CHS and Its Many Locations
February 7, 2017
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Catonsville High School has occupied many sites all over the Catonsville community in the years it has existed. Tracing the school’s history can be both interesting and complex because of its frequent change of address.
Four main school buildings have served as Catonsville High. One no longer exists and was once located on Winters Lane. Two others are what is now the former Catonsville Elementary and the current Catonsville Elementary (which was also once Catonsville Junior High, too). As everyone knows, the most current site of CHS is at the intersection of Bloomsbury and Rolling Roads (and, prior to the 1950s, was once the site of the Lurman Estate). However, there were many schools before the first “official” school opened on Winters Lane.
There was a school in 1857 that was across from the current day Children’s Home, most likely where the current elementary school is now. It was a one room log school with a teacher teaching 6 months of the year. As the school grew, it had to seek more locations.
The first location was where the Wilson Lumber Yard stood. The second location was a room over a blacksmith’s shop which is where the former Catonsville elementary school building is now. Lastly, a basement of a long-gone church on Bloomsbury was used.
There was also a school called the Devere School. It was a one-room school overlooking Fredrick Road near Oella Ave. School was divided by gender with boys on one side and girls on the other. The boys normally left as soon as they could work. Also, apparently the building and the grounds were haunted, which the children found entertaining even if it was just an old legend.
The first “real” school that people can remember was built in 1878. The school wasn’t technically a high school, it was just the only school in the area at the time. It wasn’t used as a school until many years later. The school was opened in 1898. It’s a small brick building on 20 Winters lane.The first graduating class was in 1905, with 4 girls and 1 boy. There were grades K-9 at that school when it first opened, with Grade 10 was added in 1903.
That school almost moved to a new building in 1908. The Board of Education thought about giving the Winters Lane building to the African American schools. The building that the African Americans were at was run down, needed a lot of work, and was being outgrown. Their school was located on the outskirts of the village between Winters Lane and Edmondson Ave.
There was a huge controversy around this. But in the end the Catonsville community decided not to give the building away, for racist reasons. The community did not want African American students closer to the “heart” of the ‘ville. After that, the building was sold to the Catholics. It became apart of St.Mark’s and is now being used for something else.
The Catonsville community raised money and a new school was constructed in 1909. They then moved around 1910 to the former Catonsville Elementary building on Frederick Road. It was dedicated on Friday, April 29th, 1910. It was called Catonsville High School even though it eventually housed all grade levels.
In 1922 it was reported that 300 kids were attending. Building additions were added in later years. They also used little rooms outside, portables, or what some people call “cottages.”
“I would say I knew a good amount of Catonsville’s history. I lived on Nunnery Lane since I was 6. Also once I graduated here I came back to intern, and now I’m teaching here,” said art teacher Jessica Voss.
In 1919 the Board of Education bought land from the Catonsville country club. There were previous buildings on that land but, in 1924 they started construction on a larger building to be the high school. This left the building on Frederick Road to be the elementary school (grades 1-7). In 1925, CHS opened. In 1930 new classrooms and additions were added to accommodate for all of the kids.
“I remember when Catonsville wasn’t even in this building, and it used to occupy Bloomsbury which is now the current Catonsville elementary” said Ms. Voss.
In World War 2, the school housed many ,many more students then previously enrolled. At one point the principal lived on a floor above the cafeteria. They spent 27 years there until the current CHS building was built in 1952. Bloomsbury became a junior high housing 7th- 9th grade. Then it became a middle school and housed 6th-8th grade.
The current Catonsville High School building was built on the Lurman farmlands. Gustav Lurman fought for the confederacy in the Civil War. He had owned the land for many, many years. The house was razed and all that remains are the groundskeepers cottage. Gustav Lurman bought many trees and shrubs, so there were two formal English gardens.
“One of the things that makes our campus so unique is because it’s the fourth largest campus/acreage in the country, for a public school. It’s because we have those Lurman woods that we can’t touch and that can’t be developed because we have those historic trees,” said principal Matt Ames.
While the Catonsville High campus has drastically changed in the many years, there are still many rare trees and plants. Lurman died and the school was bought by the Board of Education. The school was opened and built in 1952. The new building and additions were made in 1999. The new building now contains the science and math classes along with the Student Service Center.