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Asheville High School (known as Lee H. Edwards High School 1935-1969) in Asheville, North Carolina, United States, is the only secondary school in the Asheville City Schools system. It is located at 419 McDowell Street, in a building designed by Douglas Ellington. Construction of the original building was begun in 1927 and completed in 1929. A modern addition was built in 1970, and in 2006 a new cafeteria was finished.
The railroad reached Asheville in 1881, and between the 1880 and 1890 censuses the population of the City grew from 2,000 to 10,000. In response to this population influx the City began a Public School System in 1888. The System originally consisted of a high school and three elementary schools. The elementary schools were Orange Street School (site currently occupied by NC DOT offices), Queen Carson Elementary School (corner of Haywood Street and Park Avenue, currently occupied by the City bus garage) and Montford Avenue School, in the old Asheville Military Academy, which structure was replaced by the current William Randolph Elementary in the late 1940s. The high school was located at the corner of Broadway and Woodfin Street, in what had been the private home of Nicholas Woodfin. After use for educational purposes ceased about 1923 this structure was the downtown YMCA until a new structure was built further east on Woodfin about 1970, and the old building torn down. The former high school campus is currently occupied by a bank. The City of Asheville built two structures in the early 1920s, Hall Fletcher in West Asheville and David Millard, on Oak Street, adjacent to First Baptist Church, which, together, were known as Asheville High School. The David Millard Campus occupied a portion of the grounds of a former girl's school, with the balance of the former school grounds covered by the Church. Athletic teams and extracurricular clubs were drawn from both campuses. The former site of David Millard is currently covered by One Oak Plaza and the extension of Charlotte Street, and the West Asheville campus is currently occupied by a new Hall Fletcher Elementary School. The current University of North Carolina - Asheville began in 1927 as a two-year college, known as Asheville-Biltmore College, using classrooms on the ground floor of David Millard.
The population of Asheville continued to grow in the late 1920s. By 1926 the school board agreed that “a large, central high school plant” was needed. A committee formed to locate a suitable location reported that it found “only one site within the City of sufficient size, and of reasonable price … this tract of land lies between Victoria Road and the new McDowell Street.” Out of seven architects submitting proposals for the new high school, Douglas D. Ellington was selected by majority vote. In addition Dr. Nickolaus Louis Englehardt of Columbia University was hired as an advisor to the architect. Dr. Englehardt had worked a great deal in school planning and design on a national level. Ellington and Englehardt's collaboration made the new Asheville High a model facility in terms of architecture and educational offerings. The former Asheville High School was renamed David Millard Junior High School and, together with Hall Fletcher, served as the city’s junior high schools for a time.
Asheville High School opened on February 5, 1929, with a dedication ceremony in the auditorium including as speakers the Mayor of Asheville, the superintendent of Asheville City Schools, Douglas Ellington, Lee H. Edwards, the president of the PTA, the Headmaster of the Asheville School and the president of Duke University. When first opened, Asheville High had a wide variety of vocational programs including automotive mechanics, full print shops (all yearbooks, newspapers, and magazines were printed on-campus), mechanical drawing, and photography, including a darkroom.
When the stock market crashed in September 1929, it took Asheville by surprise. This forced the programming for the schools, and indeed the city’s economic well-being, to hit rock bottom. For a time, Asheville High was closed, and students were removed to David Millard and Hall Fletcher. All extras were cut for a time, including much of the school's technical curriculum. In 1935 the school was renamed Lee H. Edwards High School in honor of Principal Edwards, who died unexpectedly that year.
In 1949, another vocational facility (known today as the ROTC building) was created across from the original shop wing. This facility was built by students in the vocational program, as a real-world example of construction. In 1965, another larger vocational building was built. In the early 1970s, a media center addition was added to the main building. In 1973, a new gym and athletic facility was attached to the old vocational building. In the early 1990s, a cultural arts building was built. Finally, in 2006, a new cafeteria was added to the campus.
On October 5, 2008, then Senator Barack Obama visited Asheville High School in his race for the White House. Over 25,000 people showed up at the Football Stadium to see Obama deliver his rally speech.
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