One of the more unusual buildings in Highland Park – the mid-century former Tennessee Temple’s Hermann Building at Bailey and Orchard Knob Avenues – was recently torn down to make way for an expansion for the Chattanooga Preparatory School.
According to Brad Scott, who heads the all-boys charter school that opened in 2018 with a sixth-grade class, the building was not in good shape, and it would have likely not met the needs of this school that is adding a grade each year.
“It was in bad shape,” he said.
“It had asbestos, and water damage in the basement. We need more space for parking and a cafeteria building.
“The building was not salvageable. It was in really rough shape. It would have cost more to remodel than rebuild.”
The razed building was basically a square building, but it did have an unusual feature – the brick design of a boy and girl student climbing some steps on the outside of the side facing Orchard Knob Avenue.
It was popular around the mid-20th century to put such designs on the outside of buildings. That structure was designed by the Harrison Gill Sr. architectural firm, which also designed the brick children that were on the old Red Bank High School and Middle School on Dayton Boulevard.
The brick designs were saved and placed in front of the current Red Bank High off Morrison Springs Road when the old school was torn down in 2013.
The Gill firm had also designed an armory building in Dalton, Ga., with a brick design as well.
Architect Mario Bianculli had a similar concept of placing tile designs on mid-century Chattanooga buildings, including a now-razed addition at the Chattanooga airport and the Hamilton County Health Department Building on Third Street.
The former Tennessee Temple building – which Mr. Scott said had been a student center – was known for the patterns of life it evoked as well as its patterns of brick.
Mr. Scott said that he looked on a “Classic Tennessee Temple” alumni-related Facebook page, and several people had commented about their nostalgic memories of the building, with one person talking about meeting a future spouse there.
The school head wrote a Facebook message inviting people to come by the school and get an old brick from the building, and a number have.
Former Tennessee Temple College Professor Larry Cloud recalls visiting the campus in the spring of 1967 and accompanying his future wife into several classes in the structure when it was a classroom building. One of those was a physical science class run by Mr. Ed Lawson in room H-220.
"Two semesters later Mr. Lawson left for greener pastures, and I inherited his responsibilities,” he recalled via email. "So, I spent thousands of hours in H-220 during the following years, until July 6, 1979, when I threw the keys on the front lab/lecture desk and locked the door behind me for the last time."
Mr. Cloud also recalled that during his first three years at Temple, he took a lot of seminary classes, many of them in the Hermann Building "with good teachers like Dr. Preson Phillips, Dr. Aubrey Martin and Dr. Adrian Jeffers," he said.
Mr. Scott added that the razing should help the preparatory school better meet its long-term needs. It had used the cafeteria of the adjacent Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy previously, and this year the students will eat their lunches in their classrooms while the coronavirus pandemic continues.
He added that the school now offers grades 6-8 as it begins its third year of operation, and will continue to add a grade each year until it is a 6-12 school beginning in the 2024-25 school year. By that time, it should have 700 students, compared to the current 210 boys, he said.
Mr. Gill, the architect of the recently razed building, had been the son of a Baptist minister and missionary, and that likely helped in the firm’s commissions it received to design a number of Tennessee Temple and Highland Park Baptist Church buildings.
The architect had trained at Columbia University, and his son, the now-deceased Harrison Gill Jr., said in a 2013 interview that his father had an artistic eye for architecture.
“He was very talented,” said his son at the time. “He had a lot of originality in his designs. He was not one who would look at other people and make copies of their designs. He had his own ideas of what a building should look like.”