Filed Under Education

Roxboro School

Today the Roxboro campus in Cleveland Heights houses an elementary and middle school with the same name, but at one time a third school building stood on the current footprint of the schools's auditorium. The Cleveland Heights - University Heights School District's first building on the site was Roxboro School, designed by George Hammond in 1905. A simple brick schoolhouse, it looked very similar to the Lee Road School built in the same era. Roxboro, which stood near the western edge of the Van Sweringen brothers' fledgling Shaker Village development, was essentially a rural schoolhouse.

Cleveland Heights, however, was on the cusp of a building boom that would transform the landscape from rural to suburban in only a few years. In 1910, Cleveland Heights had a population of 2,955, growing to 14,811 in 1922. Population continued to swell to 50,946 by 1930, with a pre-Depression forecast to reach over 100,000 by 1940. The scale of this growth is seen by 1,077 homes built in 1919 alone. It is for this reason that from 1910 to 1962, save for the Great Depression and World War II, the district was building new schools or adding to existing ones almost every year.

As the Euclid Golf Allotment and other developments rapidly filling with new homes, Roxboro School was insufficient for the larger population, prompting the construction in 1919 of a new building designed by Franz C. Warner, who designed five Heights school buildings. Three prominent windows faced Roxboro Road, providing light to an interesting feature for a small suburban school, a detailed and ornate auditorium. What is more interesting is that the blueprints refer to this new school as additions and alterations to Roxboro School, and it appears the new school was wrapped around the first building, then hollowed out to create this space. At this time the school's site was much smaller and the school district did not own the land that became Roxboro Junior High, perhaps the reason for this unique space.

In 1926, John H. Graham, the district's other frequently used architect, designed Roxboro Junior High, a building reminiscent of a New England prep school. A relatively small building when constructed, it was designed with matching additions in mind, but subsequent work was not on par with Graham's design. At Roxboro, as Graham had done at Heights High and would do at Monticello Junior High, he placed the cafeteria above the auditorium, which allowed each building to have a great auditorium. These auditoriums also functioned as arenas, as their stages would double as the competition space for basketball games!

Audio

Roxboro in the '50s Dennis Coughlin describes Roxboro as he remembers it from childhood. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Roxboro Flood Dennis Coughlin describes the floodwaters that threatened the Roxboro campus after the Horseshoe Lake dam broke in the 1950s. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Meeting Evonne Goolagong Dennis Coughlin describes the Roxboro tennis stadium and his memories of meeting Australian tennis phenomenon Evonne Goolagong and seeing Arthur Ashe play. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

Roxboro Elementary, ca. 1923 A view of the three large windows on the west wall of the Roxboro Elementary School auditorium, as seen from Roxboro Road. Roxboro Road used to run past the school's west side before reaching North Park Boulevard. The windows, which provided light and air to the auditorium, were hidden from view in the 1970s when an addition to the school was built. Source: Cleveland Heights Historical Society
First Roxboro School, 1913 It is often forgotten that Cleveland Heights was once the borderland between urban Cleveland and rural farmland. This 1913 image shows a solitary Roxboro School before the surrounding area developed into one of Cleveland's elite neighborhoods. Source: Cleveland Heights High School Alumni Foundation
Roxboro School, 1910 The first Roxboro School, a simple all-brick schoolhouse, was one of three buildings that served the newly independent Cleveland Heights School District. Source: Cleveland Heights High School Alumni Foundation
6th Grade Class, ca. 1920 The students in this photo are most likely standing in front of a portable, wood-frame building adjacent to Roxboro School. These portable classrooms were used to handle overflow at times when Cleveland Heights' schools were too small to keep up with the city's rapidly growing population. Note the presence of two African American students in this photograph. Although it would be many years before a substantial number of black students attended the Heights schools, small numbers were present even in its early years. Source: Cleveland Heights Historical Society
Jr. High Plans, 1925 This site plan shows the small size of the original junior high building, with space for future additions already labeled. The plan also reveals the original path of North Park Boulevard, explaining the odd geometry of both it and North Saint James Parkway. A good portion of the athletic field was once part of the park running along the Doan Brook. Source: Cleveland Heights High School Alumni Foundation
Junior High Library, 1929 The Roxboro branch of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library moved from Roxboro Elementary to Roxboro Jr. High in 1926. At this time, as the name "Roxboro Branch" suggests, the public library ran the school library. The school district took over the library's operations in 1961. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
6th Grade Class, 1929 Miss Hamlin's 6th Grade class at Roxboro Elementary School in 1929. Source: Cleveland Heights Historical Society
Jr. High, 1964 By the 1960s, the ivy was gone from the front of Roxboro Junior High, as were two sets of doors that flanked the central entrance. These stairwells were removed and replaced with classroom spaces. The open library, located on the 2nd floor above the main entrance, would eventually be converted into classrooms in the 1970s. Source: Cleveland Heights High School Alumni Foundation
Davis Cup, 1964 The tennis courts at Roxboro hosted the prestigious Davis Cup in 1964. Note that the Cleveland skyline can be seen in the upper right corner. Arthur Ashe, the first black player selected for the U.S. Davis Cup team, played here that year. Source: Cleveland Heights High School Alumni Foundation

Location

2400 Roxboro Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44106

Metadata

Eric Silverman, “Roxboro School,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 13, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/468.