City Directories and History: The first schools in Rock Hill were private academies supported by parents and civic-minded individuals. In 1888, the Rock Hill Graded School was built on East Black Street at the intersection with Confederate Avenue (then known as Academy Street). This public school was a major
accomplishment for the village of Rock Hill, and included elementary grades through high school. The site of the Rock Hill Graded School has housed school buildings since 1888, including Central Elementary School and today the Central Child Development Center at 414 East Black Street. As the school enrollment grew, high school classes were held for a short time at the former Catawba Military Academy. This building, which is now part of the Withers Building at Winthrop University, was originally the Presbyterian High School (Catawba Military), which opened in the early 1890s. The high school located in this building was the first use of the name Rock Hill High School in 1907.
Winthrop Training School was operated for many years as part of the teacher training program for Winthrop College (now University). In 1912, Winthrop erected the majestic building now known as the Withers Building at a cost of $125,000. It was placed in front of the old Presbyterian High School building, which was incorporated into the Withers Building.
In 1913, construction was begun on a new public high school building East White Street. When completed in 1914, the structure included 14 classrooms, science labs, a library, and auditorium, and a domestic science wing. The contractor and architect for this building are unknown at this time. This building was located to the rear of the property at the corner of East White Street and Spruce Street. It was part of a major school construction program funded by a $75,000 bond issue approved in 1912. In addition to the first phase of the High School, this program included an addition to the Central School (the old Rock Hill Graded School), schools in the Arcade-Victoria and Northside neighborhoods, and an addition to the Highland Park School.
The rapid growth of the Rock Hill community led to overcrowding of the 1914 Rock Hill High School within a few years. Another bond issue was passed, for $130,000, and construction began in early 1923 on a major addition to the front of the 1914 building. The new building was completed in February 1924. It was designed by Rock Hill architect A. D. Gilchrist. Mr. Gilchrist designed numerous buildings in Rock Hill and surrounding towns. The contractor for the project was H. B. Patillo, who listed offices in Rock Hill and Gastonia. His advertisement stated that his firm had in progress in Rock Hill in 1924 a number of projects, including the Methodist Church, a dormitory at Winthrop, the York Wilson residence on Oakland Avenue, the O’Neal-Johnson Building, and the Oakland Avenue Presbyterian Church Sunday School Building. T. V. Whiteside was listed as the superintendent of construction for the high school project. The building opened for a public inspection on February 14. Subcontractors on the project included the following: Webster Heating System (Atlanta, Raleigh, Tampa), Carolina Electrical, C. L. Williams Painting, Carolina School Supply (desks), London Printery of Rock Hill (globes, furniture), Rock Hill Hardware (finished hardwood), C. H. Hailey Excavating (all hauling), and Young & Hull Stationers (steel bookcases).
The name of “Bearcats” for the football team was first used in 1923, and the athletic teams have used this name ever since. A gymnasium was added in 1935 with funds from federal Depression-era programs. In 1952, a new library addition was completed. Also added to the campus was a cannery, which served the community for many years.
A high school for African-Americans, Emmett Scott High School, was developed in the early 1920s with funding from a public bond issue and the Rosenwald School program. The parallel segregated systems were operated until integration was initiated in the 1960s. In 1964, seven Black students became part of the Rock Hill High School student body. Significant changes occurred over the next decade. In 1965, the high school was moved to the former Sullivan Junior High School campus on Eden Terrace, and the Junior High was moved to the East White Street campus. Rock Hill High School was located on Eden Terrace from 1965 to 1977, when it moved to its present location on Springdale Road to the east of the city. Both Emmett Scoot High School and Winthrop Training School were closed, and a new high school on the western side of the city, Northwestern, was built in 1971. Later, South Pointe High School was built.
The old building of Rock Hill High School on East White Street was razed in 1978, and a residential development was built on the site. In 2007, a historic marker was placed on the site of the old building.
Written and contributed by P.M. Gettys – 2015
Additional links: Rock Hill High School
The Herald reported on Jan. 25 and 29, 1896 – “That a meeting of citizens of was held at Roddey’s Hall to consider expanding the Rock Hill Graded School. It was designed for 250 students and now has 484 students. Some desire to have a separate high school under the same board of trustees, and it has been suggested that they might purchase the property of the Pres. High School.”
(Later additions of the Herald discussed a bill in the legislature authorizing a bond issue.)
The Herald reported on Sept. 3, 1914 – “The new high school building has been completed and fully equipped, excepting the domestic science and manual training rooms, in which the equipment will be place within the next week.”
The Herald reported on Sept. 12, 1914 – “That the formal opening of the Rock Hill School system will be at Rock Hill High School on East White St., on Sept. 14th. The ceremony will be in the new auditorium, the school has just been completed with enrollment of 88 students.”
Faculty members included: E.W. Hall, Principal and Latin Teacher, A.M. Paul, Bessie Poag, Lottie Barron, Katherine Connor.
The Rock Hill Record newspaper, reported on Oct. 6, 1924, on an article written by Supt. R.C. Burts for a USC publication. The article summarized the construction of the Rock Hill High School in 1914. In 1914 the trustees of the Rock Hill Schools built a separate building for the high school consisting of eight classrooms, a manual training room, a domestic science room, and an auditorium. The high school had 97 students at that time. By 1922 the new building was placed directly in front of the old and connected by a covered way. A.D. Gilchrist had drawn plans for all school buildings in Rock Hill since 1912 was was chosen for this job. Mr. H. P. Patillo of Gastonia, N.C. was the contractor. The new building provided splendid light, air and ventilation. ”
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