Friday, September 10, 2010

Jefferson School (for the Gary Land Company)

Joseph Lyman Silsbee was the primary architect employed by the Gary Land Company to oversee design and construction of buildings in the first subdivision of the new city.  It was a unique opportunity for the experienced architect to design an array of building types that would become the formative structures for a new community.  One of the earliest structures that was commissioned by the company was the Jefferson School.  Some excellent photos depicting construction on the school can be found U. S. Steel Gary Works Photograph Collection site.     
Built in in 1906 and opened in 1907, the Jefferson School was the earliest school structure in the area that was built of substantial materials.  It is a Classical Revival structure made of brick and stone and designed to house students from all grade levels.  The Jefferson School, and even Silsbee's work at Gary in general, can be seen as an end of an era in architectural design and construction.  With the increasing complexity of building systems and programs, subsequent buildings of this type in Gary and elsewhere would eventually be designed by architects that specialized in school design.  Incidentally, Silsbee's own son Ralph, an architect who eventually oversaw work on some of the buildings at Gary, would follow this trend and became an early "design specialist".  He was responsible for the design of schools in Elyria, Ohio and for many of the surrounding communities in the northern part of that state.

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