Hanby holds a special place in hearts of Gold Hill

Hanby, originally built in 1910, was Gold Hill School which later became Gold Hill High School.Crater Foundation web site

Built in 1910 on Nugget Butte in Gold Hill, Hanby Middle School has the distinction of being Jackson County's oldest surviving, continuously operating public institution of learning.

According to its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the school at 806 Sixth Ave. is a simplified version of Beaux Arts architecture, three-story brick masonry on top of concrete in an L-shaped design.

Oldest surviving schools, by community

At the turn of the century, Southern Oregon boasted more than 100 school districts, says Ashland historic preservationist George Kramer. They've all since been consolidated to fewer than a dozen.

Here's an incomplete list of the some of the oldest surviving school buildings, based on records on file at the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

  • Ashland — Older portions of Bellview Elementary were built in the 1920s, though the site has been home to school buildings since the 1860s, when Bellview was its own community.
  • Medford — Until being largely demolished and renovated last year because of safety concerns, Jefferson and Roosevelt elementary schools' original brick buildings had served students since 1911. What is likely Medford's first school location still stands at Ninth Street and Central Avenue and houses Tacos Mi Tierra.
  • Jacksonville: In the valley's oldest town, the picturesque Jacksonville School, built in 1907, remains beloved by its alumni. The now privately owned building, called Bigham Knoll, houses a German restaurant.
  • Talent — The Talent Community Center, built in 1899, was once the old schoolhouse. It served students for 12 years before a larger building was constructed at the present Talent Elementary School site. It was sold to the city for a community center in 1914.
  • Central Point — The city's oldest school, a brick building constructed in 1908, was still used as classroom space until 2002 when it was turned into school district offices and a new elementary school was built next-door.

Quite the modern building for its time, the structure is the only example of the Chicago style of architecture in Gold Hill.

To the community, Hanby is a landmark and local treasure.

"It's just been there for so long, it's such a part of our town," said retired teacher and Gold Hill resident Margaret Dials. "It's been the heart of our community for a long time."

The brick building's predecessor, Gold Hill's earliest schoolhouse, sat on the present-day site of City Hall a few blocks to the south.

In 1909, the area's voters approved a $20,000 bond to build a new school.

The contractor was Henry T. Wentworth, who used brick manufactured by the Stickel Brothers' brickyard in Dardanelles southeast of Gold Hill.

Part of Gold Hill School District 57, which was established in 1889, Hanby served upper grades while the original schoolhouse served grade-schoolers until the district combined K-12 grades at Hanby in 1924.

Hanby became a junior high in 1955, a few years after Gold Hill was consolidated under Central Point School District. It housed seventh- and eighth- graders until 1991, when Patrick and Sams Valley sixth-graders were added to the mix and it became a middle school.

In 2003, an addition was built and an elevator added to connect the old with the new.

"There have been very few changes other than trees and shrubbery," Dials says. "Something else that has not changed is how important it is to the community."

Mary Ellen Christian, who worked as a substitute teacher and librarian from the 1970s until she retired in 2002, said local families boast of having "generations and generations" as Hanby alumni.

"It's pretty neat for the parents and kids to have all gone there," Christian said. "It's a real connection for the community."

Dials said the school gives students a sense of ownership and from "coming from something special."

"It's been tradition, on the last day of school, to go up and ring the old bell," Dials said.

"Everybody cries as they go home on the bus on their last day because it's such a sentimental thing."

She adds, "During our centennial (last year), when we had our day to celebrate, they opened up the school and we let people go up and ring the bell and we heard story after story from all the people who had gone to Hanby way back when. It's just a very special place."

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