Cordva School - Cordova, TN
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Cordova Dave
N 35° 09.174 W 089° 46.310
16S E 247503 N 3893517
Quick Description: The old Cordova School is in the old part of Cordova. It was placed on the register for it's architecture and educational histories.
Location: Tennessee, United States
Date Posted: 5/12/2009 6:08:38 PM
Waymark Code: WM6C93
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member silverquill
Views: 3

Long Description:
The Cordova School building (currently the Cordova Community Center) was accepted for the National Register for Historic Places on July 28, 1995. The areas of significance are education and architecture. The period of significance is 1913-1945.

The Cordova School building is significant in the area of education for its importance as the only surviving building from the first movement to consolidate the one-room schools of Shelby County, which began soon after the election in 1909 of Mabel C. Williams (1881-1970) as Superintendent of Shelby County Schools and ended with her resignation from the post in 1915. The building is also significant in the area of architecture as a well preserved example of a rural school building designed in the Colonial Revival style by the architectural firm of Jones & Furbringer. Jones & Furbringer, a leading Memphis architectural firm of the early twentieth century, designed many public institutional buildings in the Mid-South region.

Consolidation of the hundreds of one-room schools in Tennessee effectively began in 1903 when the state legislature removed the power of county governments to create school districts. In 1909 the state legislature passed the “General Education Bill” which set aside state funding for a public school system and required that each county maintain at least one county high school. In Shelby County elections later in that year, the progressive reform ticket for county government, headed by Edward H. Crump (1874-1954) with Mabel C. Williams vying for Superintendent of Education, included school consolidation as a major issue. The ticket was swept into power and consolidation began as a priority after their inauguration in 1910.

Four schools are known to have been built during this first major period of school consolidation. It began with Raleigh in 1910, Germantown in 1911, Arlington in 1912, and Cordova in 1913. Of these schools, the Cordova School is the only original structure left. The consolidation program was made possible with the concurrent establishment of a county funded school transportation program which employed horse or mule-drawn “wagonettes” to deliver children to school come rain or shine.

Cordova had developed as a modest agricultural trade center by the turn of the 20th century. This was due in large part to the construction of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N) through the community (then called Allentown) in the 1880’s. The school was built on land donated by the estate of James W. Allen (d. 1913). He was one of the early settlers of the area. Though the community had a small population, the merchants and planters urged construction of a new school to replace a log school whick was located on Macon Road to the west of the donated land.

The Cordova School was designed by the architectural partnership of Walk C. Jones, Sr. and Max Furbringer. The partnership was formed in 1908 after both met had acquired substantial reputations as leading architects. At least two of the first four consolidated schools were designed by the firm with the other being the two-story Arlington school built in 1912. They may have been responsible for the designs of the Raleigh and Germantown schools, but that cannot be substantiated. In contrast to the Arlington two-story design Jones & Furbringer’s design of the Cordova School had a small-town quality defined by its one story height.

Jones & Furbringer utilized the Colonial Revival style in their 1913 design. A lunch room was added to the basement of the building in 1938. A two-story, ten-bay, brick-masonry classroom and cafeteria wing with Minimalist Traditional influence was added to the north side of the building between the years 1950-55.

The Cordova School opened for classes in 1913 for grades one through ten. An eleventh grade was added in 1914 and a twelfth grade in 1915. Three students celebrated the school’s first graduation later in that year. In 1930 Cordova School was changed to serve grades one through nine after the opening of Germantown High School. In 1933 it was changed to serve grades one through eight. The building continued to serve as an elementary school until 1973 when it was closed. The students were shifted to the Mount Pisgah School on Pisgah Road which is east of the community.

When it was closed in 1973 the building was designated as a storage facility by the county. When the county decided to sell the property in 1985 it was purchase by a group of local citizens for $150,000, which was paid off by 1990. Today it remains in constant use as a community center and has at times hosted churches that were in the process of forming or relocating. The building has been maintained and restored to retain the qualities of design, detail and materials for the time it was used for a school.

Source: NPS Form 10-900 National Register of Historic Places Registration Form
(Application of Cordova School). Requested and received from the Tennessee Historical Commission.
Street address:
1017 Sanga Road
Cordova, TN USA

County / Borough / Parish: Shelby

Year listed: 1995

Historic (Areas of) Significance: Education and Architecture

Periods of significance: 1913-1949

Historic function: School

Current function: Community Center/Religious

Privately owned?: yes

Primary Web Site: [Web Link]

Secondary Website 1: [Web Link]

Season start / Season finish: Not listed

Hours of operation: Not listed

Secondary Website 2: Not listed

National Historic Landmark Link: Not listed

Visit Instructions:
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