W. H. Adamson High School: The Early Years

 

In 1891 the newly-incorporated Town of Oak Cliff voted to seek bids on a school building. The newspaper reported: “Resolved by the city council of Oak Cliff that the mayor be instructed to advertise for plans for a modern three-story brick school building with brick cross walls to be erected at Oak Cliff, Texas, to contain twelve rooms for school purposes and the cost of said building, complete, not to exceed the sum of $22,000,…” The corner stone was laid at the corner of Patton and Tenth streets for the school in September, 1892 under the auspices of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas.
Thanks to Bob Johnston, who prepared this seven-minute video for the 2013 Annual All-Class Reunion program. The video illustrates the rich history of our school during the 1880s to the 1920s.

 

In 1891 William Hardin Adamson was named Superintendent and Oak Cliff Central School operated at that location until a new building was constructed to house the high school in 1915 at the corner of Ninth and Beckley. The old building was then operated as an elementary school until 1926 when it was torn down and the students assigned to John H. Reagan and James Bowie schools and later to the new Ruthmeade School (now John F. Peeler). 201 East Ninth Street has been the site of a Dallas' high school facility since 1915.

Opening after some controversy, the new Oak Cliff High School was a state-of-the-art facility—one of two built to relieve overcrowding at the Dallas High School on Bryan Street where all high school students had formerly attended. Controversy arose over the differences between the two new schools—Oak Cliff and Forest Avenue. The latter was built with four stories on the front of the building, with the fourth floor housing art rooms and an art gallery. Oak Cliff residents complained loudly to the school board that they, too, should have such art facilities—to no avail.

The new school was composed of a u-shaped building which was added to several times over the years. Originally the facility was made up of the front hallway with classrooms and offices facing Ninth Street and two short wings with two rooms on each end facing Beckley Avenue on the west side and private homes on the east. Later, around 1925 an addition was constructed which added an auditorium, lunchroom, gymnasium and additional classrooms on the end of the north wings (probably because the new Sunset High School was to open that year). A central heating system was operated by coal boilers with a giant blower system designed to circulate the air into the classrooms. Later the basement coal bins were converted to athletic dressing rooms.
Around 1928 the houses next door to the school on the east were acquired, including the studio of noted artist Frank Reaugh—“The Ironshed Studio”—and his parent’s home which faced 8th Street. Adamson Field was established on the entire block on the east side of the building. The June class of 1931 erected an archway sign at the corner of Crawford and Ninth streets proclaiming “Adamson Field.” Principal W. H. Adamson died in May, 1935 and four days later the school board voted to re-name Oak Cliff High School for him. At that time he had served as principal for 31 years.

Additions built with federal aid in 1938 added wings on the east and west ends of the main hallways which provided on the first floor west the long-awaited art room as well as a chemistry lab and choir suite. On the east end were a woodshop, basement facilities for the ROTC, football locker room (which got them out of the coal bin), a biology lab and physics lab.

Later additions to the campus included a “boys gym” in 1959 (named for Howard A. Allen, the principal) and in the 1970’s metal buildings on Adamson Field for auto shops and early childhood classes. Private homes were acquired at Seventh and Patton for a new athletic field and a parking lot across Ninth Street from the school.

Over the years there have been numerous changes to the building. The auditorium was remodeled following a $15,000 back-stage fire in May of 1944 which started in the stage curtains. The front entrance of the building was rebuilt due to structural problems around that time as well. Of course there have been numerous remodeling efforts and the addition of air conditioning in the 1970’s.

In 2002 the look of the front of the building changed due to new landscaping and concrete work made possible by the Adamson Alumni Association and in 2005 an addition was added to the rear of the building extending to Eighth Street.