Bluff Park School

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This article is about the historical school. For the present institution, see Bluff Park Elementary School.

Bluff Park School, later Bluff Park Community School, Hoover Community Education, and Artists on the Bluff building, is a former school constructed in 1924 at 569 or 571 Park Avenue in Hoover's Bluff Park neighborhood. It replaced the older Summit School nearby.

The original one-story 3,472-square-foot building housed two light-filled classrooms, one at each end of the building, flanking a central hallway with the principal's and secretary's offices and two restrooms. D. O. Whilldin designed the building and Holly & Davis contractors of Ensley were awarded construction based on their low bid of $12,796.81. Pearl Cranford and Ethel Hale were the first teachers at the new school. In 1930 Mrs Hale succeeded Mrs Asa Cranford as principal.

A library room was added on to the building in the 1950s. In 1962 the Bluff Park School's Parent-Teacher Organization held a $3,500 fund-raising event with the theme of "Invest in the Best". In return for a $10 donation, investors received a printed "stock certificate" showing how the money raised would be divided between instructional, library, administrative and cleaning supplies.

Linda Williams was hired by the Jefferson County Board of Education in 1973 to superintend the community education programs at Bluff Park School. The program offered classes in square dancing, interior design, flower arranging, computer literacy, and personal finance in the evening hours. After Bluff Park was annexed into the city of Hoover in the 1980s and Hoover City Schools was established in 1987, Williamson was made director of Hoover Community Education. In that role she developed evening programs at multiple locations.

Meanwhile, the original school building had been expanded several times, growing to 32 classrooms by 1988, and the system also leased portable classrooms which were located behind the school.

Between 1993 and 1996 the first phases of an all-new Bluff Park Elementary School were constructed just south of the existing campus. The older buildings remained in use for day care, community school programs, and community meetings. Hoover Community Education ended its operations at Bluff Park School when Williams retired in 2010. At that time, the former school building was in poor repair, with junk piled up in unused classrooms and sagging roofs.

In 2011 Williams and Rik Lazenby formed the non-profit Artists on the Bluff. The group negotiated an informal agreement with Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos and superintendent Andy Craig according to which the city would repair and maintain the building and provide a $50,000 annual allocation for three years. The school board continued to pay for utilities. Artists on the Bluff provided classes and programs and organized exhibitions. It also subleased 20 studio and gallery spaces to artists and gallerists and hosted group and community meetings. The renovated facility opened in September 2012.

In 2017 the school board determined that it could no longer subsidize the Artists on the Bluff by paying for utilities, which had sharply increased with the opening of the Capers on Park Avenue restaurant in 2015. Williams agreed that the non-profit should negotiate a fair lease. Within a few months, the school system determined that it could not afford to bring the building up to code nor to continue allowing it to be used without doing so. It agreed to lease the building to the City of Hoover if the city was willing to renovate it, but the Hoover City Council voted in September not to fund that work, thus requiring Artists on the Bluff and other tenants to move out. School board president Earl Cooper expected the superintendent to recommend razing the building.

In 2021 Hoover City Schools contracted for demolition of all of the former elementary school buildings except for the original 1923 schoolhouse. Davis Architects designed the restoration work, budgeted at $1 million, which included new fire sprinklers, central heating and air, and other systems. While the original pine flooring was re-used, the floor structure required extensive repairs. Matching bricks were ordered from New England and insulated windows were constructed to match the originals. The remodeled interior contains three offices, a conference room, a kitchenette, storage closets, and two accessible restrooms.

Battle Miller Construction carried out the work on the historic building while Complete Demolition Services brought down the other buildings and regraded the site for a total project cost of $1,652,300. The historic schoolhouse reopened in 2021 as the home of Hoover Public School's Student Services department, which relocated from Brock's Gap Intermediate School.



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