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

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.

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.

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

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

Exterior Wall photo School013FCa_zps3be75911.jpg

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

Fire bell photo School020FCa_zpsdef18b28.jpg
Fire alarm bell

Boarded but secure? photo School009FCa_zps400b6858.jpg

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

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

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

Exterior photo School001FCa_zpsac67a34d.jpg

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

Barrels and links photo School015FCa_zps3552a17b.jpg
Near the entrance

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

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

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

 photo School026FCa_zps3049f5a5.jpg
Class room converted to a studio

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

Classroom locker photo School032FCa_zps02146b37.jpg

 photo School035FCa_zps3878dfa7.jpg
Looking down one hallway

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

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

Adult education photo School040FCa_zps98110533.jpg
Adult education materials

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

Intact! photo School043FCa_zps02fb948a.jpg

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

Central courtyard door photo School045FCa_zpsa022de70.jpg
Central courtyard access

Part 2 to follow tomorrow

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