Checking In On Mark Twain and Central High Schools

St. Louis voters recently overwhelmingly passed Prop S, which will allow the St. Louis Public Schools to issue bonds for much needed improvements to buildings, most of which are now over one hundred years old, though as anyone who will admit it, are extremely well built and will last for centuries if properly maintained. The high school I attended required the replacement of its exterior walls in the 1990s–twenty years after its construction in 1976. No, really.

The photo above is really crappy, but it shows what has happened to Mark Twain Elementary, in the eponymous neighborhood of North St. Louis. As Rob Powers said years ago, for many neighborhoods in the City of St. Louis, schools are the only major institution that the community has.

Since the last time I was here, another window has blown out, fallen out, or been stolen. Who knows? Imagine living across from this place.

St. Louis voters and taxpayers have a responsibility to watch closely and ask how Prop S money will be used. I can’t tell you how many abandoned schools I’ve photographed with relatively new windows that are sitting trashed.

The roof is failing now; luckily, these are concrete buildings so it is not a fatal collapse.

Or is it? Around back things are not looking good.

Further south, Central High School, which I last looked at back in 2017, is so shrouded in overgrown and dead trees that I didn’t even bother getting better pictures. It’s too depressing.

Will I be photographing an abandoned and trashed public school ten years from now that Prop S money was dumped into? Just being honest here.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. W. White says:

    Of course the money will be wasted. What else would the St. Louis Public School District (or any other inner-city urban school district) do with the money? While there are almost always funding concerns for schools, everywhere, urban, rural, or suburban; the financial issue that is most endemic and problematic for urban schools is financial mismanagement. That, combined with policies that encourage poor performance from both teachers and students, is how school districts can spend so much money and have such ignorant, poorly-educated students sitting in neglected buildings. Does anyone really believe that, at about $17,000 in spending per pupil (actually relatively low compared to cities along the coasts), the St. Louis Public School District is doing the best possible job educating St. Louis children with the money it taxes from its residents and visitors? Now, I fall in the latter category; I am just someone who enjoys St. Louis’s ever dwindling stock of historic architecture whenever I am in that part of the country, so I have no real voice in the issue. Besides, I have my own ever more poorly-managed school district to deal with where I live.

  2. Cindy Rice says:

    Sad to be that close of a witness to these once beautiful buildings. It is hard to look at the old Cleveland High School building. It is sad they couldn’t be repurposed.

  3. David says:

    I graduated Mark Twain in 1962. What a jewel it was. Ittner designed these school buildings to endure the ages. But even they can’t withstand the neglect and vandalism of this age.

  4. ME says:

    It’s sad that these schools closed in the first place. It’d be nice if these schools had stayed open. Many youngens today could sure use some structure & guidance. I’m sure a lot of the Prop S money will find a way to be divvied up in bonuses for senior executives. Meanwhile the American dream of a hard working teachers salary, and the idea of your children attending school in a beautifully designed building in your own neighborhood dwindles away. The churches / schools close one by one, then local businesses follow. The end result is that there isn’t much left, and the neighborhood rapidly declines. We should care more for the future of our city, while also preserving the architecture created by those who took pride in making St. Louis a better place.

  5. Carin says:

    Oh wow! Was wondering whatever happened to central school. In 5th or 6th grade (long long ago as I’m now 38!) we visited this school to meet kids from ‘the other side of the tracks’ who were our counterparts. I went to Vogt Elementary in Ferguson. I think it closed just a few years after because even on maps I could never locate the school on a map after I went to college. Sad to see the state it is in but good to see I remembered it correctly! Thank you

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