The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

More Than a Century in the Making

Coming renovations will add to 106 years of Woodbury’s stories, history and structures
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Reflections 1918-1985 book
When it was built, Woodbury was nearly one-third the size it is today. Additionally, the pond that was formerly to the east of the school has since been reduced to a stream.

Since 1918, Woodbury and its iconic clock tower have stood as a symbol of Shaker Heights and the school system that it keeps.

“There is, in every community, some oddity or feature which distinguishes that district from any other. It may be a beautiful park, or a famous building, or perhaps only a moss-grown cemetery, but the fact remains that every vicinity has claim to some one thing which it, at least, thinks is out of the ordinary,” Jeanette Pollack, who graduated in 1928 said in the Gristmill. “This in our community happens to be the school clock. To the casual observer, it is just a clock, but to us it means a great deal, inasmuch as it serves a twofold purpose; first, to beautify the school tower, and second, to provide the right time.”

1910s through 1920s

The building we call Woodbury Intermediate School today originally served as the high school. It was completed in 1918 and could accommodate 400 students.

In 1985, the Woodbury Junior High yearbook team put together “Reflections,” a book about the history of Woodbury. “When the building was completed, its center portion with the imposing clock tower bore a striking resemblance to Independence Hall in Philadelphia,” former student William VanAken (’30) said.

When it was announced that Woodbury Junior High School would close at the end of the 1984-85 school year, the Woodbury yearbook adviser put together a 68-page book, “Reflections,” containing the history of the school’s first 67 years. (Will Stewart)

“In addition to school activities, the building was used by the community club for its Friday night movies and the Shaker Village Players for their dramatic productions,” VanAken said.

In the next 10 years, the upper gym was built, as well as the east and west academic wings on either side of the central building, which increased capacity for the rapidly rising student population. The east and west academic wings will be demolished during the upcoming renovation of Woodbury, which will begin after the 2023-24 school year.

When the additional classroom wings were completed in January 1927, Jean Brattin (’31) and her entire homeroom moved from Onaway Elementary School to Woodbury. “The two classroom wings were brand new; the auditorium and cafeteria seated all four grades at once; and there were delightful hideaways, like the tower room, which the dramatic club claimed as their turf, at least while I was there,” Brattin said in “Reflections.”

According to a 1927 interview, the district’s director of tests and measurements, whom “Reflections” identified only as Miss Haddock, said that the school did not need to differentiate classes for gifted students. “In Shaker, the activity curriculum, the high quality of the classroom teaching, and the small groups make it possible to stimulate every child in the group to the highest possible accomplishment for one of his ability,” Haddock said.

The Woodbury auditorium, original to the 1918 building, still features original, ornate details, such as trim work, pillars, and decorative plasterwork. (Will Stewart)

1930s

In 1931, the current high school was built. From then until 1985, Woodbury served as a junior high school, housing grades 7-9.

During the early 1930s, the effects of the Great Depression took a toll on the schools of Shaker Heights. “One-fourth of the teachers were not rehired and salaries of those remaining were reduced by 25 percent,” Joseph Woodell, who taught at Shaker from 1930-1969, said in “Reflections.”

“A typical seventh grader’s meal might consist of two orders of mashed potatoes and gravy (10 cents), an ice cream bar (5 cents) and chocolate milk (3 cents),” John Bazely, who attended Woodbury Junior High from 1935-1937, said in “Reflections.” “Good homemade soup, salads, entrees like cheese fondue, hamburgers or Spanish rice, and delicious homemade chocolate or lemon meringue might raise the cost up to 35 or 40 cents. Therefore, it was ‘eat cheap’ one day and splurge the next.”

1940s

In the early morning hours of March 9, 1943, a group “Shaker Heights or East Side youths . . . fired and ransacked Shaker Junior High School, wrecked six offices and caused $15,000 damage,” according to a newspaper clipping in the 1942-43 Student Council scrapbook. “The heat from the many fires cracked plaster throughout the building.” The newspaper’s name cannot be identified from the clipping.

Within the same week, a Lakewood elementary school was set ablaze, and three Lakewood homes were burglarized. “The wave of vandalism is undoubtedly a result of wartime tension, and these boys are probably ‘getting even’ for some real or fancied grievances against authorities,” Dr. Henry Schumacher, director of the Cleveland Guidance Clinic, said in the newspaper clipping.

Classes were still held the day after the acts of vandalism despite the “smoke and water damage,” the newspaper clipping said.

1950s through 1970s

By the mid-1950s, Woodbury Junior High housed more than 1,600 students, with about 550 students in each grade. To accommodate the growing student population, the district constructed Byron Junior High School, which is now Shaker Middle School.

Byron was to house grades 7-9 just as Woodbury did, and it began serving students for the 1957-58 school year. During the 1956-57 school year, before Byron was ready for occupancy, the two schools shared the Woodbury building, with Woodbury classes held in the morning, and Byron classes held in the afternoon.

The original railings in the Woodbury stairwells show wear from 106 years of use. (Will Stewart)

In the late 1950s, Woodbury had a new wing built, comprising a gym, locker rooms and classrooms for the music department. In 1960, an observatory was built on the roof behind the clock tower and a telescope was installed. Nine years later, in 1969, the swimming pool was built that rivaled the size of Byron’s. The pool remains the most recent addition to the school.

1980s

During the 1983-84 school year, the Secondary School Recognition Program named Woodbury Junior High one of the top schools in the country.

After the 1984-85 school year, the fate of the building was in question. Due to restructuring of grade arrangements, Woodbury would close, while Byron would remain open.

“Alas, in America in the twentieth century, buildings are built to be torn down. Although the old high school will cease to house classes, it will live forever in the memory of the students who studied and played there,” VanAken said in “Reflections.”

However, Woodbury only remained closed for two years; the building has housed fifth- and sixth-grade students from 1987 until the present.

Present

According to the submission proposal sent to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, the east and west wings of Woodbury, added in 1927, will be demolished during the renovation. (Submission proposal sent to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission)

After the 2023-24 school year, Woodbury will be vacated to begin partial demolition and renovation. According to the submission proposal to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, the 1927 east and west academic wings will be demolished, as well as the main gym and swimming pool.

 

Students are to return to Woodbury for the 2026-27 school year, once all renovations are completed. Woodbury will house grades 6-8 after the renovation, and the existing middle school property will be repurposed. 

Throughout Woodbury’s history, the building has seen 106 years worth of students, teachers, restructuring and building additions. Though this renovation means that Woodbury is once again closing its doors for a few years, this is simply the next era for a school that has served its community for more than a century.

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