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School History

Historical Marker
Historical Marker

In 1889 the Tennessee State Legislature authorized counties to establish secondary schools that were only available heretofore in the larger cities. Seventeen years passed before Hamilton County acted, authorizing bonds, taxes, and establishing a High School Board. January 1907 marked a series of Board meetings which, in due course, decided on four high schools - three-year schools to be located in Tyner, Hixson, and Sale Creek, and a four-year Central High School which would also receive students from the other three schools desiring a four-year diploma. In March the Board decided on a 4-3 vote that the Central School would be located in Ridgedale. In April Lot 9 of Chamberlain Ave Land Co was purchased for $8900 and was 279 feet deep by 323 ft wide, fronting Williams Street and Dodds Avenue. In May contracts were awarded to local firms Adams and Alsup for design, T S Moody for construction, and Allen & Curry for the distinctively colored bricks. Target date for opening was September 1907.

By that September the Board had selected a Principal and seven faculty for Latin, English, Mathematics, Science, Commercial, Manual Arts, and History, plus a special invited teacher for Spanish, but the building was not ready. On Friday, Sept 7, 1907 enrollment began at the Old Ridgedale School at Peachtree and Bennett (first classes held Sept. 10) and by September 19 enrollment reached 156, gradually increasing to 230 by the Christmas Holidays. The building at 500 Dodds Avenue was dedicated in a magnificent ceremony on Friday, January 3, 1908. Classes at the new building began on January 6 with a ninth teacher for Pedagogy (teaching) added, along with 76 early entry eight graders enrolled in the pedagogy program, making the final enrollment 306. Nineteen graduated on June 2, 1908 at the Schubert Theater.

Demolition Begins
Demolition Begins

In 1909 the Manual Arts Building and Gymnasium opened and increased enrollment caused an expansion of the Main Building eastward (above the cafeteria) in 1910, for a capacity of 500 students. Subsequent graduating classes increased until in 1916, Central graduated 105, which was the largest graduating class ever in East Tennessee. After enrollment declined during WWI, a population boom in Chattanooga suburbs prompted building expansions in 1923, 1927, and 1937, with a final capacity of over 2000. [The largest enrollment of 2050 took place during the 1941-42 school year.] A second gymnasium for girls was added in 1930. Following the discovery of some structural faults in 1965, the building received a temporary facelift that summer but was deemed unsound and demolished in 1970. The Class of 1969 was the last to occupy the Dodds Avenue facility and the spiritual remains of that Wonderful School that was Central moved to a new site in Harrison.

Highlights of 62 years on Dodds Avenue included a host of undefeated athletic teams -- baseball in 1909 and 1913, undefeated basketball teams in 1911, 1913, 1920, and 1943, and one undefeated, untied football team in 1962. State team championships included 7 football, three baseball, one basketball, and one golf. The short-lived sport of high school boxing brought Central a National Championship in 1947, while track, golf, and wrestling added individual state titles for 13 athletes. Central was the first public school in the Chattanooga area to offer a four-year diploma, manual training, domestic science, teacher training, and Spanish. Statewide, Central was was the first public high school to offer military training in 1916 and hosted the first JROTC Program in 1919. Winning the Bellamy Award in 1963 capped Central's long tradition of excellence. All the above and more are detailed at Chattanoogacentralhistory.com. Learn more at CHShistory.com (link below)

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