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Adapted from a manuscript by Virginia C. Bowman 


       Headlines of the January 17, 1929, issue of The Crossville Chronicle excited and pleased the people of Cumberland with these words, “County Court Votes to Build High School.” It was reported in the same article that $75,000 in bonds would be sold by the court and a court building committee appointed to have charge of the work. The committee was made up of J.F. Brown, chairman, C.A Jackson, G.W. Davenport, T.A. Day, F.R. Rose, E.V. Hinch, M.F. Reed and Attorney George P. Burnett. They were to have full charge of the work, being empowered to select the site, secure and pass on plans, let the building contract and oversee every phase of the undertaking. The building was to be completed in time for use in the fall of 1929.

      The company of Little, Wooten and Company of Jackson, Tennessee, was the high bidder to issue the bonds, giving the county a bonus of $550, making the total resources for erecting and equipping the new building $75,550. A quote from the January 17, 1929, Crossville Chronicle summed up the awesome undertaking the Cumberland County Court had set for itself and for the people of Cumberland County in these words, “Perhaps never in the history of the county has the court handled any important question with so much dispatch and at the same time handled it in a way that met with the approval of the people so generally as in this case.”

      After visiting adjoining counties to inspect high school buildings, several justices agreed that the high school at Pikeville was the most modern and met with the most general approval of the committee. It was suggested that a building abundantly large for Cumberland County now and for many years could be erected for about $65,000. Esq. C.A. Jackson prepared a plan modeled after the Pikeville building to be submitted to the court. The plan would be adequate for the present requirements and for years hence when bus lines would be put on to thoroughly cover the entire county. It must also be a plan which would permit enlargement without waste. At later dates, the building was indeed enlarged several times.

      An offer of a site was presented to the County Court on January 14, 1929. A leading citizen proposed to deed to the county ten acres of land opposite the Crossville Elementary School Building, and also to pay the county $5,500 for the current high school building (the original courthouse building located next to the old Post Office on Main Street) and grounds. The offer was not accepted as many of the justices were opposed to allowing the already historic building to leave county ownership and use and to pass into private ownership.Two days prior to a court meeting scheduled for January 24, 1929, the building committee met and selected the site where the school now stands opposite Cumberland Medical Center. The site consisted of 6 or 7 acres, and the purchase price was said to be around $2,500. The vote was 4 to 3 in favor of this site. An architect from Chattanooga was present at the meeting. He went over the site selected and was to prepare plans and present them to the committee as soon as possible. Before the February 18, meeting, E.V. Hinch resigned as committee member, and a replacement had not been appointed by that meeting date. An effort was made to reconsider the location of the new school, but the vote remained 3 to 3, hence no change.

      On Tuesday, February 26, the bonds were delivered to County Chairman Brown, signed and ready for delivery to the buyers. The bonds were placed in First National Bank’s vault pending collection of the draft, after which they would be turned over to the purchasers. 
It seemed that the way was clear and that work on the school was ready to begin. However, in the March 7, 1929, issue of The Crossville Chronicle, it was reported that an injunction had been filed against the court-appointed building committee on the grounds that the committee was without authority to act and that the Cumberland County Board of Education must choose the site and erect the building, that the court committee’s actions thus far be declared unlawful and that funds from the sale of the bonds be put in the hands of the county trustee. Thirty-two citizens of the county, most of them from Crossville, had signed the petition presented.

      After months of hearings and appeals, authority was granted for the building committee to proceed with the letting of contracts, erection of the building and payment for the work as it progressed. Finally, the January 9, 1930, Crossville Chronicle headlined, “High School Building Work Begins at Once.” The architect, R.H. Hunt, recommended to the committee that the work be divided into four separate contracts: erecting the building, heating, plumbing and wiring.

      The building was to be of native Crab Orchard stone, walls to be solid and fireproof. This was Cumberland County’s first public structure built of the beautifully variegated, narrow type rubble stone. By 1929, there were 11 residences and businesses in use or under construction in the county using our fine, native sandstone cut in thick, uniform size blocks, but as yet the various widths of narrow rubble had not been used in a building. Crab Orchard Stone Company furnished the stone from its quarry four miles east of Crossville. The stone company, at that time, had a force of “25 mules and 15 black men stripping two feet of dirt from rock from a 2-acre area.” The new school promised to be a most excellent advertisement for the young stone company.

      It was a bright, cool day on April 19, 1930, as reported in The Crossville Chronicle of April 24, when dignitaries from several Masonic orders gathered and carried out the laying of the cornerstone at the new high school under the direction of Most Worshipful Grand Master E.R. Burr. The cornerstone encased a copper box measuring 5 in. x 10 in. x 5 in. In it were deposited, among other things, a copy of the April 17, 1930, Crossville Chronicle, a list of county officials, a list of members of the Board of Education, names of the members of the building committee, a small coin dated 1929 and a Bible.
      Edward Clingan was building superintendent for the builder, and numerous local people were employed. The county paid $450 and the city matched that to construct the wide walkway from the school to Comstock’s. Water Tank Hill (now Waterfall Hill) used to be called Comstock Hill. The Charles Comstock family lived for many years at the top of the hill on the west side of Main Street. With the bond issue provided, ample funds were available not only to build, but also to equip the new school.

      The 1930 census showed a total county population of 11,435 with 1,128 living in the city limits. The lucky few who had been able to attend high school by boarding with someone or who lived in or near the city would be joined by students from all over the county who would be brought to the high school on the newly established bus routes.

       The new building was turned over to the court on August 22, 1930, and preparations were made to vacate the old building downtown and to move to the hilltop a fourth of a mile away. Thus, one year later than planned, the new school opened in the fall of 1930 with a faculty of five.  


John L. Rose

Lila Wright Lipscomb

Charles E Campbell

Bertha Evelyn Wilson

Nancy Griffin

     There were 21 juniors, 31 sophomores and 43 freshmen who would be moving up a class and transferring from the downtown location. Eighth grade graduates from all over the county would make up the freshman class at the new facility. With students coming in from all over the county, the first group to be graduated in the spring of 1931 from the new high school numbered 15.
      At later dates, the building was enlarged several times. The trades and industries classes, under the supervision of class instructor Clyde Wilson, built the first addition. It was a gymnasium built directly behind and attached to the auditorium section. When the school session ended in the spring of 1939, the walls of the new addition were window-high.

      Benton Bilbrey, who was a “shop boy” in Wilson’s class laid the first block in the building. The  “shop boys” created their own cornerstone by putting their names, some notes, small coins and whatever else they could find in their pockets into a fruit jar and burying it in the foundation.

      This gym was used until the school year 1946-47 when it became the school library. The T and I classes built a second and larger gym separate and farther toward the back of the campus. In that year, 1946-47, Benton Bilbrey returned to the county as a coach at Cumberland County High School and was in time to lay the last block in that building.

     Other block buildings were constructed from time to time as separate units. They included an agriculture building, one for storage, and the large building which was the T and I shop and later housed the transportation and maintenance shops for the Board of Education.

     The addition which meant so very much to Cumberland County people is the beautiful section built onto the main building which extends its length and which included the large cafeteria on the ground floor, with several classrooms upstairs. In casting about for a fitting memorial to honor our servicemen who gave their lives in the service of our country in all wars, our people decided something both beautiful and very useful would be most appropriate. In 1951, this large addition, built by Claude Turner, was erected and dedicated. On a large slab of our native Crab Orchard stone placed over the entrance is carved,



The last class graduated from this facility in 1962, at which time the three county high schools were consolidated and a new high school was completed and occupied on Stanley Street.

1962 - 2000

        Having served Cumberland County Students for thirty-two years, the school building was no longer large enough for the ever-growing school    population. The decision was made to consolidate the three county schools, CCHS, Homesteads High School, and Pleasant High School.  The new high school, still known as Cumberland County High School, but with a new mascot, the Jets, was built on Stanley Street. The last graduating class of our beloved CCHS exited the building in 1962.

       However, the old school building was by no means finished. Due to the growing need for more elementary classrooms, the CCHS building housed what was identified as Cumberland Elementary School. Students in grades six through eight attended classes there from 1962 to 1981.

       Even though this building had served its last students, new uses were found for the building. In 1990, a growing benevolent organization, Cumberland Good Samaritans, was in need of space to house their food bank, thrift store    and offices. The Cumberland County Commissioners allowed this organization to use the building, and the Cumberland Good Samaritans served the people of Cumberland County from this building until 2000 when they   moved into their new facility.

        After that time, the old CCHS Building sat vacant and began rapid deterioration. It appeared that Crossville and Cumberland County were about to lose an important historical landmark. Determined efforts by concerned alumni and others to prevent that loss fill the years from 2000 to the present.




2000 - Present

Reborn for the Future

Sitting vacant and deteriorating on a daily basis, the old CCHS building appeared destined for the wrecking ball.  The roof began to leak and water caused damage to the interior, window frames were rotting away, and glass was broken out by vandals.  Even though the building had been deemed structurally sound by a structural engineer, no useful purpose that was supported by the County Commissioners could be identified.  Some of the commissioners, as well as some community members, thought the building should be razed.

            A small group of CCHS alumni refused to give up and let the building be destroyed.  Some possible uses were explored, including offices for the Cumberland County school system, an alternative school, or an art and cultural center.  None of these ideas took hold, but the ongoing efforts to come up with a plan did buy some time for the old building.

            With no acceptable plan to put the building to good use, when the need arose to enlarge the Cumberland County Justice Center, which is located directly behind the CCHS building, it appeared the structure would be torn down to make way for the addition.

            The Justice Center addition was needed because of the jail overcrowding and the need for more courtrooms.  In exploring addition options, one remote possibility was to utilize the CCHS building as part of that complex.  The old building could be converted to offices and the courtrooms and jail addition could be built behind the CCHS building, linking all sections of this complex, including the existing Justice Center, together.  Even though this approach did not initially have much support, the concept gained approval when it was shown that it was not only practical from a functional standpoint, but that it would also save the county money in its construction.  However, the auditorium had to be torn down to make room for the courtroom complex of the project. 

            A contract was let in the spring of 2008 to incorporate the renovated CCHS building into the Justice Center project.  The old building would house the county offices that are associated with the court system, some of which were then located in the courthouse, as well as offices for judges and state agencies.  This would consolidate the services of the justice system, improving its efficiency, convenience and security. 

            Many original features of the building were to be preserved.  For example, the wooden interior doors and transoms would be beautifully refinished by the inmates at the Bledsoe Regional Correctional Center, and would be used.  The original staircases also remained intact, and every effort was made to retain the original plaster walls, which are a form of plaster containing horsehair 

            This was a $14 million project; however, it would maintain a part of Cumberland County history which is priceless.  A facility that has served thousands of Cumberland County’s youth would once again be available to serve our citizens for many years to come.

          In early 2009, after a slow start, good progress was being made on our old school building.  All exterior windows and doors had been removed.  The auditorium was gone.  The old roof had been completely removed and a new on installed.  The large Crab Orchard Stone with the memorial inscription honoring our servicemen had been removed and was in storage to be reinstalled when the renovations neared completion.

            By spring of 2009, with most of the demolition completed, items were being replaced.  The new roof was almost complete. Some work had begun on the interior.  Refinished interior doors and transoms were being returned from the Bledsoe Regional Correctional Center workshop and stored awaiting reinstallation.  Most of the footings and plumbing were in the ground for the courtrooms and jail addition behind the school building. 

            In June of 2009, one couldn’t tell much from the outside, other than to notice the new windows that are like the original ones installed in the 1930s.  The stone exterior was still to be cleaned.  However, the transformation on the inside was incredible.  The mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems were in place, and the sheetrock had been installed and painted.  Most of the ceilings and light fixtures had been hung.

            As mentioned earlier, the auditorium had to be removed to make room for the addition to the jail.  Even though we lost that part of the building, we are thrilled that the main structure has been saved and the identity of the exterior of the building is intact.

            Another interesting fact is that the old doors and transoms have been refinished and reinstalled, giving the building interior an original look.

            After months of construction, the newly renovated CCHS building opened in December, 2009, having been incorporated into the new addition to the existing Justice Center and Jail.

            Our old school building now houses offices associated with the court system.  Those include the offices of Clerk and Master, Circuit Court Clerk, judges and other court-related agencies.  All these offices had been located in the Court House downtown.  Not only has our former high school building saved, but it is also serving the growing needs of our community.

            The large addition attached to the rear of the high school building houses new court rooms, jury rooms, judge’s chambers court rooms, the Sheriff’s Department and additional jail cells and the existing Justice Center where the existing jail and the Sheriff’s Department are located.  Now all court and jail activities are housed under one roof, known as the Cumberland County Justice Center.  No longer are prisoners transported to the Courthouse downtown for trial.  They are moved from the jail down a corridor to the courtrooms, making these moves more secure and safer. 

            Many thanks are due to several CCHS Alumni who fought hard to keep this historical building from being torn down and also to our County Mayor and Commissioners for taking the necessary action to bring this project to a successful completion.  Because of their foresight and perseverance, the Cumberland County High School, built in 1932, will endure and be used by the people of Cumberland County for generations to come.


Sue Harrison Patton stands beside a 1950s photo of the CCHS building, enlarged to 5’ by 15’, which is the first item you see upon entering the main lobby of the Justice Center.



A Doyle Vaden Pen and Ink drawing of old CCHS was presented to County Mayor Brock Hill and other county officials in honor of all CCHS alumni. This framed print now hangs in the front hall along with a plaque outlining the history of Cumberland County High School. Pictured are, l-r, Clerk and Master Sue Tollett, Circuit Court Clerk Larry Sherrill, CCHS alumna Sue Harrison Patton, County Mayor Brock Hill, and CCHS alumna Vancienita Smith Wisdom.





This view shows the first floor front hall. The original main entrance is to the right just past the lady on the bench. You can see the stairs leading to the second floor on the left. The Clerk and Master offices are housed on this hall.


This is the front hall on the second floor.

This level houses the Circuit Court Clerk offices.



The main entrance to the Justice Center is attached to the south end of the CCHS building.
Court rooms and the jail are to the left of the entrance.


Completed Renovations