Saturday, September 15, 2012

Delaney Elementary School - 1920 - Frederick H. Trimble, Architect

Delaney Elementary School - 1920 - Frederick H. Trimble, Architect

This wonderful building began its life as the Delaney Elementary School and is now The Orlando Mayor William Beardall Senior Center. How marvelous for a fine old structure to be used in new ways; no matter what you call it, it is an architectural treasure.

Now, looking at it you might say, "That's just an old school building, one like you would see in any city or town." On the one hand you would be right; in fact, there are plenty of cities and towns that have let such buildings fall into neglect. Hooray for Orlando for not doing that.

You see, this is a prairie style school. It compares favorably with prairie style schools in the Midwest, where that architectural movement began, as well as with other prairie style schools across the land. Earlier posts on this blog have included some other prairie style schools in Micanopy and in Lake Helen.

The sign shown above has several hints at what this version of the prairie style is all about. First, the decorative brickwork at the caps of the two ends of the sign, second the square limestone inset (a popular prairie style detail that has been revived and used a lot in recent years), and third the emphasis on the horizontal line (echoing the horizontals of the open prairie, hence the style's name).

If you were to take the sign's design to its logical conclusion, you would get what you see below, an entire building emphasizing the horizontal line of the prairie (see the white string courses that flow continuously across the building's facade, the grouped windows (yes it is practical to do classroom windows that way but no one did up until the prairie style; they still do it today), and the subtle but effective patterns in the brickwork, which you can see in later photos below.

This school building was designed by one of Central Florida's best and most versatile architects, Frederick H. Trimble. You can read more about him on my post about the Montverde Academy from Monday. Below is a statue on the broad front lawn of the school, the adult in the statue is Mayor Beardall. The sculptor is William Kilpatrick.
Some older adults who enjoy classes and events at the center now, actually attended grammar school here more than 80 years ago.
If you take a closer look at the main facade of the building you will see these distinctive prairie style brick and limestone insets. The elongated cross design was often used in prairie style architecture and was perhaps intended as a geometric form, rather than to make an architectural faith statement. Even so, it is a good reminder that Frederick Trimble served as the first ever architect-missionary in China for the Methodist Church before he entered into his architectural practice in Central Florida.

The markers at the foot of the two central flagpoles are memorials to Mayor Bearadall and to his son, Hal who was a prisoner of war in the Korean Conflict, and presumed dead. You can read about Hal Beardall at this link:

The scrolling banister of the main staircase is a thing of beauty, now augmented by a more standard handrail.

A portion of the plaque telling who the architect was is shown above; below is one of the prairie style gazebos on the front lawn. These are wonderful; I do not know if they are contemporaneous with the school or later additions inspired by it. Either way, they fit the design perfectly.
Above, a side stairway exit displays some fine prairie style elements. Obviously the door used to have a transom window above, where the newer brick is, but the vertical brick detail that encompasses both floors, and the nice square stone insets are restrained and elegant. This view shows how far the cornice string course is cantilevered over the facade. Shuffleboard! This court is one of the real treasures of the Center. I particularly like the brick half piers with their stone squares as well as the cantilevered roof.


Rick Kilby said...

Shuffleboard has returned to the Beardall Center! Join us the first Saturday of each month from 7-9 pm- it's Free and fun for the whole family!

Unknown said...

The article wonders whether the gazebos were contemporaneous with the school. Goodness, no. When I attended the school in the 1950's that area was a playground. Seems to me that it was mostly a clay court. The whole playground was divided into three areas (NE, SE, and SW), and at that time each segment was assigned to two grades at recess. The SE portion included playground equipment and was devoted to 1st & 2nd grade. I think that the NE section was for 5th & 6th grades.

The north entrance to the school has an extra architectural awning over the door. Back in the day, there was a driveway past the door, that made it possible for cars to pull up to drop off or pick up kids on rainy days.

Unknown said...

Hello my name is Kathy Bliss I went to Delaney as a small child I now live in Michigan and am 51 years old I came across this webpage I almost cried I've always had fond memories of this building didn't even know that it still existed but when I went there it was just one single brick building I am so happy to see if move on and become something even greater than what I remember thank you again Kathy Bliss