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Survey and Research Report

On The Elmer H. Garinger High School

Garinger High School, ca. 1960

1.      Name and location of the property:  The property known as the Dr. Elmer H. Garinger High School is located at  1100 Eastway Drive in Charlotte, N.C. 

2.      Name, address, and telephone number of the current owner of the property:

Mecklenburg County

600 East Fourth St., 11th Floor

Charlotte, N.C. 28202

Telephone: (704) 336-2472

3.      Representative photographs of the property:  This report contains representative photographs of the property. 

4.      A map depicting the location of the property: This report contains a map depicting the location of the property.   The UTM coordinates of the property are 17 519820E 3899583N.

5.      Current Deed Book Reference to the property:  The most recent deed to the property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book #12943, page 161.  The tax parcel number of the property is 093-042-51. 

6.      A brief historical sketch of the property:  This report contains a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Dr. Dan L. Morrill. 

7.      A brief architectural description of the property:  This report contains a brief architectural description prepared under the supervision of Dr. Dan L. Morrill. 

8.      Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the criteria for designation set forth in N.C.G.S 160A-400.5. 

a.   Special significance in terms of its history, architecture and/or cultural importance:  The Commission judges that portions of the Elmer H. Garinger High School possess special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.  The Commission bases its judgment on the following considerations: 

1)  The Elmer H. Garinger High School was named for long-time Charlotte Public School Superintendent Elmer H. Garinger, who oversaw successful efforts to racially integrate the Charlotte schools voluntarily in 1957 and who played a pivotal part in the establishment of Charlotte College, which eventually evolved into the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

2)  The Elmer H. Garinger High School was designed by A. G. Odell, Jr., an architect of local and regional importance, and was the largest project Odell undertook for the Charlotte Public Schools.

3)  The Elmer H. Garinger High School was a striking example of Modernism in Charlotte when it opened in 1959, and portions of the campus and some of the buildings still retain their distinctive original character. 

4)  The Elmer H. Garinger High School is an imposing local example of a type of high school that grew in part out of the educational philosophy of individuals such as James B. Conant, who advocated the establishment of large high schools as a principal means to improve American public education.

b.   Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or association: The Commission contends that the architectural description prepared under the supervision of  Dr. Dan L. Morrill demonstrates that portions of the  Elmer H. Garinger High School meet this criterion.

9.      Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal:  The Commission is aware that designation would allow the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 50% of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property which becomes a "historic landmark."  The current appraised value pf the property, including the 62.573 acre campus, is $19,387,800.  The property is exempt from the payment of Ad Valorem taxes.  The property is zoned R4 and R17MF.

Date of Preparation of this Report:  February 1, 2007

A Brief History Of The Dr. Elmer H. Garinger High School

Dr. Dan L. Morrill

Summary Statement Of Significance.  

The significance of the Elmer H. Garinger High School is intimately bound up with the careers of two former Charlotte residents of note.  They are architect A. G. Odell, Jr. and educator and Charlotte School Superintendent Elmer H. Garinger.  Opening in September 1959, Garinger High School was a bold  local example of Modernism and reflected the educational philosophy of its era -- that large, comprehensive high schools could offer a multifaceted curriculum replete with highly specialized courses.   Although a 2004 renovation of the school destroyed some of Garinger's character defining elements, especially those of the auditorium and the front elevation,  portions of the school and portions of  its campus continue to be artifacts of special significance within the context of the built environment of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

 

Garinger Library

 

A. G. Odell, Jr.

A. G. Odell , Jr. with his wife to his right.  Third person is unidentified.

The Elmer H. Garinger High School was designed by A. G. Odell, Jr., a native of Concord, N.C., where he had a privileged upbringing as a member of a wealthy textile family.  Odell, nicknamed "Gouldie" (pronounced "Gooly"), studied civil engineering at Duke University and architecture at Cornell University.1  Cornell was noted as a leader in emphasizing Modernist design, independence, innovation, and city planning in its curriculum.2   Odell would show throughout his career the impact of his education at Cornell.  In 1935-36 Odell went to Paris, France and matriculated at the L'Ecole des Beaux Arts, where such eminent American architects as Louis Sullivan, H. H. Richardson, Richard Morris Hunt, and Charles McKim had been students.  Upon returning to the United States, Odell joined the New York  firm of Harrison & Fouilhoux as an apprentice, where he continued to be heavily influenced by the precepts of European Modernism, which were then securing a dominant place in architectural thinking throughout the Western world, including the United States.Harrison & Fouilhoux was commissioned to develop the branding emblems for the 1939 New York's World Fair.  Odell claimed in a 1982 interview that it was he who first suggested a sphere as a principal symbol of that international extravaganza.  "I was the first to come up with the idea of a sphere because there were so many radiating roads coming into the fair," he declared.4

Perisphere and Trylon at the 1939 New York's World Fair

Modernism emerged in Europe in the years immediately following World War One when many artists and architects rejected the symbols of a social order which they felt had failed to prevent war and its devastating aftermath.  The impact of Modernism deepened in America in the 1930s  after the Museum of Modern Art in New York City mounted an exhibition in February 1932 entitled "Modern Architecture:  International Exhibition" and published an accompanying book, The International Style:  Architecture Since 1922.  "The combination of the show and the book," contends architectural historian Carter Wiseman, "can be seen as a seminal event that affected American design well into the 1960s."5  As further expounded by such eminent German designers as Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, both of whom migrated to the United States in the 1930s, Modernist buildings were to be purposely fashioned to highlight their materials and methods of construction in a rational, minimalist, austere, but aesthetic manner.  The devotees of Modernism contended that such architectural features as geometric forms, flat roofs, strip windows, and the absence of attached decoration would produce buildings in keeping with "the structural realities of the twentieth century."6

Odell brought his commitment to Modernism to Charlotte in 1939 when he established a one-person office here.  "In Charlotte, Odell was the strongest supporter of modernism," state the authors of Architects and Builders in North Carolina. A History of the Practice of Building.7  When Odell arrived, Charlotte’s buildings were overwhelming conservative and revivalist or derivative in appearance and had been so for decades. "Most architecture in the area can best be described as pseudo-neoclassical, with elements of design copied from buildings elsewhere that had already incorporated copied elements of classic design," remembered M. H. Ward, one of Odell’s early associates.7  A. G. Odell, Jr. devoted his considerable talents and energies to reshaping the local urban landscape and its built environment. For good or ill, he largely succeeded. Odell embraced the architecture of "tomorrow" and had nothing but disdain for the revivalist buildings he observed on the streets of Charlotte. Odell described what he saw when he arrived in Charlotte.  "There was nothing here . . . that illustrated the honesty of stone as stone, steel as steel, glass as glass. Everybody was still wallowing in the Colonial heritage."8

Odell's firm began to prosper in the 1950s.  The United States emerged from World War Two as the world's preeminent economic power.  Long associating technological change with progress,  American consumers were more than ever ready to embrace a built environment that pointed unabashedly toward the future.  Architectural historian Alan Hess writes,  "The future was a natural theme that the public was ripe to experience, and manufacturers and architects took advantage of that interest by developing a visual vocabulary and products that were associated with the climate of technological optimism."It was widely believed in the immediate post-World-War-Two years that mankind stood on the threshold of a glorious era -- a sentiment that Modernist architects like A. G. Odell, Jr. were only too eager to embrace and promulgate.  Among Odell's notable early projects, each exhibiting the geometric massing and lack of applied ornamentation characteristic of Modernist design, were the Second Ward High School Gymnasium, Double Oaks Elementary School, Wilson Junior High School, and, most notably, the Charlotte Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium, all in Charlotte.10  Odell died at the age of 74 on April 21, 1988.11

Second Ward High School Gymnasium (1947) Double Oaks Elementary School (1950)
Charlotte Coliseum (1955) Ovens Auditorium (1955)

A. G. Odell, Jr. became an influential and respected voice in architectural circles, including nationally. He served as president of both the North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (A.I.A.) from 1953 until 1955 and the national A.I.A. in 1964-65.   Never hesitant to state his predilections in matters architectural,  Odell was a strident advocate of Modernism throughout his career.  He told a prospective client in the early 1950s that his firm was "only interested in the design of contemporary church architecture."12  An especially striking example of Odell's passionate defense of Modernism occurred in August 1957 when he learned that the U.S. House of Representatives had decided in a straw vote to withhold funds to build a proposed Modernist chapel at the U.S. Air Force Academy.   Odell "growled" when he heard the news, said the Charlotte Observer.  "Congress should do less meddling in esthetics, about which they apparently know nothing at all," said Odell.  "Congress is like the average ignoramus, who says he doesn't know anything about art, but he does know what he likes."13 

Odell's Charlotte Carnegie Library (1957) illustrates his rejection of derivative design. The building has totally lost its original character.

Elmer H. Garinger

Elmer H. Garinger was a native of Mt. Vernon, Missouri and a 1916 graduate in economics from the University of Missouri.  After serving in the Army Medical Corps in World War One and receiving a graduate degree in education from Columbia University, Garinger came to Charlotte in 1921 as Charlotte's first Junior High School principal and thereafter played a significant role in shaping the educational philosophy of the Charlotte Public Schools for more than 40 years.14  Moreover, as head of Charlotte Central High School in the 1940s, Garinger was instrumental in events leading to the establishment of Charlotte College, which eventually evolved into the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.   Even more significantly, in 1957 Garinger, who had become Superintendent of the Charlotte City Schools in 1949, led a bold and successful effort to racially integrate the Charlotte public schools.15

Dr. Elmer H. Garinger (1960)

 In August 1947, Garinger summoned Bonnie E. Cone, a mathematics teacher at Central High School, to his office and asked her to become the Director of the Charlotte Center of the University of North Carolina, which had been established temporarily to provide higher education courses for World War Two veterans.  Cone decided to fight to keep the Charlotte Center open because of the educational opportunities the institution provided for students who otherwise would have had little hope of attending college.   Elmer Garinger was an indispensable ally.  He joined Cone in persuading the North Carolina General Assembly to permit the two-year college to continue under the auspices of the Charlotte public schools in 1949.  Charlotte College acquired its own Board of Trustees in 1957, moved to its campus on Highway 49 in 1961, and became the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1965.   It is fitting that a building on the UNCC Campus is named for Garinger.  A. G. Odell, Jr.  was the architect of that structure as well.

Garinger Building at UNCC.  Designed by A. G. Odell, Jr.

  Portrait of Garinger in the UNCC Garinger Building

Garinger's most long-lasting and noteworthy contribution to the public schools of Charlotte was his decision to institute racial integration voluntarily in 1957.  Garinger summoned key members of his staff to his office in July of that year and announced that a small number of African Americans would be assigned to white schools that fall. Tensions ran high when Charlotte prepared to integrate its schools on September 4, 1957.  Robed and hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan picketed the Visulite Theater, a local cinema house, on Elizabeth Avenue on September 1st.  They were protesting the showing of the movie, "Island in the Sun," directed by Robert Rossen and starring such notable performers as James Mason, Joan Collins, Dorothy Dandridge, and Harry Belafonte.   The film depicted interracial romances.  The Klansmen dispersed without incident when they were ordered to do so by Police Chief Frank Littlejohn.  "A few obvious sympathizers of the Klan parked near the theater jeered photographers who arrived to make pictures of the pickets," reported the Charlotte Observer.

Photo of Sheriff talking to Klan member

Klansmen picketing at Visulite Theater.

Even more provocative and outlandish were comments made by a racist rabble-rouser named John Kasper.  Having already enflamed racial passions among whites in Winston-Salem and Greensboro, Kasper came to Charlotte on September 1st and signed up members for what he called the White Citizens Council.  He delivered an inflammatory speech to about 300 white people who had gathered on the steps of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.  He called upon the white citizens of Charlotte to rise up against the school board.  "We want a heart attack, we want nervous breakdowns, we want suicides, we want flight from persecution," Kasper thundered.

The culmination of the crisis occurred shortly after 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday September 4th at Harding High School.  15 year-old Dorothy Counts left her parents' home on Beatties Ford Road just across from Johnson C. Smith University, where her father taught theology.  She was driven to Harding that late summer morning by Dr. Edwin Tompkins, also a member of the Johnson C. Smith faculty.

A crowd of upperclassmen who had registered earlier that morning congregated in front of the school to listen to John Z. Warlick and his wife, leaders of the White Citizens Council.  "It's up to you to keep her out," shouted Mrs. Warlick.  Attired in a simple print dress with a broad bow and ribbon dangling from her collar, Dorothy Counts  walked up the sidewalk that led to the front door.  Hoots and catcalls filled the air.  Dorothy Counts remained stoical throughout this electrifying encounter.  She said nothing, even though some young whites threw trash and rocks toward her, most landing at her feet.  "I do remember something hitting me in the back," she told a newspaper reporter, "but I don't think they were throwing at me, just in front and at my feet."  Dorothy Counts  exhibited remarkable poise that day.  When asked if any whites spat upon her, Counts answered:  "Yes.   Many.  A good many times, mostly on the back."

Dorothy Counts Walks To Harding High School.

Dorothy Counts soon succumbed to the harassment and scorn she experienced. "The students were pushing, shoving, spitting in my food," she explained many years later.  "But the first time I was afraid was when I saw my brother in the car and students broke a window."  Counts withdrew from Harding High School after attending for only four days and transferred to a school in Pennsylvania, but the other three African Americans who had enrolled with little or no fanfare at other schools on September 4th remained for the entire year.  Gus Roberts would eventually graduate from Central High School.  Indeed, the contributions of Gus Roberts, Girvaud Roberts, and Delores Huntley to the advancement of integrated schools were more substantial, if less confrontational, than those made by Counts.  But it was Elmer H. Garinger who was ultimately responsible for ending racial segregation in the public schools.  Without the his firm and resolute leadership the integration of  the Charlotte schools would not have happened in 1957, and the situation could have ended very differently.

Students jeer as Counts enters school.

 The Elmer H. Garinger High School

The Charlotte Board of Education voted on December 18, 1957, to acquire the final portion of the land that would become the campus of Garinger High School and directed architect A. G. Odell, Jr. "to complete drawings at once."16  Elmer Garinger, labeled a "modern man without modern mannerisms" by the Charlotte Observer, was a proponent of Modernist architecture, even to the extent of contending that non-traditional school buildings could stimulate student learning.17  Garinger also would have been fully cognizant of the educational reforms advocated by James B. Conant in his seminal work The American High School Today.  According to Conant, a former president of Harvard University and a major figure in the Manhattan Project, the number of "small high schools" had to be "drastically reduced" because they did not offer academic subjects of "sufficient range."18  "The enrollment of many American public high schools is too small to allow a diversified curriculum except at exorbitant expense," Conant wrote.19    With a campus of 62.5 acres, Garinger High School was configured to become the kind of  "comprehensive" or big high school that Conant and other educators were championing.20

Garinger High School Gymnasium (1960)

Classes began at Garinger High School on September 1, 1959.  The former Central High School students, who comprised the great majority of those attending Garinger, noted the contrast between the new facility and the "run-down, gloomy building" they had left behind.  "Already, Garinger overshadows the thoughts of the old with her remarkable buildings, faculty and now -- students," stated the Charlotte Observer.21  The newspaper called Garinger High School "unique in the area in architectural design."22   Clearly, a feeling of optimism, even ebullience, surrounded the opening of Odell's Modernist  designed high school.

Garinger High School Majorettes (1960)

Unfortunately, the years since 1959 have not been entirely kind to Garinger High School.  A major renovation of Garinger occurred in 2004.  Unaware that the buildings had been declared eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools hired the Adams Group Architects of Charlotte to alter elements of Garinger High School to meet pressing programmatic needs.  The auditorium and the front entrance were substantially changed.  Happily, there are portions of Garinger High School which do retain their essential integrity, including the park-like setting, the gymnasium, and three original classroom buildings.23 

Garinger has also faced unforeseen challenges academically.  Indeed, at the time of the writing of this report Garinger High School has been singled out as having special needs.  Ironically, among the reforms instituted in hopes of improving the achievement performance of Garinger's students is subdividing Garinger into smaller academic academies -- in direct contrast to Conant's educational philosophy that bigger schools would produce better schools.24

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 1.  Charlotte Observer, April 23, 1988.

2.  http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/Aap-exhibit/AAP8.html ; http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/Aap-exhibit/AAP9.html  Edmund Bacon, perhaps America's most renowned City planner and noted for his dramatic impact upon center city Philadelphia, was a 1932 graduate of the Cornell School of Architecture.

3.   Andre Fouilhaux and Wallace Harrison were deeply committed to Modernism.  Fouillhaux would go on to be a designer of the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City.  It is reasonable to assume that the L'Ecole des Beaux Arts had little impact upon Odell, since it stressed the meticulous and accurate replication of traditional design elements.

4.   Charlotte Observer, April 23, 1988.

5.  Carter Wiseman, Twentieth Century American Architecture. The Buildings And Their Makers (New York & London:  W. W. Norton, 2000), p. 150.

6.  Ibid., p. 108.

7.  Catherine W. Bishir, Charlotte V. Brown, Carl R. Lounsbury, and Ernest H. Wood III, Architects and Builders in North Carolina:  A History of the Practice of Building (Chapel Hill and London:  The University of North Carolina Press, 1990), p. 361.  The Charlotte City Directory of 1942 lists 19 architects in Charlotte.  Odell's office was then located at 212 South Tryon St. (see Hill's Charlotte City Directory 1942 (Richmond Va: Hill Directory Company, 1942), p. 972.)

8.  Charlotte Observer, April 23, 1988.

9.  Alan Hess, Googie Redux.  Ultramodern Roadside Architecture (San Francisco:  Chronicle Books, n.d.), p. 47.

10.  See the various Survey and Research Reports at http://landmarkscommission.org

11.  Charlotte Observer, April 23, 1988.

12.  Quoted in Bishir, p. 361.  Odell was a zealous man.  This writer was told by an informed person that he once saw Odell slap his wife full in the face in public.

13.  Charlotte Observer, August 8, 1957.

14. Charlotte Observer, September 7, 1959.

15.  For an account of the events surrounding the racial integration of the Charlotte Public Schools in 1957, see Dan L. Morrill, A History of Charlotte-Mecklenburg at http://danandmary.com/historyofcharlotteindex.htm.

16.  Charlotte Observer, December 19, 1957.

17.  Charlotte Observer,  Februry 21, 1957. September 7, 1959.

18.  James B. Conant, The American High School Today.  A First Report to Interested Citizens (New York, Toronto, London:  McGraw Hill Book Company, Inc., 1959), p. 40.

19.  Ibid., p. 77.

20.  Ibid., p. 8.

21.  Charlotte Observer, December 2, 1959.

22.  Ibid.

23.  Interview of Michael Raible of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools by Dr. Dan L. Morrill (January 16, 2007).  Mr. Raible stated that if he had known that the school had been declared eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, he would have taken this fact into account when determining how to renovate Garinger.

24.  see https://extranet.cms.k12.nc.us/news/stories/internetNews/pdf/4A6A200694032AM.pdf.

 

Architectural Description

 

Integrity

 

 

 

 

 

Conceptual Design ca. 1962

 

 

 

 

Post 1977 Site Plan

 

Note addition of the library into the interior courtyard

 

 

 

Post 2004 Site Plan

 

 

 

An architectural survey of the Garinger High School has shown that the historical integrity of the campus has been compromised.  The addition of a new library building in 1977 (1) into what was a spacious central courtyard of the school is one of the most significant changes to the original design of the campus. 

 

1977 Library

1960 Design Elements

 

 

 

Note the contrast in the wall textures between the 1977 Library building on the left, and the original 1960 classroom wing

 

The 1977 Library occupies open space that had contributed to the design of the campus for seventeen years.  Taller than all of the earlier buildings except for the gymnasium, the two-story library building blocks many of the views of the original one-story classroom wings, and severs the visual connection between the original library and the cafeteria.  The design of the colorless 1977 Library can be described as stark and minimalist.  While firmly in the modernist tradition, the 1977 Library contrasts greatly with the multiple-angle forms, textured surfaces, and colored wall panels of the original campus buildings.

 

An equally insensitive change was made to the school in 2004 when the original canopy entrance was demolished and replaced with a glass and steel hyphen that functions as the school’s front lobby.  This change along with an insensitive expansion of the original classroom/office wing that extends south from the gymnasium has resulted in a radically altered façade for the campus as a whole.

 

 

 

 

Original Main Entrance

 

 

 

New Main Entrance

 

Note new two-story hyphen and new exterior wall treatments.

 

 

 

Details of sections added to the façade.

 

 

 

 

View of original covered entrance and classroom wing from the interior of the campus.

 

 

 

View from the interior of the campus in 2007.

 

Alterations made in 2004 radically altered the main entrance to the campus

 

 

 

 

 

New main entrance from the interior of the campus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School Map, ca. 2000

 

While the campus as a whole does not have the requisite integrity needed for local landmark designation, several of the buildings have retained a good degree of integrity and have the special significance required for local landmark status.

 

Gymnasium

 

 

Built in 1959, the Garinger Gymnasium served the first students to attend Garinger High School.   The large one-story building is the tallest of all of the campus buildings (the two-story 1977 Library is set in a depression).  Sitting approximately one hundred yards from busy Sugar Creek Road, the gymnasium is the most prominent and most public of all of the buildings on the 62 acre Garinger campus.  In keeping with the Modernist tradition, much of the campus presents a restrained minimalist outward appearance. The gymnasium is the exception.  Its height and its distinctive roof design composed of ten ridges that resemble oversized corrugation, overshadow the subtle one-story classroom wings that adjoin it. 

 

 Front Elevation

 

In addition to its Modernist design, the Garinger Gymnasium featured state-of-the-art materials and construction techniques.  The walls are sheathed with pre-cast concrete panels with a veneer of exposed pebble aggregate.   On the front and rear of the building these panels fill the nine bays formed by ten tall concrete posts that support the roof system.  Each bay contains three concrete panels topped with hexagonal window openings.  The window openings are divided by metal frames into nine individual lights.  The row of rectangular sash in the midsection of each opening is composed of three operable awning sash, giving the front and rear elevations each a ribbon of 27 operable windows.  Built in 1959, the gymnasium and all of the original Garinger school buildings lacked air conditioning.  Great attention was paid towards methods of natural ventilation in the design of all of the original school buildings. 

 

The gymnasium’s side walls are not load-bearing.  Instead of concrete posts, the side walls are composed of pre-cast concrete panels, held in place by steel posts with an “I” profile.  The side walls are sheathed with more pre-cast concrete panels with a veneer of exposed pebble aggregate.   These exterior panels are each topped with a single large awning window.   

 

The gymnasium’s most imposing feature is the 10-ridge roof.  The distinctive roof design is emphasized with deep eaves that shelter a wide sidewalk that abuts the building.  The roof is composed of steel panels.  Each ridge ends in a point that extends past the valleys, giving the fascia a corrugated texture similar to the principal section of the roof.  Each roof ridge is mirrored by an angled soffit and ceiling.   The design gives the impression that the roof is composed of ten diamond-shaped boxes.  New gutters have been added to the building, with exposed pipes added to the bottom of the soffits.

 

The interior of the gymnasium has a retained its original hardwood floor.  The interior of the front and rear walls is sheathed with masonry block laid in a stack-bond.  The windows on the south and west elevations have been painted to block excessive sunlight.  The original ceiling has been covered with a drop ceiling.  The gymnasium is entered via two sets of double doors on each side elevation.  The north elevation contains the main entrance to the building.  The entrance is located in a flat-roofed hyphen.  The slab doors feature oversized door handles and scuff plates.  The lobby area contains a round ticket booth built  covered with an exposed pebble aggregate.

 

 Main Entrance

Ticket Booth

 

 

  Cafeteria

 

 

Located in the center of the school campus, the 1959 cafeteria is essentially a single canopy supported by rows of closely spaced “I” shaped steel posts set near the edge of the roof.  The interior and exterior walls are non-load-bearing and are mostly composed of glass.  The roof design is similar to that found on the school’s gymnasium.  In both cases, the diamond shaped boxes formed by the roof and the soffits likely house steel trusses.   The cafeteria best expresses the Modernist Style's convention of “structural honesty.”  Little in terms of the building’s structural elements is disguised or hidden.  The framing of the thin glass walls, the posts supporting the roof, the concrete slab of the floor are all exposed, and are indeed highlighted as aesthetic elements.

 

The building’s façade faces south and has no doorway.  The façade is composed of seventeen narrow bays.  The eastern nine bays are filled with metal frames containing glass and metal panels.  The bottom section of each frame contains a single-light fixed sash.  Above the bottom sash is a narrow hopper window that opens inward.  Above the hopper window is another large fixed sash, which is topped by a large awning-style sash that opens inward.  The top section of the frame is filled with a metal panel.  In contrast to the rest of the building,  the western eight bays of the façade are sheathed with black granite.  Originally, the granite wall section featured a clock face.  Holes for the clock mechanism and numbers are still visible. 

        .

 

 

 

 

West Elevation

 

The cafeteria’s side elevations are composed of thirteen bays and contain the building’s entrances.  The posts supporting the roof line and the metal framed wall sections align.  The posts that form the northern and southernmost bays are reinforced with metal “X” bracing.   The west elevation is nearly all glass.  The windows are similar to those found on the façade, only slightly taller.  Above the windows the metal panels are cut at an angle to match the angled soffit.  Two sets of double slab doors pierce the elevation, the first in the second bay (from the façade) and other in the seventh bay.  The doorways are topped with metal panels.  The east elevation is similar except that three of the bays near the rear of the building are filled with pre-cast masonry panels with a veneer of exposed pebble aggregate.  The building is built on a sloping grade.  While the roof is level, the wall of the west elevation is approximately two feet taller than the east elevation.  This is accomplished by varying the size of the center fixed sash in the stacked windows that fill most of the bays.  The original design allowed rainwater to flow out of the valleys through scuppers into drywells that bordered the east and west elevations.  The drywells have been removed.  Large gutter pipes have been added and are bolted to the posts and soffits.  These pipes are the only significant alteration to the exterior of the building.

 

 

The interior of the cafeteria has retained a good degree of integrity.  The floor is composed of numerous ramps that lead to dinning areas of various elevations, separated with original brick knee walls topped with steel railing.   An interior wall that separated the dinning area from the food serving area is decorated with original tile mosaics.   Some piping has been added insensitively and the drop acoustical ceiling may not be original.

 

The mosaic on the front side of this interior wall is in good condition, while the mosaic on the rear of the bathroom has suffered greatly.

 

The mostly glass cafeteria building is attached to a nearly windowless kitchen building by a glass hyphen.  The hyphen was designed to act as a foyer to the cafeteria; however, the area has been converted to a dinning area, and the original door openings have been in-filled with new glazing.

 

 

Library (former)

 

 

The Garinger Library (former) served the first class of students to attend the school in 1959.  Like the gymnasium and the cafeteria, the library served as one of the iconic focal points on the campus.  In American architecture, round or multi-sided polygonal buildings are extremely rare.   The library could be described as twenty-sided, or as a twenty-point star-shaped building.  In this description, the building will be described as twenty-sided.  Each side is composed of an angled recessed bay.   The majority of the bays contain pre-cast masonry panels with a veneer of exposed pebble aggregate.  These panels border angled wall openings in the center of each bay.  Most of these wall openings are filled with two metal framed windows units that meet at an angle.  Like the windows in the cafeteria, the window units are composed of a mix of operable and fixed sash.  The top sash in each window is angled to match the angle of the soffit.  In several of the bays, doors replaced one of the window units.  The main entrance to the building faces south and occupies two of the bays.   In contrast to the other bays, the entrance bays are mostly glazed.  In place of pre-cast panels, the entrance features two slab doors that border a glazed corner.

 

 

The depth of the recessed bays is enhanced by a generous roof overhang.  While fundamentally different than the flat roofs of the gymnasium and the cafeteria, the library roof’s diamond-pattern fascia and angled soffit continue the design found on the other two buildings.  The center of the building is capped with a peaked roof formed by twenty ridges and valleys.  The forty sections of the roof are each composed of translucent colored panels.  These panels have all been painted blue.   The peaked roof section transitions into a low-pitched ridge-and-valley roof that radiates away from the center of the building. 

 

 

The valleys drain into large round drains that are set in the ground and covered with iron grates.  Of the three buildings with a ridged roof system (the cafeteria, the gymnasium, and the library) the library is the only one whose original rainwater drain system is still functioning.  

 

Classroom Buildings

 

 

 

 

Map showing locations of 100, 200, and 300 Buildings

 

Three original classroom buildings and an altered office wing originally formed a grassy courtyard with the Library (former) in the center.  The 100 Building and the 300 Building are nearly identical.  The 200 Building differs from the others only in terms of the location of the entrance.  The buildings are flat-roofed and five bays wide. 

 

100 Building

 

The entrance of Building 100 is located in the second bay from the building’s north side elevation.  The recessed bay is bordered on each side by three window units.  These window units are composed of a lower fixed metal panel, a narrow hopper sash, and are topped with large double-hung sash.  These windows are used in most of the wall openings in the classroom buildings and are generally ganged together in groups of three and five.  The generous amount of operable sash was due to the reliance on natural ventilation. 

 

The recessed porch is supported in the center of the opening by a single chamfered concrete post.  The side walls of the porch are sheathed with pre-cast masonry panels with a veneer of exposed pebble aggregate.  The panels feature a low-pitched asymmetrical pyramidal shape.  The porch shelters a glazed wall pierced with two slab doors set in a metal frame.  The metal frame also supports sidelights and transoms around the doors, and two large reinforced plate-glass windows between the doors.   The entire building was erected on a poured concrete slab, and an exposed section of this slab serves as the porch floor. 

 

Main Entrance (typical of all)

Rear Elevation (typical for all)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Window Detail

 

Front Elevation of the 100 Building

North Corner of 100 Building Façade and North Side Elevation

 

The façade’s remaining fenestration is composed of banks of five window units ganged together, separated from each other by three pre-cast panels.  The southernmost bay is flanked by a single pre-cast panel at the building’s corner, and the northernmost bay is bordered by a row of six pre-cast panels.  The building’s southern side elevation is blank, composed solely of the pre-cast panels.  A secondary entrance is located in a recessed porch located at the northern corner of the façade.  The northern side elevation is pierced by three banks of windows.   The building’s rear elevation is regular and symmetrical, featuring eight bays filled with five window units.  Each bay is separated by three pre-cast panels.

 

100 Building Lobby

 

The pre-cast panels that border the entrance for the 100 Building extend into the building forming the walls of the building’s lobby.  The lobby and all of the hallways and common areas feature terrazzo floors.  The most prominent feature of the lobby is a glass display case that is attached to the framing between the two doorways. 

 

Many of the interior walls are clad in tile, with some sections featuring mosaics.  Other interior wall sections are composed of glazed metal framing with sliding glass transoms.  These operable transoms were very important for ventilation before the building was retrofitted with air conditioning. 

 

200 Building Tile Mosaic

Typical tile and glass wall sections.

View into courtyard

 

Perhaps the most notable feature of the building’s interior is the central courtyard.  Originally planned to feature an eco-system that would help in the study of the natural sciences, the courtyard also provided light and ventilation.  Over time, the amount of light entering from the courtyard proved to be too much.  Some of the glazing in the classrooms was later painted to block the some of the sunlight.  

 

300 Building

 

The 300 Building faces east and is nearly identical to the 100 Building.  The only significant difference in the two buildings is that a steel-framed hyphen extends out of the façade of the building.  This hyphen connects the 300 Building with the 200 Building.  The hyphen is six bays wide and is topped by an eight-ridged roof with the same diamond-box design found on other campus buildings.  A single slab door is located in the westernmost bay.  Except for the door the entire bay is glazed.  The door is surrounded with two-light sidelights and a large transom.  The transom is topped with two hopper windows, which in turn are topped with a fixed five-sided sash that matches the angle of the soffit.  The other bays contain corrugated steel panels below the hopper windows.  The hyphen contains two classrooms.  A nearly identical hyphen connects the 100 Building to the 200 Building.

 

Unlike the gymnasium and the cafeteria, the ridged roofs of the hyphens have retained their original gutter systems.  Scuppers at each valley pour the water into a drained basin.  Originally these basins contained round white river stones. (2)     

 

 Hyphen attaching 300 and 200 Buildings

 

200 Building

 

The 200 Building faces north and differs from the other classroom buildings in the location of its main entrance.  Whereas the entrance to the 100 and 300 building is located roughly in the center or the buildings, the entrance to the 200 Building has been shifted to the east, perhaps to align with the entrance to the Library (former).  The entrance to the 200 Building is bordered on each side by a bank of six windows.  The façade is composed of two more bays filled with five window units, with each bank of windows separated by three pre-cast panels.   A flat-roofed canopy-covered walkway connects the 200 building to the Library (former).

 

200 Building display case

 

Except for the location of the lobby, the interior of the 200 Building is essentially the same as the other two classroom buildings in terms of layout and building materials.  One noticeable difference is that the lobby’s display case is located on a free-standing metal frame near the middle of the room. 

 

The Interiors of the classroom buildings have suffered some insensitive alterations, especially the addition of pipes and ductwork hung below the ceilings.  The exteriors of the buildings have retained a high degree of integrity.

 

Covered Walkway

Covered walkway connecting Cafeteria and the 100 Building

 

The covered walkway connecting the cafeteria and the 100 Building is in keeping with the modernist style of the gymnasium and cafeteria.   The canopy utilizes boxed steel posts.  The two posts support each diamond-shaped box section that make up the ridged roof.  Originally the valleys drained through scuppers on the west side of the walkway.   Downspouts and a drainpipe have been added and are bolted to the posts.

 

The Campus

 
Tax parcel with pre-2004 building outline
 Post-2004 aerial photograph

 

The Garinger campus is composed of 62 acres of relatively flat land open land in the eastern suburbs of Charlotte.  The campus is bordered to the east by Eastway Drive and to the north by Sugar Creek Road.  The campus buildings are setback from the streets.  The closest building, the Gymnasium, is located approximately 100 yards from the two streets.   The school's principal entrance is approached by a serpentine driveway that terminates in a large oval drive.  The lawn area that is enclosed by the circular drive features a circle of oak trees.  These trees were planted by by students in the early years of the school.(3)   Paved parkinglots border the circular drive.  Another large parking lot is located to the north of the campus buildings.  Two ball fields are located in the southwest and southeast corners of the campus.  An athletic field and a track are located in the northwest corner of the property. 

The school buildings enclose two grassy courtyards that are separated by the Cafeteria.   The courtyard to the north of the Cafeteria is a large flat grassy yard.  This courtyard affords good views of the Gymnasium and Cafeteria from many parts of the campus.  The uncluttered openness of the northern courtyard stands in marked contrast to the confined busy nature of the southern courtyard.  The courtyard to the south of the Cafeteria was an original feature of the campus, but it has been greatly altered by the addition of the large, two-story 1977 Library.  In addition, numerous trees and large bushes have been added to the area.  


1.  Interview with Charles Dickerson, Assistant Principal, Garinger High School,  2-22-07.

2.   Elementary and Secondary Schools” p.2, notes from AG Odell files held in the offices of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.

3.  Interview with Charles Dickerson, Assistant Principal, Garinger High School,  2-22-07.