The Schools of Silverton
(From Oregon Magazine, Silverton Number - 1921)

A Description of the new Eugene Field School 

Eugene FieldIn 1921, the citizens of Silverton decided that a new and modern approach should be applied to the construction of the next school. Traditionally, school buildings were multi-storied "block-house" kinds of affairs, with more attention given to the building's "foot-print" versus its intended function. This article, written by the archetectural firm that build the new school, details the unique aspects of their modern design. It was soon christened "Eugene Field," after the noted American author (left), in keeping with a tradition established of naming Silverton Schools after famous literary figures. It followed "Emerson High School," and preceded "Mark Twain Middle School" and "Robert Frost Elementrary." It was in use until recently.

Right living demands education; modern education needs facilities and equipment, which are in harmony with the spirit of the fast age in which we are now living. So community after community is slowly but certainly awakening to the fact that one of its first duties is the proper housing of its young school population. No teacher can do her best without the influence, on the children, of a modern, clean, sanitary building in which the young people entrusted to her care may feel comfortable while being taught. It is these things as a part of the child's school environment, that make for a receptive attitude of mind and body without which the best teacher is seriously handicapped in her work.

So gradually, school district after school district is looking towards the future needs of its community and building with that in view. Among theses many districts is No. 4 of Marion County, located in the thriving town of Silverton, Oregon. It is here that the erection of a modern type of school building, which will become more and more popular as the next twenty years pass by, is taking place.

Eugene Field SchoolThe building at Silverton is to be of the one story, Spanish Mission Architecture type of structure, which, when completed, will form with its wings the letter "E".

Only the administrative rooms and a part of one wing are being built at the present time, but as it is a unit type of building, two or more rooms may be added at any time to accommodate the rapid growth of the school. The building, when completed, will be composed of twenty-two classrooms, teachers' room, library, Superintendent's offices, and an auditorium with gymnasium combination. The latter giving the maximum amount of use for the minimum amount of space and expense.

Over the main corridor and to the rear of the auditorium, there will be a balcony, which will have a seating capacity of three hundred and fifty, so that during athletic contests, crowds may be seated in the balcony to witness the games. The basketball court is to be fifty feet wide and seventy-nine feet long. The lower floor, when used for auditorium purposes will seat about eight hundred, thereby making the total seating capacity eleven hundred and fifty. Such an auditorium is in itself a big asset to any community.

Most schools have difficulty in finding a suitable place for the dramatic work of the school. Whenever a play is given, it must be given in rented halls, usually hard to secure. The large stage twenty-four feet deep and forty-two feet wide with entrance on both sides by inclines will make it possible to put on a drill with a class of forty at one time. The stage is large enough to stage a play, and curtains thirty-two feet wide and thirteen feet high are provided for that purpose. This will enable the schools to give their plays in their own building, in case it becomes desirable to do so, either for school or community uses.

The space under the stage is also used. In it will be located the showers and dressing rooms so necessary for both physical education and athletics. The rooms have a double use in that these same rooms may serve as dressing rooms for dramatic work. The auditorium may thus be a means of training both mind and body for the benefit of any student.

In fact the whole building emphasizes the idea of keeping abreast with modern conditions of health, sanitation and up-to-date equipment, now possible today though not so yesterday. It is not in a class with so called modern schoolhouses, which are merely a good reproduction of some idea that has been carried forward for the last few years.

In the one story type of structure, stairways are eliminated; hence a building of this kind has but very little incline. This means no tiresome stair climbing and the noises that follow or accompany it when large groups of students climb stairs.

The closest attention has been paid to light, heat and the so necessary, though often neglected, ventilation. The type of window used, gives the best possible kind of light and ventilation. On the whole, the heating and ventilating of this modern building is of such a nature, that rooms are not only heated but the air is changed the required number of times, thus supplying good wholesome pure air at all times.

As this type of building covers property next to a walk, bordering it on three sides, there is left a well-defined playground in the center of the block away from the dangerous traffic-loaded streets where children should not be allowed because of the danger of passing vehicles.

The building, when complete, will have ten entrances making it easily accessible to both street and playgrounds, with five entrances leading to the courts which makes it possible to go directly to the play courts without going out on the street first.

As the heating is done through a central heating plant, the fire risk of this building is very small, in fact almost negligible. This greatly adds to the element of safety to pupils as well as to school property, so that parents need not worry about fire dangers nor taxpayers about the possible loss of the building through fire.

The classrooms are modern in every way. They have in connection with them, ventilated wardrobes under the direct supervision of the teacher. Above the blackboards, there are panel strips, planned for decorative purposes. Hence, even the artistic effect has not been ignored nor sacrificed to mere convenience.

All the toilet and shower rooms are constructed of cement plaster and composition floors and equipped with sanitary fixtures. In order to facilitate cleaning, all plaster and woodwork is to be enameled so that they may be washed and cleaned easily.

Examining the exterior, we find the color scheme as red brick and gray plaster showing a red roof on first incline. In its simplicity there will be just enough decorations so as to make the building appear in harmony with the idea of Spanish Architecture, which is being carried out. The exterior is to be constructed of red tile, being hollow, and cement with brick, the tile being covered with cement plaster with a medium rough finish.

The completed structure will present a harmonious whole: a building any community may well feel proud of for the housing of its young people of school age. With a modern environment, assisted by up-to-date teaching, the student of such a community will be ready for modern right living, of which the school is an important factor, in itself a big asset to any community.

Text and image courtesy the Estell family.