We’re preparing to onboard over 50 new teachers to Worthington next week for their first Worthington Schools orientation. My role for that day is to help our new staff understand our school district expectations with perfect clarity and to orient them to the unique history of Worthington Schools.
In preparing for my presentation to our new teachers I have been re-reading Jennie McCormick’s excellent history of Worthington “Two Centuries of Educational History, Worthington, Ohio” from the Worthington Historical Society. This text contains many, many interesting school district facts but none more interesting than the history of the building we now affectionately call “The Mac.”
The Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center (MAC) is named after Mr. John H. McConnell’s late wife, Peggy (Rardin). The MAC was established to enhance and secure the future of the arts and culture for the greater Worthington community through a partnership of the Worthington Arts Council, the City of Worthington, and the Worthington Schools. The MAC brings community members together through performances, exhibits, receptions, classes, community forums, social events, lectures, and dialogue; expand on arts and cultural opportunities already provided in the city; rejuvenate the culturally significant, historic Packard Annex, carrying its heritage as a community gathering place into the future; contribute to making Worthington a destination location and enhance its reputation as one of northern Franklin County’s leading suburbs; and offer a range and variety of arts experiences that are accessible to all members of the community.
The history of “the Mac” is fascinating. The 1915 school year opened with 107 high school students overflowing the 1893 building (the 1893 building was razed in 1937 to construct what is now Kilbourne Middle School). To alleviate the overflow Worthington voters approved a bond issue to erect a new high school building on the school district farm lot west of the village. The board of education contracted with Columbus architect Frank L. Packard to design a building with two small-scale Romanesque arched tower entries. Fifteen bids were received and the general contract was awarded to the lowest bidder at $30,812. The building was dedicated on January 28, 1916. The ground floor contained a gymnasium with a spectator balcony to seat 150 persons, shower rooms for both boys and girls, a manual training room, and the building’s heating plant. In addition to the auditorium, the first floor contained a study hall that would seat 100 students, and two classrooms. The second floor contained a chemistry lab, a physics lab, two classrooms, an entrance to the auditorium balcony, and in one entry tower the superintendent’s office, and a faculty restroom in the other. The total cost including furnishings was approximately $40,000. Helen B. Robinson, principal and teacher, was the highest paid of the four high school teachers at $100 per month. The first graduating class of sixteen students celebrated May 23, 1916.
In 1930 the home economics room was opened and Mrs. Dana Osburn was hired to cook the first school lunches for Worthington students. After World War II growth forced the opening of the new high school campus to the west (1951)and this building served as a junior high school and finally as an arts annex with storage for theatre productions. In the mid-1990’s the building was vacated and in 2005 the school board sold the building to the city.
In 2010 “The Mac” returned to its roots as a school building. Worthington Schools rented two basement classrooms to be used as kindergarten classrooms for the adjacent Evening Street Elementary. Thus in 2012 my daughter will experience her kindergarten year in a renovated historic Worthington landmark that has educated almost a full century of Worthington students. How cool is that!