Project teams work to preserve school history in designs for new schools

As HISD project teams are making plans to build or renovate 40 schools under the district’s current bond program, they also are giving careful consideration to items of historical or architectural significance that can be preserved and incorporated into the new designs.

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Many of the schools being replaced are more than 50 years old, with some dating back to the 1920s. Having educated generations of Houstonians who have gone on to become leaders in the areas of government, education, science, business and the arts, these schools house a rich and diverse history.

“We encourage our project teams to think about what can and should be saved,” said HISD Officer of Construction & Facilities Services Sundaresh Kamath. “Where possible, we will preserve building elements of historic significance to benefit of future generations.”

For some schools, including Milby High School, Austin High School and Young Women’s College Prep, this will mean that most of the existing front facades will be saved and remain a highly visible feature of the new building. In the case of Washington High School, it was not possible to save the unique historical facade of the old structure, so the architects found a way to incorporate a similar look with a modern feel into the new building.

The Lamar High School team is planning to renovate and preserve the original building with its art deco look along Westheimer and build a new classroom wing along the east side of the campus.

Other schools plan to preserve and reuse wooden gymnasium floors, embedded school seals, student-designed tiles, lockers, benches, pavers, and murals. Furr High School, Sharpstown High School, and Askew Elementary School teams hope to save and reuse elements of existing columns. Condit Elementary School plans to preserve the keystone from the original school and repurpose some of the existing hardwood from classroom floors as accent pieces in its new building.

“People love the nostalgic feel of this old school,” said Condit Principal Dan Greenberg. “In addition to preserving some of the wood floor, we also plan to save almost the entire facade from the old building as well as the student-made tile arch in front of the school.”

Other schools with items targeted for preservation include:

  • Lee HS – Saving original school plaque, student mosaics and granite memorial
  • Houston MSTC – Preserving a tree dedicated to Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Wharton Dual Language Academy – Preserving existing historical fireplace
  • Wilson Montessori – Preserving historic front entrance
  • Kashmere HS – Will keep school seal from exterior wall and ram sculpture

“I think it is essential for HISD to save architecturally and historically significant elements, whenever possible, and to incorporate them into our new schools,” said Phoebe Tudor, a member of HISD’s Bond Oversight Committee. “It’s vital to preserve the important history of our city.”