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Old Red Schoolhouse in Trinity

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old red school house

Submitted by the
Trinity County Historical Commission

“Old Red” Schoolhouse is located in rural east Texas in Trinity near the Trinity River between Huntsville to the south and Crockett to the north. 

The Trinity County School District constructed an all “red” brick school building in about 1912 on the corner of Robb (State Highway 19) between Jefferson and San Jacinto streets, although there is conflict about the date: it could be anywhere from 1913 to 1915. 

The school is located at 100 W. San Jacinto St.; the property was transferred by John B. Barnes and Jacob S. Wetmore, agents representing Mrs. E. Evans, for one dollar to Trinity County Judges under the old county school system. 

“Old Red” is a fine pre-World War I brick school building. It has several outstanding internal and exterior characteristics preserved and intact. The total square footage is 9,420. The building is a two-story structure utilizing load-bearing masonry walls. 

The first floor consists of a concrete slab on grade, and the second floor is a wood deck over wood  floor joists that are supported by the bearing masonry walls. The roof framing is wood, and the roofing is stamped metal shingles. 

Construction apparently got under way in 1911 and apparently was completed in 1913. It served as Trinity’s only school building until 1928. The first contractor went bankrupt while installing the building’ s 36-inch thick concrete slab foundation and had pylons extending deep into the ground to a layer of hard clay. 

The exterior walls are 12 inches thick and are composed of three layers of interlocking bricks. The building was built in Egyptian style to keep the building cool in the hot East Texas climate — in the form of a T to capture wind from any direction. 

The original wooden windows were designed to that the wind could directed into the building, after first being cooled by the massive brick walls. located on the walls also could be opened or closed, depending on  wind direction, to ensure that air would flow throughout the structure. The building has 91 windows. 

A ground floor boiler room was constructed in 1928. 

Over the years, the Trinity school system used, maintained and refurbished the building. The original wood frame swing windows had rotted and had been replaced with aluminum. 

Also, the brick and red mortar seemed to weep, which may have prompted the Trinity Independent School District to paint the exterior a yellow color in 1960s. 

The City of Trinity and TISD Trustees in March 1993 attempted to condemn and demolish the old brick schoolhouse; however, in April 1993, a San Antonio-based engineer found that “Old Red” was structurally sound and he rated as a nine based on a best value of 10. 

The news got out into the community, and the potential demolition dismayed local residents, so in May 1993, residents formed “The Old Red Building Committee” and were successful in having the City of Trinity condemnation order rescinded on Aug. 5, 1993. 

About 125 donors provided financial support for the preservation of “Old Red.” Knowles Architects of Tyler examined the structure in 1997 and in their June 23, 1997, report, stated “Old Red” was structurally sound, though the roof needed some minor repairs. 

Renovation started, and the joints were re-pointed with a mortar compatible with the original historic brick. At this time, the yellow paint was looking bad, with whole areas devoid of paint and other areas “requiring a howitzer to remove the paint.” Workers tried sand and water blasting an area, and immediately realized that what little brick glaze remained would not survive.

In the spring of 2000, a painter was contracted to restore the brick to the original red brick and mortar The aluminum replacement windows were replaced with wooden frame windows that replicated the visual and utility swing/tilt characteristics of the original windows. 

The interior of the building is mostly intact and a concerted effort has been made to retain the significant features. The interior stairway is to be rather unique in design has been without change. The  basic corridor design has been retained and that includes both width and location. 

The materials used in the interior have been retained, including beaded wainscot, pressed metal ceiling panels and plaster walls; the doors and transoms and the “borrowed light” windows. 

The floor plan configuration includes classroom areas on the outside walls, a central area with two unique staircases and a theater. To the volunteers on the Trinity Committee, the interior paint that needed removing appeared to be patch-painted, using a variety of paint types.

“Old Red” has educated five generations of school children. It was converted to the Middle campus in 1988 after a high school campus was built east of Trinity.

The Trinity County Historical Commission helps identify and preserve historical sites and helps to preserve the heritage of Trinity County.

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