Education

Asheville High School Facelift is Sharp

The main AHS building’s wide front is shown in 2019, soon after initial renovation was done. It features at its center a dome, and arched front entrance.

Asheville – Asheville High School renovation is about to add a new structure, following a sharp facelift of the 1929 main building.

Asheville High School(AHS)’s historic 1929 main building is more magnificent than ever with a new 50,000-square-foot clay tile roof including on its majestic central dome, thanks to the first phase of renovations.

Next, a two-story building is to go up next to the gym starting within a month. It will be built on vacant space by the gym where the razed “ROTC Building” stood since 1949 and will house similar programs, Asheville City Schools (ACS) Asst. Supt. Dr. Shane Cassida told the Tribune Friday. He administers Auxiliary Services.

The new building will “house our health and physical education classes as well as the core hub of our athletic program — athletic offices, weight room, trainer’s room, and additional locker space for our male and female teams,” Dr. Cassida noted. “The design and bid phase was completed in 2020. Construction will kick off within the next month. Certainly, COVID issues have delayed this process.”

Ongoing work includes grading/leveling the baseball field and putting in turf by next month. Then the track will be remodeled, in conjunction with Asheville Parks and Recreation, Dr. Cassida said. “We have really seen the positive impact that (Cougar athletics) makes in the lives of our students during the pandemic — both academically and mentally.”

Buncombe County commissioners’ School Capital Commission Fund is paying for renovations of the city high school, Cassida noted. The new building was authorized in the 2019 funding cycle when plans were scrapped to update the gymnasium exterior and interior.

However, Cassida said gym upgrades are on “our regular ACS Maintenance Capital Improvement Projects list for review and update, during the next five years.”

Utility Upgrades are Planned

Phase two for AHS is pending approval in the “2022 SCCF funding cycle — in October,” Dr. Cassida said. He called the proposed $3 million project a “full water, sewer and HVAC project for the main building at AHS” and an “extensive repair that will last throughout the majority of a year. Funding and planning will require a full team effort” between ACS and Buncombe County. Further, “I appreciate (county) support of our capital needs.”

Solar power installations are planned for city and county schools, within two years.

A master plan in 1988 called for upgrades to the college-style AHS campus. PFA Architects notes it won a $27 million bid for initial plans to renovate much of the campus.

PFA and Vannoy Construction teamed to restore AHS, and now to renovate and expand historic (1926) Hendersonville High School.

Meticulously Matching Roof Tile

Phase one work featured facade upgrades of the main AHS building such as a new roof and windows, then patching up granite veneer. The $4 million project began in the summer of 2017 with landscape removal and was largely finished in the fall of 2018.

Stone repairs and “tuckpointing” were done by last summer, according to Vannoy Construction which handled the work. Vannoy said renovation highlights are “replacing the nearly 100-year-old clay tile roof, re-pointing (mortar), cleaning and tucking the entire stone facade of the building, as well as replacing two-thirds of the steel (window) lintels embedded in the masonry veneer — all while keeping the school open and operational” for nearly 1,000 AHS students plus School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville (SILSA) pupils.

Optional in-school learning is to resume on campus on March 24, by rotating weekly with remote learning.

Masonry work took two and a half years. In winters, the crew heated stone and mortar to be warm enough to adhere well, PFA notes. SKA Consulting Engineers did structural engineering. Baker Roofing put in new clay roof tiles.

PFA meticulously planned tiles in the new roof, replicating originals with larger (7-inch-by-5-inch) tiles in three tones. PFA took tile chip samples to the original manufacturer Ludowici in Ohio. Ludowici produced new clay-based ceramic tiles that looked aged and hand-sprayed glaze — such as ebony mist onto red and orange tiles, and a green tint onto brown tiles.

AHS has Rich History

PFA architect Chip Howell, an AHS alumnus, calls the three-winged main Asheville High building “iconic.” A dome atop a circular rotunda, arched front entrance, and clay tile roof are architectural features. Douglas Ellington designed it and Asheville City Hall. He is known for Art Deco and Beaux-Arts styling.

The building opened as AHS on Feb. 5, 1929. It was built in 1927-29, just ahead of the Great Depression, for $1.3 million (nearly $20 million now).

A media center addition in 1970 made the structure even more elongated, across much of the campus at 419 McDowell St. between Downtown Asheville and Biltmore Estate.

Asheville High is historically vocationally-oriented. AHS even in 1929 offered classes such as auto mechanics, mechanical drawing, photography with a darkroom, and full print shops, according to ACS info. Students built a vocational structure (ROTC Building) as a project, across from the original shop wing. A larger vocational center went up in 1968. Attaching to it was the current gym, in ’73.

A $3.5 million cultural arts building opened in the early Nineties. A $3.1 million cafeteria debuted in 2006. The campus’s seven buildings total 291,122 square feet, PFA noted.

Asheville High was called Lee H. Edwards High School in 1935-69, in honor of Edwards who died in 1935 while AHS principal. The current AHS principal is Derek Edwards. Don Sims is ACS director of Facilities and Properties.

Editor’s note: If anyone can tell the Tribune what other building in the area looks like Asheville High in layout, you will get a 13-week subscription for free. Just email your answer to clint@thetribunepapers.com. The deadline for your entry is February 29th.

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