Friday, August 26, 2016

In The Details: Art Deco Designs at North High School

Colorful Art Deco terra cotta work above the Entry to North High School.
I didn’t attend North High School, but I have friends who did. My father graduated from North in 1939; he lived in a few different places nearby—not exactly “on The Hill” as old-timers would say—but just to the east, on Evans Ave. and later, on Independence Ave. As a teenager, he’d get up early in the morning and go hunting in the woods and fields where Chapel Hill Mall is now, before heading off to class.

The building itself is pretty impressive, though it would have looked much better before the smaller, energy-efficient windows were installed.
I think I’ve only been in North High School a couple of times, and I’m surprised that I never took more notice of the beautiful art deco terra cotta tile work on the building’s exterior, which is pretty interesting in itself and one of Akron’s better-looking school buildings from this era.

Early settlers: A Trapper, a Weaver and a Hunter.
The tile murals found around the building entrances are softly colored, depicting stylized flowers and humans from the pre-industrial age—including Native Americans and Pioneers—engaged in various types of activity.

Although the building was ready for students in 1931, it was not quite complete; the school auditorium, cafeteria and gym were delayed in construction due to The Depression and WWII. They weren’t added until 1955, and can be seen as you drive north on Gorge Blvd. A vocational wing was also added in 1970.

Another example of the magnificent terra cotta decoration. 
As the Akron City Schools debate the future of North, Kenmore and Garfield high schools (due to falling enrollment, not all can be rebuilt) It is hoped that all or some of this splendid ceramic work can be saved and reused…somewhere.


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