History Monday: Worth Saving?

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In an article by the Hoover Sun’s Jon Anderson, a resident of Hoover was quoted as saying, “sometimes a building is not worth it, even if it has historical value.”

Everyone has a right to their opinion.

They also have a right to be wrong.

For the people who know nothing about this place and what it means to the community it has served, take a trip back through time with me.  For you readers out there who do know this place, I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me and maybe you will also pick up a little history you did not know.

It Could Have Already Been Gone

Bluff Park School.  The photos below speaks to the state of this school as it stood after students moved to their brand new school, Bluff Park Elementary School, beginning the 1996-1997 school year just a few steps away.

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There was chipped paint, tarnished letters, an old light that did not work, and an empty building.  This was the state of Bluff Park School before Artists on the Bluff was formed, moved in, and opened the doors over the course of 2011-2012.

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Courtesy Rik Lazenby

There were a few other clubs using the building to meet and the Hoover Historical Society moved their archives to the school’s library and continue to operate from that library today, but without AOTB, would the building still be standing today?  You can read more about Artists on the Bluff’s early days here.

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Courtesy Rik Lazenby

This collection of over thirty photographs, taken as the process began of turning the old school into an arts facility, was posted by Rik Lazenby, one of the artists at Artists On The Bluff.  Rik was there day one.  You can also visit AOTB’s Facebook page for more photographs of the building and art classes that have been open to the public.

But Let’s Rewind A Bit More

Before Artists On The Bluff turned this historical building into a world class artists’ collective, saving it from sitting and deteratoring and eventually meeting its demise with a wrecking ball, this building was home to Hoover Community Education.

Yes, for years Hoover City Schools had a program for after school adult education and its base was here.  Its director was Linda Williams, who was hired in 1973 by Jefferson County.  When Hoover became its own school system, Mrs. Williams became the Director for Community Education for all of Hoover City Schools.  You can read about that here.

After the students moved to their new school in 1996, the Hoover School System used its building (at the time not currently being used for school children) to better the community and the city.  Hoover Community Education was discontinued in 2010. After she retired, Mrs. Williams came back as a volunteer and developed AOTB.

Peeking inside, here are three photos from 2009.  The hallway you see here is the inside of the original brick building.  Along the walls hang historical photos of Bluff Park and the school.  Classrooms were used for everything from GED classses to art classses and more.  The bottom photo is the original school bell, well the remains of it anyway.

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Courtesy BluffParkAl.og
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Courtesy BluffParkAl.org
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Courtesy BluffParkAl.org

Turn Back The Clock

Bluff Park School 1924-1994 Seventy Years of Excellence

 If You Grew Up In Bluff Park, you went to Bluff Park School.  The school was a county school until Bluff Park was anexed in the 1980s.  The Hoover School System/Board was established in 1987.  In 1988, Bluff Park School expanded to 32 classrooms.  Below are photographs from a range of years.  There are countless memories of Bluff Park from people in the Facebook Group If you Grew Up In Bluff Park.  Below, top; children during physical education at Bluff Park School 1959.  The school served the children of the mountain community for seventy years.

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Courtesy Hale Family Collection
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Via “If You Grew Up In Bluff Park” Facebook group

Time Machine: Going Way Back

In 1923-1924, Bluff Park School (which evolved from Summit School, more on that in part two), opened at it’s new location on Park Avenue.  At the time, there were a total of fifty students.  The first teachers at this location were Pearl Cranford and Ethel Hale.  Hale, as in Hale Springs (the name of the area before it became known as Bluff Park).  The Hale’s are one of the primary founding families of the Bluff Park area.

The photograph below is one of the few photographs of the school where you can see the entire school bulding as it was in the early days.  No cafeteria, no additions, no parking lot.  I found this particular photograph in the archives at the Birmingham Public Library’s Linn Henley Research Library.  This is a print from the negative, but it shows a good amount of detail.  Notice the car on the left.

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Courtesy Images of America Hoover, Arcadia Publishing.

Pictured here in front of the school with their students are teachers Ethel Hale and Pearl Cranford.  This photograph is an original from the Cranford/Ash family.  The date is uncertain, but it is from the late 1920’s.

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Courtesy Ruth Cranford Ash

Still More History

We will look at 1923-1900s in Part 2

More to come

Yes, this building, the original Bluff Park School, is worth saving and worth using.

Hoover is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary.  Preservation is part of celebrating one’s history.  We have journeyed back to the 1920s with Bluff Park School.  In part two, I will take you to the 1900s before Bluff Park was Bluff Park.  We are going back to Summit.

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