.jpg
Scrappers and metals thieves have already pulled copper cores from the air conditioning condensers

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Exterior photo School001FCa_zpsac67a34d.jpg

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Huntsville Community Chorus photo School002FCa_zpsce0c5bb8.jpg
Huntsville Community Chorus (Choir) signage, slowly fading away.

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Barrels and links photo School015FCa_zps3552a17b.jpg
Near the entrance

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Vents and wasps photo School017FCa_zpscae440aa.jpg
Vents and wasps – not the only residents here

After making arrangements with the city and signing a waiver to acknowledge the place was dangerous, two gentlemen from the City Services Dept, met me at the main entrance where they had to remover the various bits of wood and bracing to open an entrance.

Into the depths
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Into oblivion photo School023FCa_zps53509f6b.jpg
From that opening, this was my view into oblivion

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In case of fire photo School034FCa_zpsb489e2d7.jpg
To my right was a stairway leading up where a fire alarm pull lay intact on the steps

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A Peeling Hall photo School037FCa_zps35070d34.jpg
Moisture and mold hung in the air and had contributed to peeling the heavy paint from the walls in places

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 photo School026FCa_zps3049f5a5.jpg
Class room converted to a studio

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Heart attack msg photo School030FCa_zps688d53ad.jpg
An adjacent former classroom held a poignant message telling of a tenant who’d had a heart attack and that family needed to be contacted

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Classroom locker photo School032FCa_zps02146b37.jpg

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 photo School035FCa_zps3878dfa7.jpg
Looking down one hallway

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Water damage on tile photo School039FCa_zpsb9dac9a3.jpg
The other direction - Note the water damage to the tiles on the floor

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Mural photo School036FCa_zps35dc9a99.jpg
Mural for the Arts Council of Huntsville

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Adult education photo School040FCa_zps98110533.jpg
Adult education materials

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Old of tune photo School042FCa_zpse8ec9453.jpg
Out of tune, old in play

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Intact! photo School043FCa_zps02fb948a.jpg
Relief?

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Bathroom tile photo School044FCa_zps43f6d915.jpg
Detail of the floor tiles in the bathroom

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Central courtyard door photo School045FCa_zpsa022de70.jpg
Central courtyard access

Part 2 to follow tomorrow

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Comments {13}

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JJ_MacCrimmon

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from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Jan. 21st, 2013 05:40 pm (UTC)
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Thanks. I've been frustrated with myself for not putting these up much much sooner. There are many messages, notes and such left over in this old building. So many stories embedded in the walls.

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Cath

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from: casrin
date: Jan. 21st, 2013 04:41 pm (UTC)
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Always amazes me how much "stuff" is left behind in these photos... books, pianos... why were they left behind?

Thanks for sharing these!

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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Jan. 21st, 2013 05:33 pm (UTC)
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In some cases, things get left because the business or non-profit goes under. Some organizations simply couldn't afford to or had the space to retrieve their items there. In some cases, materials were left there in storage with the belief that they'd be re-used, transferred or programs would restart. Days became weeks, weeks became years and those items were slowly forgotten.

The safety of the building became another issue. Huntsville is undermined with scores of springs and underground water. As the building aged, it also settled and seepage from that ground water. Add to that an old roof which was too costly to replace and the leaks ruined many items. You'll see the effects in the next set.

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Nicole

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from: sblmnldrknss
date: Jan. 21st, 2013 06:54 pm (UTC)
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Crazy! That's where I took ballet.

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JJ_MacCrimmon

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from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Jan. 21st, 2013 10:57 pm (UTC)
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I'd love to hear your stories about the place. I really don't think the building with be standing in 2-3 years given the development of downtown. I have photos inside the ballet studio.

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Nicole

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from: sblmnldrknss
date: Jan. 23rd, 2013 02:35 pm (UTC)
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Interesting! I'd love to see.

The last time I was there was spring of 94, so it's been a while. The entrance to the place was right next to the library, and you had to know it was there to find it. It was always pretty dark inside. Definitely no frills. But I had transferred there from Ann's, which was at it's old, old location on Whitesburg(I think) because it wasn't a serious dance school, and the Huntsville Ballet supposedly was. So it was cold and austere, but I didn't know any better.

The studio I was mainly in must have once been a shop classroom or something, because it had garage doors. It was always cold in there.... Summer, winter, didn't matter, just cold. You already posted pictures of the gym and the cafeteria, so I'm wondering what our really big studio once was. I would have guessed one of those two, so now I don't know.

I wish I had taken pictures in my time there, but it wasn't a very happy place. lol. They took themselves very seriously.

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BadgerBabe

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from: badgerbabe
date: Jan. 21st, 2013 08:08 pm (UTC)
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Is that a tiny little paw print in the dust on the piano? Right above the keys? Too big for a mouse or rat, a raccoon perhaps?

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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Jan. 21st, 2013 10:50 pm (UTC)
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I am fairly sure it was a raccoon. There were tracks inside from them, possum, rats and possibly at least one dog or coyote.

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bugeyedmonster

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from: bugeyedmonster
date: Jan. 21st, 2013 08:16 pm (UTC)
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Interesting pictures.

Sad to see all the stuff abandoned. It's also creepy to see how dark the boarded up windows make the place, but if those windows were uncovered, they would all end up broken. (Sadly.) When I saw that panel with the padlock that had been pried loose, I was wondering if there were any squatters inside. (That's a big issue here in Dallas. Any building that is abandoned usually gets squatters inside.)

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JJ_MacCrimmon

(no subject)

from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Jan. 21st, 2013 10:48 pm (UTC)
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Surprisingly more than half the windows inside the wood barriers are intact. As for squatters, yes. There are signs of their presence and activities. It amazed me that for as well closed up as this site is, there's several routes they've used to get in. Some for shelter and some to strip metals. I'll show a bit of that in the next set of images actually.

Ironically I was just in Fort Worth before Christmas for an abandoned site hunt there (Swift Meat Packing Plant ruins).

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prizewheel

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from: prizewheel
date: Jan. 21st, 2013 09:28 pm (UTC)
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Nice photos..thank you.

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JJ_MacCrimmon

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from: jj_maccrimmon
date: Jan. 21st, 2013 10:43 pm (UTC)
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You're welcome. Many more are on the way.

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ioio10

(no subject)

from: ioio10
date: Jan. 24th, 2013 11:15 pm (UTC)
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Nice!
So sad for the piano (love the little paw!) and those books... It always makes me sad to see how things are left in abandoned places....

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