Mural recalls Salem’s Fourth Street School

SALEM – Historians revisited Salem’s school building past for the latest Murals of Salem installment, even digging up a few pieces of the old Fourth Street School while installing a mural where the grand structure once stood.

The mural located on the north side of Fourth Street next to the Smith Center senior apartment complex features an artist’s rendering of the Fourth Street School built in 1896. The original drawing by W.G. Walter, a founding member of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, Pa. hangs inside the Salem school district’s administration building on East State Street, former site of the McKinley School.

The mural also features a detailed description of the Fourth Street School’s history and the history of several other buildings in the Salem school district’s past, along with smaller drawings or photos of those buildings.

While digging the post holes for the mural sign, Murals of Salem committee member Bob Schuck said they came across pieces of brick that they assume came from the old school, which was razed in 1974 after being abandoned for newer buildings.

According to committee members, this mural is the fourth to be completed, with more to come. The first was a reproduction of a painting by Schuck to commemorate the Stark Electric Railway Co. station on North Ellsworth Avenue, which now houses Smokin’ Marty’s restaurant.

Others have included a reproduction of paintings by Schuck depicting the history of Salem, located on a building

on the north side State Street downtown, and a mural of the old City Hall, which can be seen at the municipal parking lot at Ellsworth Avenue and State Street.

Committee members include Schuck, Ginger Grilli of the Salem Preservation Society who also prepared the history information on the schools, Dave Stratton of the Salem Historical Society, Camille Franzen of the Salem Tourism Board and Donna Chappell of Chappell Framing.

According to the history of the Fourth Street School, the building was dedicated on Nov. 25, 1897 with over 3,000 visitors. Construction had begun in the fall of 1896, with the low bid being $43,500. A parade was held on Oct. 6, 1896 to lay the cornerstone and bury a time capsule with the contents encased in a copper box made by the W.H. Mullins Co. The cornerstone and some of the contents are preserved at the Salem Historical Society Museum.

The building included eight classrooms, a library and the superintendent’s office on the first floor and six classrooms and an auditorium on the second floor which seated 682 people. A gallery and two bay windows could accommodate 300 more people. The history said a bell cast by the A. Fulton Co. of Pittsburgh was salvaged from the previous school hung in a 187-foot bell tower. After lightning damaged the bell tower in 1900, the bell was removed and now serves as the victory bell at Reilly Stadium.

“Ornate, twin 80-foot chimneys at each end of the building served as part of the original toilet system. A grand staircase, divided in the middle, had a landing halfway to the second floor. A windowed rotunda on the main floor lit the superintendent’s office from which speaking tubes went to all classrooms. Stoker-fired boilers provided heat and dampers controlled classroom temperature. The bell rang to call children to school. Everyone walked to school, went home for lunch, and stopped for candy on their way back. Standard features were glass ink wells at desks, chalkboards, exterior fire escapes outside windows, large milk glass lights overhead, and a cloakroom with hooks for coats and snow suits,” the history said.

The history featured on the mural includes information on some of the earlier schools and the creation of the Union School System in Salem. The Union School, also known as the Chestnut Street School, was built in 1851 and at first housed all grades, then elementary grades. The building later became part of the Central Clinic Hospital, which was later razed.

The second school, opened in 1860, was also called Union School and was the first Fourth Street School. It was three stories with a tall central bell tower and two shorter towers at the front corners. The heat came from open grate fireplaces. The building was condemned and razed in 1896, making way for the new Fourth Street School.

Columbia School stood at Columbia Street and Lundy Avenue, now the site of Sparkle Market. It opened in 1881 and was razed in 1953. The first McKinley School was built on East Main Street, now State Street, and dedicated in 1892. It was heated by a kerosene furnace and was demolished in 1978 after a major fire. The second McKinley School was an annex built in 1949 and still stands as administrative offices.

Prospect School was dedicated the same day as the Fourth Street School in 1897 and remained in use until vacated in 2006. Now owned by private citizens, the entire building remains intact. The former high school dedicated in 1917 on Garfield Street, now known as North Lincoln Avenue, had 23 classrooms, an auditorium, gymnasium, offices and specialty rooms for wood and iron working, sewing, millinery, cooking, bookkeeping and secretarial studies.

According to the history, the school had two additions to the east wings and served as the high school until 1958 when it became Salem Middle School. Now it’s known as the Kent State University City Center.