The wrecking ball will soon hit McCormick Middle School, but the building’s memory will be preserved with a display at the Spirit of ‘76 Museum.
“It’s going to be a tribute to McCormick — not the kids, not the band, but a tribute to McCormick, ” said Scott Markel, standing in the midst of rescued chalkboards, blueprints, and student records. “It’s going to be about the school.”
The old school, which still stands, will soon be torn down and is on the minds of many and in their memories, said Markel, who serves as vice president of the museum.
To accommodate the rush of nostalgia, two display sections at the museum will be set aside just for the school. In fact, McCormick will be given a premier location.
“It will be easy to find,” Markel said, standing in the spot where the display on the John Price slave rescue of 1858 is now located at the front of the museum. “The John Price exhibit is no slouch of an exhibit to be moving around. This commemorates the biggest day in Wellington. This is huge. We started the Civil War with this event and I’m going to move it.”
Despite his reluctance, McCormick will get the Price spot. Sentiments are running high for those who attended the old middle school. Asbestos is now being abated from the building before the actual demolition begins in a few weeks.
The school was built in 1867 as Union School, with all grades housed under its roof. Over the years, numerous additions were built, making a virtual maze of the building. One of the additions became Wellington High School.
But in the the late 1960s, the current Wellington High School was built on North Main Street. At that point, the South Main Street School became known as “the middle school.”
In 1964, principal Roy McCormick died and the middle school was named in memory of the stern but beloved alumnus, coach, and former teacher.
“There’s a little hodgepodge of everything that has landed here because we were the best place for safekeeping,” Markel said. The McCormick memorabilia includes a handrail from the 1916 portion of the building, seats from the auditorium, and a door from the audio-visual room.
“This is a historic door,” Markel said, pointing out all the names scratched and etched into the metal door.
The museum sponsored a “Last Lunch” meal, dance in the gym, and self-guided tours of the building last October. At that event, Markel made sure there were markers in the room so “all the kids who were good all those years could sign the walls and pretend like they were bad kids.”
A sundial that once stood in front of the school in memory of Lt. Kyle Morgan, the first Wellington solider to die in World War I, is already located on the second floor of the museum. The piece was acquired several years ago, but Markel calls it the first piece recovered from the demolition of the school.
“We put it in an elevator and let it ride up by itself,” he said. “It was ungodly heavy.”
But the main McCormick display will be on the museum’s main level. “The things from the middle school are so heavy we’d rather not carry them upstairs,” Markel said.
Auditorium seats, chalkboards, bricks, and even a piece of the gymnasium floor are some of the heavier, bulkier items. Curators plan to leave a piece of chalk near the chalkboard so visitors can leave a message. No doubt they’ll be cleaning off the board frequently.
So why does McCormick resonate with so many people?
“It’s because it’s about to go away,” said Markel, who attended the school. “We’re in Wellington. We’re different here. That was my alma mater, that’s everybody’s alma mater. It’s just sentimental and sad as to what’s happening, but it’s progress.”
Catherine Gabe can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @ReporterGabe on Twitter.
Photos by Catherine Gabe | Wellington Enterprise
Scott Markel, vice president of the Spirit of ‘76 Museum, stands near a door taken from the audio-visual room at McCormick Middle School. Over the years, students etched their names onto the door.