The Oconee Street School was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on December 31, 2018. The property is located in a historic residential neighborhood at 594 Oconee Street, approximately one mile south of downtown Athens (Clarke County). The property owner sponsored the nomination, and Ray, Ellis, & LaBrie Consulting prepared the nomination materials.
Initially constructed in 1909, the two-story, three-bay brick Oconee Street School classroom building was expanded in 1913, 1922, and 1933. A one-story, brick “cafetorium” building was added to the property in 1956 and contributes to its significance. The classroom building exhibits elements of the Classical Revival style as applied to an institutional building. Character-defining features include a symmetrical primary elevation; a segmental-arched portico with banded piers, keystone, and corbelling; a double-door primary entrance with sidelights and multi-light transom with classical molding; and a classical cornice. The 1956 “cafetorium,” which served as both a cafeteria and auditorium, is a rectilinear building that exhibits elements of the International style, including horizontality, lack of ornamentation, and wide, simple fascia.
The Oconee Street School is locally significant under Criterion A in the area of education as the only extant representative example of the early 20th century school construction boom in Athens and the only extant purpose-built school building for Athens City Schools (1885–1955). Although the present building was not constructed until 1909, the Oconee Street School, which exclusively served the East Athens mill community, was one of the first primary schools in the Athens City Schools system, which prided itself on its educational system.
The Oconee Street School, designed by architect William E. Spink, is also locally significant under Criterion C in the area of architecture as an example of an early 20th century urban public school, a significant school type in Georgia as defined in the statewide context Public Elementary and Secondary Schools in Georgia, 1868-1971, with an extant mid-20th century “cafetorium.” The original main building retains the character-defining features of an urban public school type building in Georgia with its urban location, two-story massing, rectangular footprint, masonry construction, spacious corridors, classrooms with separate cloakrooms, and classrooms designed for division. The 1956 “cafetorium,” designed by the Athens firm of Heery & Heery Architects, is representative both in style and type of the mid-20th century period of school construction, exemplifying a common addition to Georgia schools during that period. Overall, the phases of construction are representative of the evolving needs and changing patterns of Athens’ and Georgia’s expanding educational system during the first half of the 20th century.
The National Register of Historic Places is our country's official list of historic buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts worthy of preservation. The National Register provides formal recognition of a property's architectural, historical, or archaeological significance. It also identifies historic properties for planning purposes, and insures that these properties will be considered in the planning of state or federally assisted projects. National Register listing encourages preservation of historic properties through public awareness, federal and state tax incentives, and grants. Listing in the National Register does not place obligations or restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer, or disposition of private property.
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