By Nancy Ehlinger Saathoff, Devine Historical Committee
In 1929, at the height of the Roaring 20s, with the nation in an upswing of prosperity, Devine’s new $40,000 modernized school was built on College Avenue! Not only did it have a modern, art-deco look; it was fitted, for the first time, with heating, plumbing, and electricity! That was a far cry from what many of the students had in their homes at the time; so this was a very big improvement for the students of Devine ISD.
“…the new building is a great credit to the community, with its fifteen or more study and recitation rooms, with offices, sanitary rest rooms, sewerage, steam heat, etc., and lighted throughout with electricity.” The Devine News, Nov. 1929
To build this modern building, most of the old two-story 1905 brick school was torn down, but not without some controversy.
“Much interest was manifested in the opening of bids by the school board, for partially wrecking and rebuilding the school, strictly upon a modern, one-story plan …” San Antonio Express, July 1929
However, the needs of the school won over and the new school was built to house the growing student population in grades 1st through 11th and add the modern conveniences that were available at that time.
“The building is a one-story, except the old three-room basement, in which the boiler and other equipment is housed. It is finished outside with canary stucco.” The Devine News, Nov. 1929
Even though most of the old school was torn down, there were important portions that were kept, and are still present in this building in 2023.
“The new building is to be 193 feet in length, fronting College Street, and varying in width, leaving the $12,000 auditorium as it now stands and six other rooms of the old Central or Main building worked over.” “The names of the present school board are chiseled outside in marble; the auditorium carries the names of the school board which erected that imposing building, and next to the library and main study hall, the old cornerstone bearing the names of the men who erected the first brick building are more conspicuously brought into prominence on the first cornerstone.” The Devine News, 1929
This Devine Public School building housed grades 1-12 until 1954 when a new high school was built on Bentsen Street and the upper grades moved. In 1957 a new elementary school was built next to the high school, so this building then served as Devine Junior High until 1971 when the current high school was built, and campuses were shifted.
In the mid-1970s this old school building served as the community center and the fall festival was held there. In 1978 the VFW Post 3966 became the new owners and are the current caretakers today. Though no longer used as a school, this building still serves our community well, and deserves its designation as one of Devine’s historic landmarks!
*Much thanks to Lewis Stroud for sharing this picture, which is the earliest photo that we have seen of the school. Please notice the lack of trees, bareness of the ground, and the tall cylinder on the roof. It may be the chimney for the boiler in the basement that was used to heat the school. This chimney is not in the later 1940s photos that we have seen. NES *For more historical pictures & stories, go the Facebook page for the Devine Historical Committee