Historic Structures

Building Description Ralph Waldo Emerson School, Gary Indiana

Emerson School is a three-story brick building, roughly rectangular in shape, constructed in 1908. Most of the building has no particular architectural style, but the main entry and some of the details are Jacobethan Revival. The school is situated on a sloping lot, about six feet higher than street level at the front foundation. Several shallow flights of steps on a broad sidewalk lead to the main entrance. The lawns are shaded with large trees, and ornamental brick walls extend from the building's front corners toward the street. The brick is laid in Flemish bond. On the ground floor only, header courses occur in every fifth row.

The front elevation is symmetrical and contains nine large bays. The center and two end bays project from the front and sides of the building, giving the effect of towers. The towers have flat roofs with small semicircular projections centered on each side of a parapet, while the rest of the front has a side-gable roof. The gables extend above the flat roofs and have large cornices. The wall surface is decorated with false half-timbering. Paired, multi-paned windows are centered under the gables. The windows are framed with half-timbers. Four large, decorated chimneys are placed toward the gable ends and near the cross-gable.

The main entrance extends from the front of the building to form a crossgable. The upper two stories have chamfered corners. An elaborate, shaped and stepped parapet crowns the roof line. The third story has limestone quoins and a belt course separating it from the second story. The first story has brick quoins and a brick-and-limestone balustrade separating it from the second story.

A limestone water table runs along the entire front and sides of the building, as does a belt course separating the second and third stories.

The main entrance has a classical door surround with Ionic columns supporting a full entablature and balustrade. The words "EMERSON SCHOOL" are carved into the frieze. The doors are double metal fire doors with small vertical safetyglass panes. Above the doors is a semicircular transom with square panes. Channeled limestone voussoirs radiate from the doors and transom. On either side of the door are metal-framed awning windows of three panes.

The second story has tall windows consisting of six awning windows in each of the chamfered corners. The central bay has three ranks of eight awning windows. Over the window is an elaborate scrollwork pediment with oval cutout in the center.

The third story has a paired awning window with eight panes. The stepped parapet is edged in limestone. The corners and center of the parapet are topped with ball finials.

All of the windows in the building are currently metal framed, but were originally framed in wood. Most of the windows on the front and side elevations are banks of 15-25 awning or hopper (on the ground floor) windows with simple limestone or brick lintels and sills.

Both of the side elevations are alike. They are five-ranked with entrance doors placed asymmetrically toward the front of the building. The square end bays on each side project from the building as described for the front elevation. The side entrances are double metal fire doors with four-pane transoms. The door surrounds are limestone architrave molding with a frieze and comice. The date "1908" is carved in the frieze. A limestone water table runs along the sides and extends around the corners to the rear elevation, but stops at the edge of the corner bays. Brick quoins appear on all building corners on the second floor only.

The rear elevation is symmetrical. Again, the square corner bays project from the building. There are no windows on the rear of these bays. Twin end-gable sections separated by a parapeted section extend past the projecting corner bays. Small, shed-roofed entryways on each wing contain two doors. These end-gable wings contain gymnasia on the ground floor and the second/third floor. The center portion contains band rooms on the second and third floors, and a boiler room on the grovind floor. A fire escape in the center section leads down from the second and third floors. The windows in the rear elevation are a combination of sash, awning, sliding, and glass block; they are placed more-or-less evenly on the building.

The interior contains classrooms around the front and side perimeters on all three floors. The center area houses a fan room, boiler room, swimming pool, dressing rooms, cafeteria, and kitchen on the first floor, and an auditorium, band rooms, and gymnasia on the combined second/third floor. The gable roof at the front houses a fourth level containing a music room and attic space.

Interior walls are either painted brick or plaster. Flooring is wood, terrazzo, or linoleum. Marble wainscoting decorates some of the entry halls. The interior doors are wood and glass. Some have transoms and sidelights.