Old Schools

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Most of the fire alarm artifacts featured on this website came from old public school buildings that were built in the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. The page you are now viewing displays a sample of old schools that illustrate a triumph of architectural skill and craftsmanship from that era. Sadly, most of these magnificent schools are no longer standing.

Historic schools of this caliber were built with the finest materials and by superior craftsmen. Unlike the inferior new schools built today, that resemble big box warehouses and have a mere lifespan of only thirty years; older schools like those shown here were considered civic landmarks built to last a century or more.

Typical of that time, older schools were constructed with many architectural adornments, inside and out. All were built with plenty of large windows to bring in lots of natural light; and tall ceilings to keep classrooms cool in the summer. Huge boiler rooms were constructed, many with two or three very large coal burning furnaces to heat in the winter. The boys and girls lavatories were often times lined with slabs of marble, that ran from the floors all the way up to the ceilings. You could always find plenty of beautiful hardwood floors in the classrooms, and solid woodwork throughout the interiors. Many of these magnificent schools also had beautiful auditoriums and gymnasiums. And one last thing most of these architectural jewels shared was pull rod fire alarm systems. Whenever there was a fire drill, due to the large hallways and high ceilings, one would always hear the bells or horns resonating throughout the entire building; a sound that demanded your attention, and one you could never forget.

The time has now come where these types of old school buildings are endangered and vanishing at an alarming rate. In November of 1998, a national settlement was finalized between the tobacco industry and 46 states. Better known as the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), $206 billion was paid to the states that participated in that lawsuit. Many of the states utilized a portion of this settlement money for building new schools; tragically resulting in the demise and destruction of many old school buildings, and most of the historic artifacts they contained.

If you know of an old school that is scheduled for demolition that contains historic fire alarm artifacts, and would like to donate such artifacts or see them salvaged for historical preservation, please contact Old School Fire Alarms.

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