The Herald Bulletin
---- — Junior high school. Middle school. The last step before high school has had many faces in Anderson, going from one to four to two to five, back to three, then two and now down once again to one.
In the beginning there was Central. It was the high school in 1898 when it was built, on 12th Street at the approximate location of what was the commons area of Anderson High School before its closure at the near-downtown location a century later.
The Central building was an early location of Anderson Senior High School, though I understand the original AHS was located where the Anderson Public Library now stands. But a bigger AHS was constructed in 1910 and several times expanded. So the Central building became a junior high in 1917.
As Anderson’s population grew and moved away from the city’s core, three smaller junior highs were established: North Anderson, Central Avenue and Washington. And Central Junior High became known in the vernacular as Big Central.
I first attended North Anderson, located on Vinyard Street, when I moved to Anderson in 1951. When Mom bought a home in Park Place, I was switched to Central, which by age 55 was beginning to show signs of old age.
South Side Junior High was constructed in 1956, the same year Anderson Township built Madison Heights High School. Highland High School had been built a year earlier, and growing pains of both AHS and Central were alleviated. At the same time North Anderson, Central Avenue and Washington reverted to all-elementary grades. All are still standing, but North Anderson was sold to a private business, Central Avenue is used for housing and Washington is now a campus of the private Liberty Christian School.
A junior high was built at the Madison Heights location, which also entered the Anderson Public Schools umbrella. Then in the late 1960s North Side Junior High was opened, giving Anderson four junior highs – five if you include Highland, which was eventually consolidated into Anderson Community Schools. In that era they included seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders.
East Side Junior High was built in 1973, replacing Central, which was torn down. And eventually Highland and Madison Heights junior high facilities were absorbed by their high schools and the students redistricted to the three remaining junior highs. Then the middle school concept was instituted, bringing sixth-graders up and sending freshmen to the high schools.
As the population and consequently school enrollments began to shrink, more middle school closings were in store. South Side was the first to go. Then with the closing of Highland High School, it became the lone junior high, grades 7-9. North Side and East Side became intermediate schools before further closure emptied both buildings.
Highland now consists of grades 6 through 8, with freshmen again in high school. And then there was one.
Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Sunday. His regular column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.