Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A history of Clermont High School

In 1915 the Clermont and Minneola School Districts were merged and a larger building was needed. Before this children from both Clermont and Minneola attended this one room school house built circa 1905 on the southwest corner Main & Pearl Streets in Minneola. The building still survives today. It was converted into a residence for a while and now serves as the Minneola Library.

Before this Clermont children attended school, (the ones who did anyway,) in this hunting cabin owned by Herring Hooks, pictured here before Lake County was formed. The school was near the present-day intersection of Highway 50 and 27. The first teacher was the wife of Thomas Hooks, the man who brokered the 1884 sale of land to Clermont's original four investors she had 12 students, and the school term was about five months long.

 A site was given by E.S. Willey about halfway between the two towns on the southeast corner of Second & Oak Streets overlooking Lake Minneola. A $10,000 bond issue was approved and the building started early that year by W.M. Moore and Company.


The red brick two-story building with an extra one and a half story bell tower ("mainly for appearance") was impressive and some citizens complained that taxpayers' money was being thrown away on a "building large enough to last Clermont fifty years." An auditorium took half of the upstairs. There were two high school classrooms upstairs and a ladder going to the belfrey. The bell, which could be heard all over town, was rung by pulling a rope in the auditorium. The bell was finally given up as it became too much of a problem to find it after each Halloween.

Half of the building had a full basement with windows. Here were the furnace room and rest rooms. The rest rooms were later moved upstairs and a classroom was put in the basement. It was still a classroom up until the building was razed sometime in the 1990s.

The building's first floor had four classrooms, a library, a principal's office and cloakrooms. It was remodeled several times, but was still used until demolition. The stairways were well worn; the cast iron pipes held up, the hardwood narrow tongue and groove floors were almost like new. The windows and frames were replaced in 1982.

Dedication ceremonies were held December 17, 1915. The cornerstone listed R.C. Hooks, H.F. Bailey, C.W. Jack, L.M. Johnson, C.W. Boyless and W.C. Jones, Trustees. Wm. T. Kennedy, Tavares, was County Superintendent. When they moved into the new building the teachers were Mr. Carpenter, Mrs. Kerlin, Miss Annie Sue Johnson and Mrs. R.P. Seaver. On September 1916 school opened with an enrollment of over 100. Prof. L.E. Scheie was principal.

The Clermont-Minneola School which served as the Elementary School until the early 1990s was built in 1924. It was a stucco building of the then popular old Spanish Mission design, as were many of the homes being built in Florida at that time. To the day of its demise, it was one of the most attractive buildings in Clermont.

It was built by Herbert F. Bailey and his son, Howard. The total cost, including furnishings, was $50,000. Isam Blackburn, Chairman of the School Board, presided over the dedication ceremonies December 12, 1924. Other members of the Board were Mrs. F.B. Roe and Harry Stokes. At the time the new building was used for high school only, and the red brick building was needed for the elementary classes. The new high school contained and auditorium, six classrooms, a study hall and library, teacher's lounge, industrial shop and home economics room.

The large impressive auditorium, seated about 400, with a stage and large balcony was used by both student bodies and by the rest of the community for all large indoor community functions for over 25 years. The floor was slanted and the seats were placed so each person in the audience had an unobstructed view of the stage. There was a large space for an orchestra. Spotlights, footlights, backdrops and curtain arrangements were equal to the best theatres at the time.

The cafeteria was beneath the auditorium and there was a basketball court in rear.  

 Unlike his beautiful school buildings his home still survives today much the same as it appears in this picture and is now owned by the daughter of one of the Gano daughters, one of Clermont's pioneers.  

In the summer of 1946 the high school building on Second Street was connected to the grade school by a new section containing three new classrooms and two restrooms. The Spanish style was maintained by using a mission-style outdoor corridor. Jon Middleton was the contractor.

Not only did the community have an improved building in 1946, but it had a new football field. Fred Wolfe, who built an impressive Spanish style home himself that still stands on the northeast corner of Fifth & Seminole Streets, donated the use heavy equipment, fuel and manpower to clear, grade and level the ground for the field southeast of the campus. The work took four and a half days. The American Legion raised funds for the lighting of the field. a 50-piece high school band was formed in 1952. This was the first music of this type since the 1930s when there had been an orchestra.

The Montverde public school was closed in 1948, and since that time Montverde and Ferndale children had been bused to Clermont

During 1954-55 land was purchased on the east side of East Avenue. Here the modern style Clermont High School plan was begun. It was finished in 1955. It had ten rooms and additions were made in 1956, 1957, 1958, and 1960. The new high school athletic field and bleachers were built in 1959, and in 1962 a gymnasium, cafeteria, auditorium, and band room were added.

Here are 1941, 1958, 1979, and present day aerials (courtesy Lake County Fl.)

Old high school building seen at present.

Prior to 1962 the principal had supervision of the entire school, but at that time the elementary school became a separate entity and was named the Clermont Elementary School. The Minneola Elementary School built in the same  modern style in 1964 at 300 East Pearl Street has since been torn down and replaced with a newer facility.

When the new high school was completed, all the buildings on Second Street were used for the elementary grades which included kindergarten. All the rooms were carpeted, air-conditioned and had ceiling paddle fans-a long way from former days when there were no screens on windows. In those days about every tenth child had "pink eye"-spread by the gnats. Eileen Murphy, teacher and librarian told of each child having to stand before a fan at the door to have the gnats blown off after recess. "It was hard to teach a class of waving hands." she said. She also went on to state "It was hard also for teachers to hold a book with one hand and brush gnats off with the other. Closed classrooms and air-conditioning are a big improvement."

Integration began to a limited degree a few years before full integration was completed in 1969-70. At that time the formerly black Lincoln Park High School built in the same modern style in 1960 became Clermont Junior High.  

In 1993 the new South Lake High School was built and students from both Clermont and Groveland were bused there while both old high schools were turned into middle schools. The again in 2003, East Ridge High School was built, again separating Clermont and Groveland students.

More true to the original modern design accept, like the other school, for the covered front entryway.

(Scanned images & info. courtesy of "Clermont Gem of the Hills, A History of Clermont, Florida and Neighboring Communities, Miriam W. Johnson & Rosemary Y. Young" & "Images of America Clermont, Doris Bloodsworth".) 


  1. Very nice run down! Thank you so much! Opal Gano's daughter, Eileen Opal Gano Kyle, who has lived in the house shown (built by Bailey) since the early 50's, just passed away last month. May she rest in peace. Her and her husband, Gene Kyle raised their 4 children there. We are still friends with the children and grandchildren of Mr. Bailey.

  2. I went to Clermont High School on East Ave in the mid 70's. No A/C, no screens, no fans and plenty of gnats and stank! Our everyday way of learning at school then would be considered child abuse today. Horrible conditions.

  3. We are now the new owners of the Baliey/Kyle home on 5th Street and we are restoring it. If anyone has any more pictures or stories, please pass it along as we would like to keep a record of the history of this beautiful home.

    1. I lived in 550 junita years ago as a child. I was taking my husband where I grew up and showed him your home. I use to play with my friend Jennifer that lived there when we were children. Do you know what happened to the big 2 story home that was in the empty lot next to your house? My friend Kelly lived there. The home the one on the corner of where Kelly's house was and across the street are/were owned by the Blackburn family. They now live in Alabama.