The three-story building that looms over the Athens Independent School District Administration Building is in the process of being torn down and replaced with a parking lot.

“It has deteriorated to the point were it is going to fall down at some point, so the question is, ‘Do we tear it down now or do we wait?’” AISD Business Manager Randy Jones said.

From the road, the old high school and grammar school might look empty, but when you walk into the building there are many items still standing and waiting for ghosts of the past to enter.

The bottom floor windows have been boarded up to protect them from vandals. Over the years, those miscreants have spray-painted the walls and thrown rocks and other items through the upper story windows.

A cornerstone reads the names of historic figures in Athens history whose roads we now drive down, such as Larkin and Gaunt. These were the men who helped build the structure. C.H. Hawn and W.O. England were the contractors of the building and J.W. Murchison was a member of the Board of Trustees.

After much digging, I was able to determine the building was probably built in 1913. But the truth is, tracking down the history of the old school is a tall order.

When you walk through the front door you enter a stairwell that will take you up or down. Walking down the stairs, you have to watch you step for debris, but each classroom still has a chalkboard lining one wall. The green board is peeling at different places and the chalk on the railings has been replaced with dirt and pieces of plaster.

Names of the building’s former teachers still adorn some doorways. Above one second-floor doorway is written “Mrs. Lundeen Plan A.” On the third floor a name is partly ripped, reading “illins.” Also, on the third floor is the auditorium where children would gather for music class or to hear a presentation.

Jones can remember being in third grade and attending music class in the building. He said his teacher was Tommy Downing.

Each room in the multi-story building contains something different. In a few you can see how water damage has led to moss forming that consumes the floor to the point that one might think he or she is standing on grass.

Another room brings an interesting discovery — multiple trophies fill the room, some piled on the floor, and others are standing side by side with the engraving on the plaques mostly faded away. One of the trophies lies in the middle of stairs, while a figure in the process of a jump shot lies a few inches away from its original trophy.

A teacher’s desk and chair sit in front of a chalkboard in another room, and a light green 1950s era oven blocks a hallway on the second floor. Hanging in some of the rooms are original light fixtures. The wooden doors may just be original from 1913.

The building has been left to decay. If weather permits, the building will begin the quick process of demolition at the end of January. Once the debris is removed and the ground leveled, Athens administrators say a parking lot will be poured.

It is sad that a building that taught so many generations of Athenians has deteriorated to the stage of demolition and also that written history on the building is few and far between. The memories people have of the building should be written down and saved so that future generations can discover this historical building and its place in the county’s story — even if it’s skeleton is no longer there.

Angela Weatherford is a staff writer for the Athens Daily Review.

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