Old Tippecanoe High School Building Quietly Turns 100
By Judy Deeter
This is a post card of the old Tippecanoe City High School building in Tipp City. Many local residents have precious memories of days spent there and friends of their youth. This year, with little fanfare, the building will turn 100-years-old.
In January 1916, as enrollment numbers began to grow in the Tippecanoe Village School District, the Tippecanoe City Board of Education, which presided over the school district, decided to change the use of their school buildings. They determined to build a new high school and separate grades 1-8 from grades 9-12.
The new high school would be built on the east end of the existing school campus on the corner of South Fifth and Dow streets, where it stands today. Land there had been purchased in 1869 and a school building (known as “the Castle”) erected there in 1894.
The architect for the building was Frank L. Packard of Columbus. Packard is remembered as a nationally-known architect. Some sources say he designed the porch on the home of former U.S. President Warren G. Harding in Marion, Ohio. At one time, Packard had been a partner with Joseph Yost, who designed the Miami County Courthouse and Edwards School in Troy and the Fort Piqua Hotel in Piqua (now the Piqua Public Library and the Fort Piqua Plaza Banquet Center). The primary contractor for the building was the Miller Kemper of Richmond, Indiana.
Though the front of the building faced Fifth Street, that entrance was seldom used. Students entered the building from a door on Dow Street, which was closer to the sidewalk.
An article in the September 13, 1917 edition of the Miami Union newspaper gives a room-by-room description of the then new high school building. The writer of the article says, “…our school has ‘the best there is’ and nothing has been overlooked that would tend to the preservation of health and welfare of the pupils.”
The first use of the building was for an annual alumni reception in May of 1917. The first high school classes were held in September that year and it was officially dedicated on October 25 and 26, 1917.
In the years to come there were many changes to the school building—both in grades of children using the building and its architectural structure. In 1948, 8th graders began attending school in the building. In the early 1950s, a cafeteria, gymnasium/auditorium, and more class and office space were added to the building. The building remained a high school until 1964 when a new high school opened on North Hyatt Street (now Tippecanoe Middle School). After the high school on Hyatt Street opened, the building served at various times as school for students in grades 5-8.
The building closed in 2004. At the time, it was known as the Tippecanoe Central Intermediate School. Karen L. Jackson, who taught at the school from 1989 to 2004 compiled a history of the school building titled “The Closing of Tippecanoe Central Intermediate School May 2004.” Her manuscript tells the story of the building and it contains memories of former students. (cont'd below pictures)
More than 100 years ago, the local school board decided to build a new high school at the corner of Fifth and Dow Streets. Its first classes started in September 1917 and it was dedicated on Oct. 25-26 of that same year. A carving above the old front door of the school can still be seen and reads"Tippecanoe City" - as Tipp City was
known at the time.
A page of memories from William E. Eickhoff (Class of 1935) and Betty Barnhart Eickhoff, (Class of 1938) is particularly interesting. They describe where football and basketball games were played in those days.
Facilities for football games were also much different than today. They remember, “Football was played in Perry Pearson’s cow pasture on the north side of Route 71 (now 571) just east of the Canal. The football players went out in the morning to clean up the ‘cow piles’ before each game. The game was played in the afternoon since there was no lighting. Tipp had no school buses to transport the team to the field. Therefore, the players ran from the school, through downtown, and out to the football field. The spectators all stood along the sideline as no seating was available.”
The gymnasium for basketball was unique as well. “The gymnasium was a small rectangular room in the basement. The team players, and also the cheerleaders, sat on a long bench on the east side of the room. The bleachers were on the first floor up above the actual gym and sat on concrete risers. No bleachers on the west side of the gym.”
Tipp City historian Susan Furlong wrote of the gymnasium in her book Images of America Tippecanoe to Tipp City The First 100 Years, “By 1917, the ‘new' high school was built at Fifth and Dow streets. It was state-of-the-art with three floors of classrooms, a library, science labs, and a gym, but the gym was so small the circles on the court touched. Fans had to move when a ball was taken out of bounds, and if a boy charged the basket, he could end up in someone’s lap.”
When the current high school opened at the corner of Kessler-Cowlesville Road and Tipp-Cowlesville Road in the fall of 2004, the old Tippecanoe High School building was closed. It was closed with an Open House on May 23, 2004. The building, however, is used today by the Tipp City Enrichment Program.
The Tipp City Public Library has a copy of Jackson’s manuscript in the library’s history room. It is available for public reading.