The former Anderson Elementary School is ready to be turned into offices for the West Orange-Cove school administration. The move is expected to come in December after a slight delay in the renovation of the 1981 building. Contractors putting a new concrete parking lot on the Park Avenue side of the block had extra work to do. They uncovered concrete and rebar along with from a previous Anderson School. Was it the foundation of the first or the second Anderson school? The one standing now is the third Anderson, though it no longer has the name ‘Elementary School’ behind the title.
Anderson Elementary was the first ‘suburban’ school for the city of Orange. The original town grew along the crescent of the Sabine River in what is now downtown or the southern side near the Port of Orange and the Cove neighborhood. The Las Sabinas quarterly is published by the Orange County Historical Society. The fourth edition of 1986 includes information about local education. The first public school building burned and was replaced in 1896 by the three-story Henderson School, named for the street. By that time, mansions were being built along Green Avenue and more houses were being constructed north of Green. Within a few years, the local school board saw a need for a second school to be closer to the children in the north part of town (at that time). School board member J.S. Anderson donated the land at Park Avenue and Eighth Street. A two-story brick building with a porch and a third-floor cupola was constructed in 1903 and named Anderson Elementary in honor of the benefactor. It had eight rooms and a bell in the cupola.
By the way, Anderson was close to education. He married a teacher and principal. A 1903 story in the Orange Weekly Tribune said the Henderson school had a ‘commodious library’ of 2,000 volumes. It was started by Mrs. J.S. Anderson, ‘at the time Miss Mary Gallaspie’ who served as principal at the time. Anderson also donated the land for a new high school that was built in 1916. That three-story brick building was known to many Baby Boomers as the Carr Building and was on 14th Street off Green Avenue. West Orange-Stark Middle School now occupies that land donated by Anderson.
Thomasine Howell Carter, who was born in 1910, started her schooling at the first Anderson school, completed elementary school in the second Anderson building then returned later in life to be a teacher at the school. When the ‘new’ one opened in 1982, she was a volunteer at the school. Mrs. Carter died in 2002 and goes down in Orange history as the only person with a connection to all three Anderson buildings. Her father, Thomas Howell, was a local architect and builder who served on the school board for many years, including several as president of the board. The first stadium off 15th Street by Green Avenue was named Howell Stadium in honor of her father.
Mrs. Carter wrote that she first started at Anderson in September 1917 right after the U.S. entered World War I. Her teacher was ‘Miss Maude’ Malone, who would take off the students’ wet socks and dry them by the pot-bellied stove in the room. Miss Maude left when she married Charles Cottle. Mrs. Carter said that by 1918 the town had an influx of shipyard workers. The school district had elementary students who lived south of Park Avenue going to a wooden annex building that is where that 15th Street stadium is today.
The city continued to grow and another, larger Anderson school was needed. Construction started in 1922. The Manufacturers’ Record magazine edition of Aug. 5, 1922, reported that Orange was having a building boom with a total of $1.5 million in projects. The cost of the new Anderson school was listed at $175,000. (Another $200,000 was for a bridge across the Sabine River and $221,000 was for an extension of the city wharves. ‘Good road’ bonds were set at $875,000.)
Legendary football coach Bum Phillips, who was born in 1923 and died last month at the age of 90, went to Anderson. In his autobiography he wrote that his family moved into town so he could go to the school. ‘I was a raucous and noisy child. I received countless whippings for being too loud or argumentative,’ he wrote.
The second Anderson lasted for 60 years. Thousands of students went through the classes from those growing up during the Great Depression to those who moved to Orange with their parents as they worked in the shipyards during World War II. The Baby Boomer generation of children born after the war followed. In the mid-1960s, the old Orange Independent School District disbanded and it became part of the West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District. In the early 1980s, the school district once again built a new elementary and named it Anderson. The old three-story building wasn’t demolished until the students moved into the new one. Maybe only the walls were demolished and the contractor covered up the foundation. Or perhaps the foundation was left back in the 1920s.
The school district remodeled an annex of Anderson to house classes for the Discipline Alternative Education Program (DAEP). Soon, the administration will be moving into the remodeled building. A new board meeting room is included. The building will also have the offices and work spaces for the tech department, an important one in the days of computers and the Internet. The district plans on selling the land and building of the current administration building. For a number of years, offices there have worked out of a portable building connected to the main building by a covered walkway.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-