An Abridged History of Easley High School
By Chad Stewart
Small subscription schools (funded by monthly tuition fees) were present in Easley as early as 1874,the earliest being taught by Charles Robinson in the building of the Easley Methodist-Episcopal Church (First United Methodist Church). These small schools operated until 1895 when the tax supported free school system was established. After this point the subscription schools fell out of fashion and eventually ceased to exist.
Easley’s rapid growth at the turn of the twentieth century resulted in the need for new educational facilities. In 1905 a new two-story brick school building, designed by architect Avery Carter of Spartanburg, was constructed on Easley’s Main Street. The new building featured a large tower into which was moved the bell from the original Academy building. Perched in the new tower, the bell could be heard for several miles around Easley as it rang each day to announce the beginning and ending of school.
The 1905 building became known as the "Central School" after several other graded schools were established in Easley, most created to serve the mill villages that sprang up during the first decade of the twentieth century. In 1909 a large addition, designed by brothers Frank H. and Joseph G. Cunningham of Greenville, was made to the back of the school, more than doubling its size.
Easley High School occupied the 1905 and 1909 buildings until a new state-of-the-art facility was constructed in 1939. After EHS settled into its new campus, the 1905 building was demolished to make way for a new U.S. Post Office. The 1909 portion of the building was used for many years by several businesses in different capacities but stood abandoned for much of the latter half of the twentieth century. Named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, it has recently been converted into condominiums. The original gymnasium stood until very recently but was demolished to make room for a downtown parking lot.
By the 1930’s Easley High School had outgrown its downtown facilities. For many years construction of a new school remained a dream because of the lack of much-needed money required to bring the project into fruition.
In 1937 funds were finally made available by the Works Progress Administration for the construction of a new high school. A location for the new school was chosen on West Third Avenue, between Pendleton Street and South First Street, on property owned by Mr. F.W. Whitmire. In honor of the EHS mascot, West Third Avenue was renamed Green Wave Avenue.
The new state-of-the-art school contained 25 academic classrooms; a music room; modern library, which held some 15,000 books, all available to students for the first time; and an auditorium on the east end of the building that could accommodate 1,000 people seated on two levels. The front portico, featuring three double doors with arched transom windows, was flanked by four limestone columns and topped by a large ornamental pediment. Four engaged brick columns with limestone capitals adorned both the east (auditorium) and west ends of the façade, adding symmetry to the block-long building.
A new brick gymnasium, with stepped seating that could accommodate up to 750 people, was constructed between the new school building and the new athletic field (completed by October 1940), located on the southern end of the campus.
By the time construction ended in August 1939, locals had invested only $132,000 in the new building thanks to the funding provided by the federal government through the WPA.
Later additions to the 1939 building included a band room (1952), located behind the auditorium; and a new cafeteria (1969-70) connecting the main building and the gym. By 1979 EHS had once again outgrown its home. Green Wave Avenue was removed to make way for expansion of the school. Construction began on a new two story classroom wing built parallel to Pendleton Street, and administration building. To the west end of the original building, the new B.B. McKelvey Gymnasium was added to replace the original gym.
EHS underwent its final expansion on the Green Wave Avenue/Pendleton Street campus in 1997. At that time an addition was opened featuring a new library/media center; a new cafeteria; and classrooms on the second floor. This addition closed in the campus, eliminating the parking lot in front of McKelvey Gym. The oak trees that once shaded Green Wave Avenue now overlook a courtyard between the buildings of the campus.
In November of 2006, the board of trustees adopted a bold $315 million building plan that included the construction of four new high schools. The New Easley High School is located on Highway 8 South of downtown Easley near the intersection of Sheriff Mill Rd. Following years of construction, students will begin the 2012-2013 school at the new campus at the end of August 2012.
The new building has been designed to pay homage to the much-beloved ’39 Building in that it features similar brick colors, columns, and architectural details.
–A small community, Easley, begins to develop around the new railroad in Pickens County.
–The first subscription (pay) school is begun by Dr. Charles Robinson.
–Easley is incorporated as a town.
–First "Academy" is constructed.
– New two-story "Academy" is constructed.
Figure 1: Easley's Second "Academy," c. 1880 (Photo: Easley High School Archives)
-SC Legislature passes an act allowing towns to collect taxes for the operation of free public schools.
–Pickens County is divided into more than fifty publicly supported school districts, one being Easley.
–Easley’s "Central" Graded School is constructed on Main Street to replace the 1880 wooden Academy building.
Figure 2: Easley's "Central" Graded School, c. 1905 (Photo: Easley High School Archives - Dub Fortner Collection)
-Major addition doubles the size of the facility.
Figure 3: Easley Graded & High School, c. 1909, with rear additon (Photo: Collection of C. Stewart)
-The 1909 addition is expanded. Few details survive to indicate the amount or nature of the work done at this time other than the fact that the roofline was raised by several feet and the building was extended to the size we see today.
Figure 4: Easley High School after c. 1920 Expansion (Photo: Easley High School Archives)
-EHS moves to the Green Wave Ave. campus.
Figure 5: Easley High School from Green Wave Avenue c. 1945 (Photo: Collection of C. Stewart)
–A new band room is constructed behind the auditorium.
-New cafeteria is constructed.
-New classroom addition is constructed parallel to Pendleton Street.
-New administration building is constructed.
-B.B. McKelvey Gymnasium is constructed.
-Green Wave Ave. is removed .
–New media center, cafeteria, and classroom addition is constructed as well as a new band room on Pendleton Street
–SDPC Board of Trustees approves $315 million building plan, which includes construction of four new high schools.
–Ground is broken for the new Easley High School campus on Highway 8.
–In the spring the Board of Trustees of the School District of Pickens County review their plans to demolish the 1939 building and replace it with a new yet similar structure as the old campus is converted into a second middle school. Following a huge public outcry from the Easley community; state and local historic preservationists; as well as local business and civic leaders; a plan is approved that saves renovates the 1939 building, including W.M. Scott Auditorium, as part of the new middle school.
-In May demolition begins on the 1939 gymnasium, 1952 band room, 1969 cafeteria, and 1997 band room. All have been completely demolished by the end of July.
-In June the Class of 2012 becomes the last to graduate from the Pendleton Street campus.
-The new Easley High School opens to students on August 21.
-On Friday, August 24, the first football game is played at Green Wave Stadium. The Green Wave defeats Daniel 21-14 as a capacity crowd watches.
Figure 6: Easley High School 2012 (Photograph: C. Stewart)
Figure 7: Green Wave Stadium 2012 (Photograph: C. Stewart)
Figure 8: The EHS Bell at Green Wave Stadium (Photograph: C. Stewart)
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For more information about the history of Easley High School, or access to the EHS Archives, please contact Chad Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.