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Oakland High School, Oakland, Maryland, 1930

Oakland High School
Oakland High School, circa 1919 ,
(Courtesy of Garrett County Museum)

Established in 1901, Oakland High School was the first four-year high school in Garrett County. It accommodated students from all parts of the county who desired to graduate from a four-year high school. Most out of town students lived with relatives or boarded in Oakland homes, and they often worked to pay for their room and board. Until other high schools were approved in the county the school was often called Garrett County High School.

The first High School classes were conducted in the Oakland Elementary School building located on the corner of First and Center Streets. The building had been completed in 1895. The principal of the combined elementary and high schools in 1901 was A. W. Dewitt. Mr. Dewitt was followed in 1903 by J. Frank McBee who had a high school staff of two teachers. Morris Turner was principal from 1905 until 1908. During his tenure the faculty increased from three to four teachers.

The first graduation was held in 1908. Three graduates received diplomas: Mabel Florence Porter, Ethel May Wilt and Nelle Workman.

In 1908 the Garrett County government moved to a newly constructed court house on Third Street. The vacated court house had been built in 1877 on the corner of Fourth and Green Streets. In 1910 Oakland High School moved from the Grammar School building into the vacated Courthouse. The main building which faced Fourth Street sat on a hill on Green Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets, overlooking the business section of Oakland.

The new principal was Edward Bender. During his tenure from 1910-1918 the school enrollment increased from 99 students to 127. As space in the old court house became increasingly insufficient, the Board considered the construction of a new high school, but the Bond which would have financed the building was defeated. In the spring of 1916, a strong wind blew the roof off Oakland High School. Oakland Elementary School had already closed for the year, so high school classes were conducted in the elementary school building for the remainder of the year.

The Board was already renting space for classrooms on the second and third floors of the old Knights of Pythias Building (also called Maryland Theater) about a block away, and it was necessary to rent an additional room in the fall of 1916. The County Commissioners appropriated $31,580 for six additional classrooms and two storage rooms in the front. E. L. Winchell & Co. of Mountain Lake Park constructed the building according to plans drawn by Cumberland architect George Sansbury. The final cost of the school completed in 1918 was $40,841.

In 1924 the Commercial Department, assisted by the academic seniors, published the first yearbook which they called The Oak. The first copy of The Acorn, the school newspaper, was published the same year.

Bussing began from Crellin to Oakland in the fall of 1924, and the enrollment soared to 329 students. Oakland High School was again utilizing the Knights of Pythias Building. A fire in May 1929 badly damaged the building making it necessary for the High School to acquire more space. In December 1929, the Board purchased the jail located directly behind the school to be used for classrooms.

Oakland High School
Section of Oakland High School, 1951, formerly Garrett County jail,
(Courtesy of Garrett County Board of Education.)

Also, in the fall of 1929, an addition was built to extend across the rear of the Oakland High School building, and this wing provided seven additional classrooms, and an expansion of the auditorium.

The Board of Education then purchased a lot with a house on the corner of Fifth and Green Streets, directly across from the school for $1,150. It became the Vocational Home Economics department and had the appearance and atmosphere of a home.

Oakland High School
Home Economics Building,
(Picture from 1939 “The Acorn.”)

Final classes were held in Oakland High School in the spring of 1952. That fall the students transferred to Southern High School, a spacious new building on the edge of the town. The following year the old High School building was used for elementary classrooms, and later it became the home of Garrett County Board of Education until 2001.

The last remnants of the original court house and Oakland High School were removed from the site in 2003. Only the steps from the street to the level mark where the building once stood.

Thanks to Dr Wendell Teets, Superintendent, Garrett County Public Schools who gave permission for this text to be digitized, Alice Eary for providing the history of the school, the Garrett County Board of Education, Garrett County Historical Society and Keela Pfaff of the Ruth Enlow Library. Garrett County Schools of Yesteryear by Alice Eary and Jean Grose is available at the Garrett County Historical Society Museum, Oakland - (301-334-3226)

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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