Enslow Middle School (1917-2013)
Enslow Middle School (formerly Enslow Junior High School) served students on the east side of Huntington for almost a century. Erected in 1917, the building was designed by architect Verus T. Ritter and named in honor of Alice Blanche Enslow, a teacher who died tragically in an elevator accident at the old Huntington High School. Enslow Junior High became a middle school in 1989 and was the first school in West Virginia to adopt the Invitational Education model the following year. The school operated for a total of 96 years before it was consolidated with Beverly Hills Middle School to create Huntington East Middle School in 2013. The building sat vacant until 2017, when demolition began to make way for the construction of the new Highlawn Elementary School, which is slated to open for the 2020-21 school year.
Backstory and Context
Enslow Junior High School was constructed in 1917. At the time, Huntington was rapidly growing and its original schoolhouse, which was built in 1888 and housed all grades, was no longer adequate. The new junior high school building, which contained 24 classrooms, cost $250,000 to construct and was designed by renowned architect Verus T. Ritter. Ritter designed many distinctive commercial buildings and private residences in Huntington, including City Hall, the First Huntington Bank Building, and the old Huntington High School. The new junior high was named after Alice Blanche Enslow, a teacher who had perished in an elevator accident at Huntington High School earlier in the year. Enslow was a longtime educator who had taught in Huntington for 40 years before the tragic accident.
Over the years, Enslow Junior High became a fixture of the neighborhood, with enrollment growing each year. Harry Edmund Danford served as principal of Enslow Junior High School in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Danford moved to Huntington in 1917, where he was principal of Ensign School, Simms School, Lincoln School, and Enslow Junior High School, and was elected president of the Cabell County Board of Education in 1952. A celebrated local educator, Danford was also the author of two school reference books and several novels. In 1954, in response to the growing enrollment of students, Enslow Junior High School underwent substantial additions and renovations, which were overseen by Albert F. Tucker.
Enslow Junior High became a middle school in 1989, serving students in grades 6 through 8. The following year, it became the first school in West Virginia to adopt the Invitational Education model. Developed by Dr. William Watson Purkey and Dr. Betty Siegel, the theory was “designed to create a total school environment that intentionally summons people in schools to realize their relatively boundless potential.” Invitational Education argues that learning is enhanced when learners are positively encouraged or “invited” into the educational experience.
Enslow Middle School closed in 2013 when it consolidated with Beverly Hills Middle School to become Huntington East Middle School, located at 1 Campbell Drive. At the time of its closing, Enslow had 252 students and 43 staff members. The century-old building sat vacant for several years and began to draw complaints from nearby residents about rising criminal activity around the structure. In 2016, the Cabell County Board of Education proposed that a new Highlawn Elementary School be built at the site of the former middle school. Funding was secured in 2017, and the building was demolished between late 2018 and Spring 2019. The new Highlawn Elementary is currently being built, with construction expected to be completed by May or June 2020. The firm overseeing the design and construction of the new Highlawn Elementary is Edward Tucker Architects, Inc., whose founder is the grandson of the architect of Enslow Middle School’s 1954 additions.
Lost Huntington: Enslow Middle School. Herald-Dispatch. April 10, 2017. Accessed October 04, 2019. https://www.herald-dispatch.com/special/lost_huntington/lost-huntington-enslow-middle-school/article_69adb218-7949-5c5c-af88-94e745bbaa00.html.
Smith, David. Post July 9th, 2017. Huntington WV You Grew Up In. . . https://www.facebook.com/groups/1642311065992970/search/?query=Enslow%20&epa=SEARCH_BOX.
Harry Edmund Danford Papers, Accession 1974/03.0066, Marshall University Special Collections Department, Marshall University Libraries. http://www.marshall.edu/special-collections/mss_guide/pdf/acc-1974-03-0066-HarryEdmundDanfordPapers.pdf