My History/Heritage page feature last week dealt with the opening of a new Science Hill High School at N. Roan Street and John Exum Parkway. A different location was proposed in 1946 when C. Howard McCorkle, then principal of the school, sent a letter to the Johnson City Planning Commission proposing a 4-part program:
1. Construct a new senior high school building for grades 9-12 on property surrounded by E. Main, E. Market and Bert streets, adjacent to the Central Fire Hall. The main entrance would face south toward Roosevelt (later renamed Memorial) Stadium. Except for a small physical education gym included in the new design, the old gymnasium on “The Hill,” built in 1939, would continue to be used for sporting events.
2. Designate one large wing of the new facility for a combination school and civic auditorium capable of seating 1500 to 2000 people, thereby replacing the existing City Hall auditorium at Boone and W. Main streets.
3. Convert the old downtown senior high facility (N. Roan Street) to junior high for seventh and eighth grades.
4. Remodel the existing junior high building constructed in 1922 at N. Roan and Fairview for a medical arts center. This would allow ample space and parking for most of the city doctors to have office suites there. Another advantage was its close proximity to the new Memorial Hospital next door. McCorkle and the School Board believed that this would greatly enhance the possibility of Johnson City becoming a future medical center.
The new grade arrangement was known as the “6-2-4 Plan” (grammar schools, 1-6; junior high, 7-8; and senior high, 9-12), replacing the present “6-3-3 Plan” (grammar schools, 1-6; junior high, 7-9; and senior high, 10-12). Another bonus was that it would reduce congestion at the new hospital. The new high school would be near its designated athletic and drill fields. Further, the new junior high would be slightly closer to its athletic fields. An attractive feature of the new proposal was that none of the existing facilities would be abandoned or razed.
In spite of McCorkle’s petition, the Board of Education issued a resolution requesting that the city refrain from using the proposed strip of land for a new high school. Mayor Welsford P. Artz stated that the city had been approached by a manufacturing firm and was quoted a price for 600 feet of the 1000-foot frontage property in question. The type of building the company proposed was what the commission wanted to see there. It was to be a low one-story building, occupying only a comparatively small portion of the lot. The firm further intended to beautify the grounds, making it an attractive addition to the town. However, the city set aside a portion of the land adjacent to the fire station for future use.
The School Board immediately countered with another letter to the commissioners: “In the near future, the normal growth in the city’s population and the growing obsoleteness of Science Hill High School will make the erection of a new (school) imperative and that the land in question is an ideal site for a modern high school. It is adjacent to the stadium and ballpark, away from the congestion and noise of the downtown section, on the side of town toward where future growth will likely occur, level with ample parking space, abundant space for a modern high school building with a auditorium and room for a large recreation center in addition to a high school campus.”
McCorkle’s proposal was rejected and the offer for the company to build there fell through. The land was essentially not used until years later when the city relocated its municipal and safety offices on the site. It would be another 15 years before a new high school would be constructed in North Johnson City.