With heavy hearts, many in the community had interest in the demolition of the Harrison school building on Main Street. Nostalgic memories aside, the demolition marks the culmination of the bonds passed in recent years to make upgrades to the high school, middle school, addition to Larson Elementary and changes to the school buildings on Main Street.
The building razed last week was built in 1938 and was originally the high school, then later the middle school and in recent years administrative offices. Sections of Hillside Elementary, built in the late 1940s with additions in the 1950s, will also be razed. Harrison elementary students K-5 are now entirely in the remodeled and expanded Larson Elementary School building. The changes bring an end to the open concept at Larson, one of the last open concept floor plans left over from the 1970s trend.
In 1938, the building cost $35,000 – the equivalent of more than $600,000 today. The Board of Education paid $18,000 and the government $17,000. It included an automatic stoker vacuum heating plant in the basement.
The completion of the work, though slightly slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, brings to fruition the effort begun in 2017. The Step Up For Our Students Committee was formed in 2017 to bring voters information about the proposed bond millage and the changes it would fund. The bond passed and work began on the various phases of bond sales and construction.
There has been a school on Main Street across from the courthouse since the earliest days of Harrison. The first official school year was 1880-81. (See page 3 for historic photos of this location.) When completed, the second floor was used as a study hall, science lab, superintendent’s office and restrooms. The first floor was classrooms for students in fourth grade to high school with another high school class and home economics room in the basement.
In 1938, the circa 1880-81 building was removed. The newspaper report at the time is no less filled with nostalgia than current community members felt last week.
“The summer of 1938 the old school building, one of the few remaining structures of Harrison lumbering days was wrecked and removed from the school ground, and the old bell, which had tolled out the school opening hour for so many years, was hauled away to ring no more for the Harrison High School. The grounds, where once stood this large frame structure of many memories and many secrets, which if it could have spoken could have revealed many interesting stores of early Harrison days were soon leveled and graded and the final traces of the 1881 school were soon erased.” (Clare Sentinel, 1938)
While the schools may change and the brick and mortar may look different, one thing that remains is a community willing to invest in the education of its young people.
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