Thursday, July 11, 2013

Before There Was Kemps Landing School

Today I found the Sargeant Memorial Room at the Norfolk Public Library. If you read any books on local history, there is a very good chance that several of the photos will have "Courtesy of the Sargeant Memorial Collection" noted somewhere nearby. I asked about their Princess Anne County photo collection, and the guy at the desk pulled four file folders out of a drawer and handed them to me! I spent the next 30 minutes or so sifting through old photos.

One set of photos caught my eye immediately, because they answered a nagging question that has occupied my mind since my interview with Mary Ann Harrison Smith. She said she attended Kempsville Elementary during her grammar school years (1942-) and that the building had "real pretty white columns in front". I attended Kempsville Elementary in 1978 & 1979, and there were no "real pretty white columns!" I also knew that my Kempsville Elementary only dated back to the 1960's, so she couldn't be referring to that building. I knew Kemps Landing School was older, but Kemps Landing doesn't have real pretty white columns either.

The Virginia Beach Public Schools website has a short history of the old Kempsville Elementary and it seems to indicate that the building that eventually came to be known as Kemps Landing, built in 1941, was the original Kempsville Elementary. But what about the pretty white columns? Mary Ann did say that her old school was torn down; so did they tear down a previous school with white columns when they built Kemps Landing? But if that is the case, it would have been torn down before Mary Ann was old enough to attend.

This is when the Sargeant Memorial Collection clarified everything for me:

Photo courtesy of the Sargeant Memorial Collection

There is an inscription on the back of this photo, "Kempsville Grammar and High School; 10-7-31". YES! There are COLUMNS! In fact, there are two buildings here, side by side, and they both have columns. Which one is the grammar school? Which one is the high school? The photo doesn't specify.

Photo courtesy of the Sargeant Memorial Collection

This is a photo of the building on the far left in the first photo. This photo is inscribed, "Kempsville Grammar and High; 10-9-31". Not much clarification there, but I did notice something: take careful note of the windows on the left...

Photo courtesy of the Sargeant Memorial Collection

Here is the building we are all familiar with, because it still exists today. The photo is inscribed, "Kempsville High School; 5-14-42". My generation knows it as Kemps Landing (not the magnet school; before the magnet school); but whatever you call it, there it is. Now, please note the building to the right of the new high school: see the windows? It looks like they did not tear down the old schools when they built the new one.

This photo has been floating around the Internet for a couple of years now, but I saw it most recently in a Facebook post:

It is a postcard of Kempsville High School, but there is no date. I was always under the impression that the two buildings to the right were the old jail and a municipal building -- but it is crystal clear now that all three buildings are school buildings. The two buildings on the right are the buildings in the photographs above.

With just a little more research, I found this photo on the Virginia Beach Public Library website:

Now we know which building was the grammar school and which was the high school! The last graduating class was in 1941, and the doors opened at the new high school later that year.

For the record, the grammar school is the oldest building here, constructed in 1910. Both the grammar school and the old high school would be demolished prior to 1953 to make room for a one-story addition to the new building. That addition survived until very recently, when it was torn down to accommodate the re-routing of Princess Anne Road.

While on the subject of additions, I noticed one more thing while studying these photos. Those of us who have lived in Kempsville for any length of time know about the one-story addition to the Kempsville High/Kemps Landing building; but these photos show that was not the first addition that was made:

The wall that faces the grammar school is the northernmost edge of the building in this 1942 photo.

By the time this picture was taken (before 1953) a new wing has appeared on the northwest corner of the building. That addition is still there.

 

16 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. The old jail and courthouse were on Overland, behind Pleasant Hall. When I was a kid, the buildiing's shell was still standing next to the little graveyard there.

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    2. You are correct about their location near Overland Rd. Both were torn down in the mid to late 1960's. There are archived Virginian Pilot articles about them.

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  2. This is most interesting. Thanks for your research & information!

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  3. the 2 smaller buildings are shown,im thnking,as standing where the old belo's supermarket once stood,and ed brook's gulf gas station on the corner of kempsville and princess anne road

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  4. at least the one farthest from the big newer school

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  5. There was an old railroad grade that ran at a 45 deg. angle between the school buildings and the Belo shopping center that came some time later. A faint remnant of that railroad grade can be seen in the photo of the three buildings, behind the white barn-like structure that sits at an angle relative to the school buildings. The school buildings were south of the railroad grade, and the Belo shopping center was north of the grade; so they actually did not occupy the same space.

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    1. The wooden tressel still existed across the creek behind Kemps Landing as late as the 1950's, because my parents have stated that they played on it. The railroad grade as it approaches same creek is still there, though no remnants of track exist today. My grandmother recalled the track still crossing near the intersection in the 1920's.

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    2. This is a pretty nice find, Gary. Thank you for the informative article and for posting the pictures.

      -Everett Seamans

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  6. Stumbled across your blog while doing some research on the former Kempsville High/Kemps Landing building. I hadn't been on Kempsville Road in some time, but managed to snap this photo yesterday. Thought it was interesting that the original name remained after all these years...

    http://i.imgur.com/lplr1iQ.jpg

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  7. An item which is often missed, is part, or all of the building functioned as Kempsville Junior High School for a time. My counsin went to this school when it was Kempsville Junior High.

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  8. I have often heard Kempsville residents, both young and old, make the claim Kempsville was once incorporated. However, I've never heard of town officials, where boundaries were, etc. I have never believed Kempsville was ever incorporated. I've often thought the information was confused and Kempsville may have had village trustees, similar to Yorktown. Do you know about this?

    Doug S

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  9. My cousin went to school in the two-story building(1941 bldg.) for the school year abt. 1956-1957. The two-story building was functioning as Kempsville Junior High School and the adjacent building was Kempsville Elementery. My cousin was living near Davis Corner. Don't know the grade she attended or the grades Kempsville Junior High offered. My cousin attended for only one year before moving to North Carolina. According to a city directory from the early 1960's, one of the principals of Kempsville Junior High School on Great Bridge Rd. was Norman W. Morris.

    I have never heard anyone refer to the 1941 building as Kempsville Junior High School except my family. The present Kempsville Miidle School, previously Kempsville Junior High, has never acknowledged there was a previous school by the same name which operated circa 1950's to early 1960's. I was born in the mid 1960's and only remember the buildings serving as Kemps Landing Elementary School and then other schools. I'm the same person who wrote the previous post about the junior high school.

    Doug S.

    Doug S.

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  10. I am sorry but I have to reform the information. My cousin attended Kempsville Junior High abt. the 1958-1959 school year. The one year she was there was in between 1958-1960 and was probably the 1958-1959 school year but may have been the 1959-1960 school year.

    I have enjoyed looking at your blog.

    Doug S.

    Doug S.

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  11. I stumbled upon this blog when I did a google search of "historic Kemps Landing Middle". I attended KLM for only half of a school year back in 1980. My parents moved to Ches, then out of state.. I moved back to the area 20yrs ago and have always been interested in following the transformation of this building. Thank you for the research and the post. Didn't the front of the building say Kemps Landing Middle when it was functioning as such? I swear it did. I wish that I had taken photos before its most recent transformation.

    Bonnie S

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  12. According to a yearbook at archive.org, the building functioned as Kempsville Junior High School for the 1962-1963 school year. The yearbook was the Blue Devil. N. W. Morris was principal and James C. Mounie was Assistant principal. That year, the school offered 8th and 9th grade. The student council was known as the Student Cooperative Association. Vickie McKinney as the annual editor in chief. Julia Sweeney was the annual sponsor. Elaine Polizos was the librarian. Sweeney and Polizos were both serving at Virginia Beach Junior High School in the late '70's to early 80's.

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