W. Ray Luce,
Division Director and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer,
Georgia Department of Natural Resources:
Announcement of Listing in the National Register of Historic Places:
Cumming Public School........Forsyth County.......February 18, 2000
Historic Properties Receive Recognition
by Annette Bramblett
Cumming Public School
Cumming School, take a bow. You are being honored for your years as the educational, cultural, and social center of Cumming and Forsyth County. Through your doors passed county and state leaders in all fields and professions as well as the solid citizens of Forsyth County, wives and mothers, who would raise their offspring in the ways you taught. Your moral fiber and positive stance in the community has been a legacy for decades.
When you were nominated by the Historical Society of Forsyth County and the City of Cumming to the National Register of Historic Places, extensive research was conducted and your complete history was studied.
History of an Institution
That a new modern school building in the City of Cumming was needed was a certainty. In the early 1920s, the city was making do by holding classes in the old Hightower Baptist Institute building. The Cumming Public School one day, however, found itself unceremoniously ousted from the Institute by State Fire Marshals, who declared the old structure unsafe for educational purposes.
Construction of a grand new brick school---to cost $25,000---was begun in the summer of 1922 and completed by January, 1923. Teachers and pupils considered themselves uptown in more ways than one when they were cleared to occupy the building. But their pride in their new edifice was to last but a short four years, as a lightning strike ignited a fire that gutted the building in March, 1927. The citizens, however, rose to the occasion when confronted with the reality of the pupils plight. Insurance money plus a surge of community effort enabled the original builder, J.W. Fleming, to rebuild---within the same walls. Almost miraculously, the structure once again housed Cummings younger set by September of 1927.
Through the years the school building has witnessed changes in the groups that it has served. In its early decades, grades one through eleven were taught within its walls. Then gradually other schools were erected and Cumming Schools students were siphoned off a few grades at a time. First came Forsyth County High School in 1955; its opening left grades one through eight at Cumming School. A few years later, Cumming Lower Elementary was established in 1961. At that point, Cumming School came to be known as the Upper Elementary. Then with the opening of Otwell Middle School in 1973, the old school underwent a considerable change. With no students left, in 1974 it became the Administration Office of the Forsyth County Schools, or County Office as it was popularly known, and served in that capacity until November, 1999, when the administration moved to a state-of-the-art structure on Highway 9.
Example of Architectural Style
The school that Fleming built and rebuilt attracted the attention of preservationists when the county commissioned a Historic Resources Survey in the early 1990s. Noted on survey forms, its features are listed: central hallway, irregular plan shape, symmetrical facade with three or more doors, cross-gable roof, mortise-and-tenon construction, brick, front stoop. An additional physical description included: basement under rear; Gothic hood over door and surrounds; shaped parapet; original recessed entry with double doors has been infilled with reverse board-and-batten and door to form vestibule; large auditorium in the rear-center of building; new addition on rear.
The architecture of the building with the aforementioned details was deemed significant enough to merit recognition. Thus along with Cumming Schools historical role in the development of the community, the building garnered acclaim for its structural importance---architectural style---as well.
Honored for its Contributions
In 1997, the Historical Society of Forsyth County adopted as a project seeking National Register status for the school that had meant so much in the lives of county residents. The lengthy nomination forms having been completed by mid-summer of that year, the society settled in for the long wait. First the nomination was approved by a preliminary committee at the state level. From there it progressed to the State National Register Review Board, which it passed readily. An interminable wait followed, for the state group, with a backlog of nominations, could not reformat the nomination by national standards at once. Thus months later it was with great fanfare that the announcement finally reached the public: Cumming Public School was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as of February 18, 2000!
In announcing the schools listing, W.Ray Luce, Division Director and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Division, commented: We hope that the recognition of the architectural and historic significance of this property, combined with the benefits of National Register listing, will assist in the preservation of the property.
The City of Cumming acquired Cumming Public School from the Forsyth County Board of Education on May 16, 2000. The city plans to rehabilitate the building to preserve its structural integrity.
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