Designated: Landmark Building Exterior
745 Rosalia Street, S E.
Grant Park Historic District, of which Roosevelt High School is a contributing property, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on July 20, 1979.
The Girls High/Roosevelt High School complex lies on a ridge overlooking the Atlanta stockade and the southside Comprehensive High School which replaced it as an Atlanta educational institution. The three story red brick building dominates the skyline as one approaches from Glenwood Avenue on Muse Street. The striking and unusual Neo-Byzantine detailing of the building belies the actual simplicity of its design, which made great use of standardized components.
Roosevelt High School is a "long, narrow, three-storey rectangle" which gives the appearance of a "much more complex structure." The first two floors featured double-loaded corridors. The third floor had a single-loaded corridor with wood windows (the only wood windows in the building) leading to a roof terrace. The third story of the main facade was stepped back, providing the large terraced space (actually the second floor roof) which was used by the girls for outside exercise periods. A large shallow dome tops the third story, and three protruding gables give the appearance of intersecting axes. The dome and gables are actually roof details rather than structural features. Although the assembly room which had a seating capacity of 400 was located on the third floor under the dome, the three story central rotunda one would expect does not exist.
The gymnasium, which was originally joined to the main school by a breezeway, is similar in design, although more restrained, befitting its athletic rather than scholastic usage. Designed the year after the 1947 conversion of the school from all girls to co-educational, and constructed two years later, the gymnasium is also a simple structured building. The details of ornamentation on that building echo the main school and also imply a grander structure than actually exists.
The ornamentation of these two buildings gives them their architectural distinction. The Byzantine dome of the main school is the most prominent feature of the complex. It was constructed of copper set on a circular drum of alternating arched windows on square pillars which appear as brown and white bands. The same "contrasting ribbons of brick and stone are repeated over the main entryway and in the zig-zag trim on the gymnasium entrance." The arched windows of the dome are echoed on all the gable ends (recessed behind Doric columns) and as one very large proscenium arch forming the gymnasium entrance. The other outstanding feature of the main facade is the elaborate round-arched and columned entrance portico with tile roof and central three-story gable. A rosette window beneath the peak of the gable but above the hooded portico completes the entry. Terra-cotta trim is also used to give richness to the buildings. Insets of that material beneath the roof repeat window patterns and give the appearance of an "interrupted frieze." Gable cornices are elaborated with brick and molded concrete; the gable tips and building corners even feature gargoyles and tablets. Concrete belt courses mark foundation and roof lines; the same material was used for columns and window sills as well. Windows which appear to be double hung are actually metal louvers which open horizontally. The other side of the main building was more functional, with ornamentation reserved for the large gables on either end of the center section.
When the school was renovated into apartments during the late 1980s, several exterior changes to the complex also occurred. The breezeway connecting the main school building and the gymnasium was removed. A 1953 cafeteria addition to the rear of the building was also removed. Ten two story townhouses in two buildings with a swimming pool between them were constructed behind the building. The gymnasium is presently (1995) being remodeled into 30 additional apartments.
The new Girls High School building replaced one of seven schools founded in 1872 as part of the original Atlanta public school system. Those schools included a girls' high, boys' high, and five elementary schools. For fifty years before the construction of their new school, Girls High operated out of the John Neal/William Lyon Mansion, used by General William T. Sherman as his headquarters during his occupation of Atlanta. The site of that mansion is now occupied by City Hall. As the school's enrollment grew during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so did the size of the plant. Often cited as an excellent school academically despite its rambling and unsafe physical plant, Girls High was the only public high school in Atlanta for girls only.
By 1920 conditions in municipal Atlanta had reached a critical condition as lack of maintenance during the war years was compounded by a post World War I slump. In particular, the schools had suffered severely from a combination of lack of funds and increasing enrollment. A massive bond issue of $8,850,000 of which $4,000,000 was earmarked for the schools, was passed in March 1921. The new Girls High (Roosevelt High School) was built as part of this Atlanta Board of Education initiative that resulted in a dozen or so new and remodeled schools. Edwards & Sayward, the architectural firm that designed the structure was responsible for the stylistic details of the main school building. However, the overall school construction and renovation program was the conception of A. Ten Eyck Brown, a prominent local architect who also supervised its execution. In order to save material and construction costs--and also to simplify later maintenance--most of the mechanical, service and structural elements of the school buildings built or remodeled throughout the city were standardized. Specifications for "plumbing, heating, electrical wiring, materials, typical classrooms, corridor types, stairways, toilet details, lab configurations, and other special classrooms (such as the Bank room at Girls' High) were spelled out by Brown before the bids were let."
The Girls High building, which opened in January 1925, had 104 rooms including science halls, laboratories, a business department, sewing rooms, a library, an art department, music room, and the outdoor classrooms on the third level. A model apartment contained a living/dining room, bedroom, bath and kitchenette. Twenty classrooms and individual offices for the 39 teachers were also included. Locker alcoves and two large study halls were located across the hall from the library. A school bank complete with cages, was part of the business department, and encouraged the girls to save as well as giving them an opportunity to learn the banking business.
The new school building opened for classes in January 1925, and continued as a girls' high school until 1947 when Atlanta high schools became co-educational. Renamed Roosevelt High School for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the school continued as an Atlanta institution until 1985. At that time, Roosevelt was combined with Hoke Smith Technical School (located on the other side of Grant Park) and a new school building was established on the site on Glenwood Avenue just below the old school buildings, where it still stands.
The architectural firm of Edwards & Sayward was one of the "leading firms" of Atlanta. Senior partner, William A. Edwards was born in 1866 in South Carolina and educated at the University of South Carolina. After practicing a number of years, he came to Atlanta in 1902, and maintained an independent office until 1912. William J. Sayward was born in Woodstock, Vermont in 1875, educated at the state university and MIT, and moved to Atlanta in 1912, the year the firm of Edwards & Sayward was established. That partnership lasted for more than 25 years, until Edwards' death in 1939.
Among other commissions, Mr. Edwards designed the Odd Fellows Office Building on Auburn Avenue. Nationally, the firm's best known project was probably University Homes, the second (after Techwood Housing) slum clearance project in Atlanta. However, the firm seems to have specialized in educational buildings. They designed the University of Florida, Gainesville (1913-1925); the Florida State College for Women (1912-1925) and Florida A& M College (1912-1925), Tallahassee; and the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, St. Augustine (1913-1923). In Georgia, they were responsible for The Georgia State Woman's College (1917-1939) and the Woodrow Wilson Memorial College, Valdosta; the South Georgia Agricultural & Mechanical College, Tifton; the Agnes Scott College (1929-1936) and Columbia Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Decatur; and the high school in Decatur as well. South Carolina projects included Winthrop College, Rock Hill (1915-1931); and renovation of the South Carolina School for the deaf and the Blind, Cedar Spring (1914-1927); the law building of the University of South Carolina (1917) and the agricultural building at Clemson.
Edwards & Sayward also designed a number of commercial buildings, especially banks, which included the Liberty Bank and office building, Columbia; and the Commercial Bank, Newberry (1922), both in South Carolina. Other bank and commercial buildings designed by the firm in Georgia included the Decatur Bank & Trust Company and the Pythagoras Masonic Temple in Decatur, Georgia (1926). In additional they were responsible for many residences, of which the M.C. Heath mansion in Columbia, South Carolina was considered particularly.
After the death of his partner in 1939, Sayward continued in association with Robert B. Logan as the firm Sayward & Logan. Logan had worked for Edwards & Sayward for many years. Sayward continued in practice until his death in December 1945 at the age of seventy. The gymnasium was designed by Sayward, Logan & Williams, a later version of the same firm which retained Sayward's name. Another of their notable designs was the Emory Presbyterian Chapel.
Anon., "Sketch Biography of William A. Edwards," 16 pages. On file in William A. Edwards name file at the Historic Preservation Division (HPD).
Armisted, Margaret Beauchamp, "A High School That Stood High." Georgia Review, vol. IX, no. 2, summer 1995, pages 168-177.
Association to Revive Grant Park publications.
Atlanta City Directory, 1920-1947. Architecture firm listings.
Atlanta History Center (AHC), files of the Atlanta Board of Education, Box 1, especially folder labeled "School Buildings."
Blackwell, Lyon and Bacote, Sweet Auburn Project, "Odd Fellows Office Building." National Register Files (HPD).
Burns, Olive Ann, "Roosevelt High's Girls With Guns Pray Before They Drill." Atlanta Journal and Constitution Magazine, 11 November 51, 16-17.
Clark, Caroline M., The Story of Decatur, 1823-1899, 1993, page 253 (HDP).
Dunagan, H. Lee, Preliminary nomination form for the Atlanta Urban Design Commission, 1976.
Engelhardt, N.L., Report of the survey of the Public School System of Atlanta, Georgia, school year 1921-1922, 2 vols. NY: Division of Field Studies, Institute of Education Research, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York.
"Grant Park Revival," The Great Speckled Bird, 10 October 1974.
"Historic Preservation Certification Application, Part 1 - Evaluation of Significance" for Roosevelt High School. Prepared by Darlene Roth, submitted 5 August 1986, certified 11 September 1986. Also Part 2, "Description of Rehabilitation."
Howell, Clark, History of Georgia, vol. 3. "William Augustus Edwards," pages 597-598 (HDP).
Melson, Ida E., head English Department; Anne Chambers and Anne Fitzgerald, students "History of Girls High School, 1873-1938. 29 page typewritten manuscript, bound, 1938 (AHC).
"National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form," Grant Park Historic District, listed 20 July 1979.
Percy, Dudley, "The Last Girls High Girls." Atlanta Journal/Atlanta Constitution, 2 August 1987, page 1H, 6H.
Racine, Philip Noel, Atlanta's Schools: A History of the Public School System, 1869-1955. Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1969 (AHC).
Rowe, Elizabeth, "The Grant Park Neighborhood: Coming Up to Code," Creative Loafing, 25 June 1974.
Sayward, W. J., "Plans of Model Home for a Family of Five," Atlanta Journal, 18 July 1920, page 6 (AHC).
Sibley, Celestine, "Girls High was unique School," Atlanta Constitution, 26 October 1983, page 1-B (AHC).
Southern Architect and Building News, August 1929, page 61. Photographs of Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia: Edwards & Sayward, architects.
Stevens, Preston, Building a Firm. Copy available at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) headquarters, Atlanta.
Walls, L. L., "New Club Houses for Atlanta Parks." City Builder, 1928, pages 8-9, 45.
Withey, "Sayward, William J.," pages 537-538 (HPD).
Group I (1) (2) (3)
The proposed nomination of Roosevelt High School meets the above referenced specific criteria as well as the minimum criteria for Landmark Building or Site as set out in Section 16-20.004 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Atlanta.
The original school building was designed by the well known Atlanta architectural firm of Edwards & Sayward. The same firm also designed the boiler house and cafeteria, constructed in 1937 as a Works Project Administration (WPA) project. The gymnasium was added in 1950, designed by the successor firm of Sayward, Logan & Williams to complement the earlier school building. A new cafeteria and kitchen were added in 1953, designed by architect R. Kennon Perry shortly before his death in 1954. The last major alteration to the building came in 1966, when the science labs and classrooms were renovated. The architects for that project were Miller & Allain.