JEFFERSON HIGH SCHOOL - THE BEGINNING
Originally constructed in 1922, Jefferson High School served as Roanoke's largest high school for half a century.
It was in 1919 that the School Board began plans to build Jefferson High and the site on Campbell Avenue was purchased for $147,000 in 1922. Architect H. Coursy Richards employed a Tudor Revival-style popular at the time and Jefferson High School opened its doors to 1,000 students in 1924. The first class to graduate was in 1925 and the last in 1974. From 1924 to 1974 the school graduated over 19,000 students.
The bottom floor was mostly for vocational classes. The second floor contained all academic classrooms, the principal’s office, the main office, the auditorium, gymnasium and entrance vestibule. The library, balcony, and chemistry and physics laboratories were located on the third floor.
The auditorium - now Shaftman Performance Hall - modeled after a popular 17th century "shoe box" English opera house design, showcased solid wood paneling, impressive balcony, classic appointments and outstanding acoustics. Because the city had no civic center, the auditorium was built larger with the intent of using it for community events and concerts, and in fact hosted such greats as Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conductor Leonard Bernstein and operatic tenor Enrico Caruso.
The school was closed in 1974 but operated as Jefferson Hall under Patrick Henry High School until 1975. From then until its final closing in 1979 it housed a variety of offices. From 1979 until 1985 the 112,000 square foot building - though still structurally sound - deteriorated badly and was severely vandalized.
JEFFERSON HIGH - FROM SHABBY TO CHIC
In the late 1970's the once majestic Jefferson High School was a decaying skeleton of its former self and, despite its glorious past, the structure was nearly demolished. It was home only to pigeons.
In 1985, Roanoke City Council appointed a citizen's committee, mostly of Jefferson High graduates, to determine the future of the iconic building. After two years of extensive research - and weighing the option of demolishing the structure - the committee ultimately recommended that the building become a center to house nonprofit organizations involved in the performing arts, education and social services.
In 1989 the Jefferson Center Foundation was established led by the late Judge Beverly T. Fitzpatrick Sr. and so the fund raising efforts began.
To rehabilitate the building and establish the Center would require $5 million. Through a public-private partnership with the City - with funds from a bond referendum - the City committed $3 million to the restoration project with the understanding that the other $2 million would first come from individuals, businesses and corporations in a vigorous fund raising campaign.
NEW BEGINNINGS - PHASE I
The first phase of renovation converted the classrooms into offices, added air conditioning, stabilized the rest of the building, and added an atrium (Fralin Atrium) to the second level. This provided first class space for nonprofit organizations in one venue, eliminated duplicate overhead expenses and saved a valuable building. This renovation model served as a template for other cities across the country, many of which have come to Jefferson Center to see how it was done. Roanoke won its 5th All-American City award using Jefferson Center as one of three innovative projects where local business, government, and nonprofit organizations collaborate to improve the lives of their community's residents.
Throughout the renovation project, Jefferson Center Foundation remained committed to preserving the architectural integrity while bringing its technical components into the 21st century. The building has been completely restored and retained the sculptured ceilings and original marble and terrazzo floors. It continues to provide office space to a diverse group of nonprofit organizations.
FITZPATRICK HALL - PHASE II
In 1995, at a cost of $630,000 Fitzpatrick Hall, named in honor of Judge Fitzpatrick, opened for community events, weddings, receptions, meetings and conferences.
It was the automobile repair shop that was ultimately transformed into the now beautiful Fitzpatrick Hall. Remodeling began in 1994 when the high ceiling that accommodated the hydraulic lifts in the repair shop was lowered by 10 or so feet and chandelier lighting was installed. The completion of Fitzpatrick Hall in 1995 added an impressive dimension to the facilities at Jefferson Center.
SHAFTMAN PERFORMANCE HALL - PHASE III
The auditorium sat dark until 1997 when the Board of Directors launched another campaign to renovate the space. Again, with a public-private partnership, the City of Roanoke committed $2 million to the project with the understanding the other $3 million be raised by the Foundation from supporters of Jefferson Center. The project met with tremendous support from individuals and families, Jefferson High School alumni, corporations and private foundations.
The original estimate of $5 million for the auditorium increased to $9 million as construction problems and equipment costs increased dramatically. Throughout the $9 million renovation project Jefferson Center Foundation remained steadfast in its commitment to preserving the architectural authenticity of the hall, named in honor of Rosalie and Sydney Shaftman.
Consistent with the goals to be a first class performance facility, Jefferson Center boasts elegant finishes and decorations. Existing marble, wood-panel, and cast-plaster finishes were completely refurbished. The auditorium chairs, once unadorned and wooden, are now luxurious seats of cherry wood with plush velvet cushions. Loges and chandeliers recall the spirit of an old-world opera house.
Technical components brought Shaftman Performance Hall into the 21st century and include an orchestra lift, expanded stage area and a sound system that can be customized to acoustically profile the performer's needs. Dozens of strategically placed speakers disperse audio around the room to ensure symmetry of sound no matter where the seat. At considerable expense the roof was raised 22-feet to create an 65-foot tower that houses impressive stage rigging.
With the May 2001 opening of Shaftman Performance Hall, Jefferson Center became the significant cultural asset envisioned by many to create something special from the once abandoned, yet historically important, Jefferson High School. Jefferson Center has achieved an important objective of stabilizing the neighborhood and providing the underpinnings for revitalization of the Downtown West area. The rebirth of this magnificent performance hall was made possible by the steadfast support of the City of Roanoke as well as the gifts of generous individuals and families, Jefferson High School alumni, Roanoke Valley businesses, and private foundations throughout the Commonwealth.
Jefferson Center Foundation was presented the 2002 AIA Award for Preservation of Shaftman Performance Hall, the highest award presented by the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects.
Shaftman Performance Hall is the finishing touch for the transformation into a multipurpose cultural community center. Not only is the Performance Hall another addition to the cultural attractions rarely found in a metropolitan area the size of Roanoke, it is a model of the success that can be achieved when local business, government, and nonprofit organizations collaborate to improve the lives of the community's residents.
JEFFERSON CENTER HISTORY TIMELINE
|1924||Jefferson High School opens|
|1924 - 1974||Jefferson High School graduates over 19,000 students|
|1974||Jefferson High School closes|
|1974 - 1975||The building operates as Jefferson Hall under Patrick Henry High|
|1975 - 1979||The building is used to house the Elementary Education Center, Teenage Mothers Program, and several offices from the School Administration Building|
|1979||The building closes|
|1985||Roanoke Citizen's Committee formed Chaired by Judge Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Sr.|
|1985 - 1987||Committee explores possible uses for the building|
Jefferson Center Foundation established
Phase I fundraising begins
|1992||Phase I - conversion of classrooms into office spaces - construction begins. Fralin Atrium is also added|
Phase I complete - Jefferson Center Opens
Phase II - renovations of the automobile shops commence to create Fitzpatrick Hall at Jefferson Center
|1995||Phase II complete - Fitzpatrick Hall opens|
Phase III - campaign begins for renovation of High School auditorium to create Shaftman Performance Hall
|1999||Phase III - construction begins|
|May 12, 2001|
Phase III complete - Shaftman Performance Hall Opens
|May 17 - 24, 2001|
Opening Week of Shaftman Performance Hall
Judge Beverly T. Fitzpatrick was a 1939 graduate of Jefferson High. The Foundation Board included Jefferson High alumni and other interested citizens including Elizabeth Bowles, Horace Fralin, Gordon Willis, Don Smith, Warner Dalhouse, and Rosalie Krisch Shaftman.
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