Clearwater Historical Society Museum and Cultural Center
The Clearwater Historical Society Museum and Cultural Center opened in 2019 and is dedicated to preserving and promoting the county's history through its exhibits and educational programs. It is housed in the former South Ward School, which was the county's first publicly funded school. It operated until 2008 and sat vacant until the museum and cultural center opened. The former school was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
The structure on the right was built in 1906 and is part of the school complex that is now operated by the Clearwater Historical Society.
Backstory and Context
The building stands on what was once the homestead of settler John S. Taylor, who settled in the area before the Civil War. In 1855, the first school on the homestead (and on the Pinellas Peninsula), the Taylor School, was built. The first organized public school in the county was founded in 1873 and located in a log building erected in 1866 for the Midway Baptist Church. It appears the Taylor School closed in 1873 but the first South Ward School, a wood-frame structure, was constructed on a lot of the Taylor homestead in 1884 (at the time, this property belonged to a settler named William Campbell, who donated it for the school). By 1902 the number of students rose to 90.
Due to the rapid growth of the community, school officials decided that the wood frame schoolhouse was insufficient and ordered the construction of the present, two-story masonry building. It opened in 1906 with four classrooms. The wood school was demolished and in its place came the first Clearwater High School. This larger building next to the old elementary school served as a high school until Clearwater High moved to its current location in 1954. Two more buildings were erected next to South Ward School in 1951 and 1969. In addition to operating as a school, South Ward also served as community gathering place.
"History of Pinellas County Schools and South Ward School." Clearwater Historical Society. Accessed October 27, 2016. https://www.clearwaterhistoricalsociety.org/museum/clearwater-historical-society-museum-and-cultural-center.
Nolan, Terence H. "South Ward School." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. June 18, 1979. https://npgallery.nps.gov/AssetDetail/NRIS/79000690.