A Brief History of the
Old Wakefield High School Building

View Historic Photographs of the Old School Building

The First Wakefield High School

After the idea of establishing a school in Wakefield had crystallized in the minds of William H. Savedge, Warner Richardson, and Captain J. R. Bell, the school board of 1906-1907, it was decided that funds should be procured by floating a $10,000 school bond. Stimulated by the threat of increased taxes, opposition by the townspeople was violent. Nevertheless, the school board prevailed, the bond was floated, and Wakefield saw Sam Drewry, a former teacher, survey the land on which the brick school building slowly took shape.

Sometime during the session of 1907 - 1908 the principal, Mr. Selby, and the teachers, Lois Watkins and Miss Dobie, moved with their pupils from the old three-room school outside of town to the new, well-equipped building in Wakefield.

During the first complete school session, 1908-1909, the Victorian Literary Society was formed, and the following year Wakefield High School had its first graduating class, Mary Harris (Mrs. J. J. Temple, Petersburg, VA) and Pattie Hargrave (Mrs. Goldbarth, New York), both of whom had come from an advanced class in the Waverly School.

There were no graduates the following year (1911), but at the commencement of 1912 Wakefield High School presented the first group of graduates whose work had been done entirely in the school. In addition, it was the first class to publish an annual and the first to be entertained by the juniors, thus inaugurating the custom of Junior-Senior receptions. During this year German, normal training, and a course of methods and practice teaching were added to the curriculum, and the first Sussex County Fair was held, a memorable event in the lives of the school children thereafter.

During the session of 1912-1913 Wakefield High School was placed on the list of accredited schools. Annuals were published by all graduating classes until the session of 1915-1916, when there was a lapse. During the following session (19171918) courses in agriculture, taught by C. H. LaCrosse, and in home economics, taught by Grace Klapp, were added to the curriculum, and the school's name was changed to Wakefield Agricultural High School.

In January 1919 the school building was completely destroyed by fire of undetermined origin. No one was injured. To prevent any interruption, substitute buildings were immediately procured. Commandeered for the emergency were the old Methodist Church, which stood next to the present church, the old Masonic Hall, its site now occupied by the town hall, the frame building across the street and opposite the school, and the house now occupied by the Hargrave family. Graduating exercises were held in the Methodist Church.

The Second Wakefield High School

The new school that rose in its place was being built rapidly in 1920, and the class of 1920-1921 was the first to graduate from the finished building. On March 5, 1922 the system of student government was established.

Approved March 20, 1924 by the General Assembly was "An act to authorize the county school board of Sussex county to borrow money to pay off the existing indebtedness of Wakefield school district ... and to issue bonds therefor; and to provide for a tax to pay the principal and interest on such bonds." The sum to be borrowed was not to exceed $6,000, and the bonds issued were to be paid by an annual levy on all property subject to local school pay the interest on the bonds and to provide a sinking fund to enable the county school board to begin payment of the principal three years after the bonds were issued.

In 1935-36 commercial courses were added to the high school curriculum. In 1936-37 the industrial arts courses were added. These courses were sponsored by the Wakefield Ruritan Club. Many graduates not destined for college returned to matriculate in these practical subjects.

The first stage curtain was painted by Hamilton King and presented to the school during the session of 1923-1924. In 1937 the school board purchased a red velvet curtain, and in 1939 a 16mm De Vry motion picture projection machine.

It is a far cry from the three-room school just outside Wakefield to the well-equipped modern building, efficient faculty, multiple courses, extra-curricular activities, and excellent library, which serves both pupils and the community.

The school endeavors to give the pupils every advantage. Concentration is on academic subjects and such practical courses as business, shopwork, agriculture, and home economics. Athletics, plays, and music have a large part in the extra-curricular activities. As much is done for the first-grade children. They "make store," play in an orchestra, and use typewriters as an aid to correct spelling.

Of the many clubs formed that have stimulating influence are the Glee Club, Home Economics Club, Future Farmers of America, and the Athletic Club. A students' cooperative association - formerly the Junior League - is an active and worthwhile organization.

Cooperation with patrons is best evidenced by the Parent-Teacher Association, long a part of the school under the varying names of Civic League and Community League.

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