The mystery is small because, well, it's really probably not all that important. But the accounts are more than a little unclear, and the curious want to know! Our conclusion is that Legg designed no high school and the 1905 old high school is Pugh's. (This is also an especially baggy and meandering note, so be warned.)
Portland School Buildings in the Early 1900s
Over at Portland Architecture, Brian Libby has been running these terrific profiles of the Portland school buildings. Two of them, ones on Grant and Roosevelt, help point the way to filling in details on Salem's school history.
About Grant, Libby quotes from the Portland Public Schools own architectural history:
Beginning with the construction of the main building and a gymnasium in 1923 and closely followed by an additional auditorium unit and two wings between 1925 and 1927 Grant High School was part of a dramatic building program begun by the Portland Public Schools in the early 1900s. Two of the most influential district architects during this period included Floyd Naramore and George Jones, who designed a majority of the schools from 1908 to 1932. Due to the large number of projects conducted by the district in the early 1920s, however, the school board hired Knighton & Howell, a Portland architectural firm to create the designs for Grant High School.Grant's design doesn't concern us directly, but a more-or-less concurrent design does. About the same time, in 1922, George Jones,
reused most of the architectural drawings from Franklin High School to lay out the plans for Roosevelt.A decade earlier Naramore had designed Franklin. In 1919 he moved to Seattle, but before doing so Naramore designed 16 Portland schools, including the Kennedy School, whose single story layout was a response to fire safety.
North High, Parrish and Leslie
It turns out that what we might think of as a Portland "pattern book" for schools was useful here in Salem.
William C. Knighton is known in Salem for some really lovely buildings, perhaps the most elegant in Salem: the Richardsonian Romanesque Capital National Bank, Deepwood, the Bayne building, and the Supreme Court building - historic drawing here. (There are many others, and a full list would be useful!)
A tip from reader RC pointed us to his school designs, a group of more utilitarian works. The contracts for Parrish and North were substantial, if not especially stylish, commissions. He was also involved in the design of Leslie.
RC shared an image of North, on the left in the composite, from the October, 1940 issue of Architect and Engineer, in an article "Current Trends in Oregon Architecture." And you can clearly see the common Colonial Revival pattern in North and Roosevelt. If Jones patterned Roosevelt on Naramore's Franklin, it seems likely that Knighton modeled North on Roosevelt. It wouldn't be at all surprising to learn that the internal plans are similar - though the Depression-era WPA contract for North yielded a plainer facade than the more ornamented one of Roosevelt from the roaring twenties.
Parrish is also by Knighton and Howell - Robert West had noted this and it wasn't much in doubt, but it was something we could have confirmed easily, simply by walking by the front door and looking at the building dedication plate!
Finally, there's Leslie. It was never identified as a "high school," but we wanted to make sure Legg or Pugh wasn't involved. Its architectural pedigree is a little odd. There's no obvious cornerstone outside, but perhaps it was swallowed up by South High's theater and music wing that wraps around the northwest corner of Leslie. The Statesman of July 14th, 1926 has an article on the selection process: With a headline "BOARD DIVIDED ON ARCHITECTS," it continues "Knighton & Howell, Freeman & Struble Asked to Collaborate." Neither Legg nor Pugh had submitted a proposal. It seems that Knighton & Howell hadn't either, but the school board liked the Parrish work well enough that they didn't want to leave the commission solely in the hands of the Salem firm of Freeman & Struble. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that the school board needed for political reasons to carve out room in the commission for a local firm. Either way, the building may be something of a red-headed stepchild, a design no one wished to claim.
The 1905 Old School is a Pugh
So the only "high school" buildings left for Pugh or Legg are the 1905 Salem High School and the 1887/1893 East or Washington School (at least two dates are attested).
The paper gives a clear trail on the 1905 and confirms it is Pugh's!*
On February 27th, 1905, the Capital Journal ran a piece about the school board awarding the school design contract to Pugh. At that meeting, and in the paper throughout March, there is much grousing about the potential for graft in a no-bid contract. In the March 20th paper, the school board formally accepted the plans, with Dr. Byrd first taking exception to the inclusion of a gymnasium and shower rooms. These were struck from the plans. No Physical Education for the good doctor! The plans did, however, retain separate "bicycle rooms" for the boys and girls.
Construction bids would be accepted at Pugh's offices and opened on April 1st, the building to be completed by September 30th. Pugh estimated a wood building would cost $34,000 and a pressed brick $41,500.
By summer, Fred Legg had joined Pugh's practice. On August 29th a notice appears announcing "bids will be recieved at the office of Pugh & Legg" for a "one-story frame school building to be erected in school district No. 61, Polk County." District 61 was in Airlie, and this two-story school building in Airlie (courtesy of Oregon Hoops History) could be it, though of course it's got an extra story (and solving this mystery is another story itself! and may be out of the CT purview).
So it seems pretty clear that Pugh drew up the designs for the Salem High School, and it was likely that Legg was involved in supervising the school's construction. It should not surprise us, then, that memories were fuzzy at the end of Legg's life, and that some or all of the credit for the school might go to him. But Pugh is very clearly the designer.
The school was dedicated on January 1, 1906. Welch and Mourer were the builders, and they also built the "Klinger and Schreiber Block."
This saloon ad from August 1904 references the Klinger block on the alley, between the Schreiber building and the Bligh. Another reference from about the same time mentions old, decayed wood, so it's not clear that at this time in 1904 there's a brick building there. More mystery!
Back to the schools, the main remaining question is the 1887/93 school (at top).
Pugh's father, David Hall Pugh, is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery, and the biography they cite there is helpful.
Mr. Pugh became one of Salem's foremost contractors and builders and left many beautiful monuments to his handicraft.
He built the E. N. Cook mansion**, that has graced Court Street for over half a century. He also built the old Cumberland Presbyterian and the Presbyterian churches, besides many other public buildings and good residences of the early capital city. Always his work was of the best and he was heard often to remark that he was not afraid when his work was inspected.It also notes that he
was a member of the immigrant train of 1845 that brought his father, David Pugh, Sr., his mother Jeanette and brothers William, John, Andy, Silas and sister Mandy Anne and a little sister to Oregon.*** The brother William was captain of the train, and other families in the caravan were Alva Smith, Commodore Rose, whose wife died on the plains and whose children, Commodore, Jr., Sarah and Nancy, went to live in the Pugh family.Walter's uncle, William, appears in school history as the original superintendent of District 24J.
So it seems likely that Walter's father, David Pugh, Jr., was involved in the design and construction of East School. The Cooke mansion looks like a finer, more delicate version of the school, even! But we are not sure to what extent this reflects stylistic patterns common to the era and to what extent it might express a personal style of the Pughs. The Piper/Boothby Courthouse looks similar, too. (Walter himself was not even 20 at the beginning of construction for the school, and seems therefore too young to have led any of the phases, though he might certainly have labored on the project. On the other hand, by 1888 he designed the Shelton-McMurphey House in Eugene, and the National Register form suggests he was active as a carpenter in 1880 as a teenager.)
If it turns out not to be a Pugh, our old friend Wilbur Boothby is a likely suspect.
Construction for the school ran from 1883-87. (The 1893 date for a Pugh school cited in the OSH nomination form is wrong and is most likely an error for 1905.) There were financial difficulties and construction was delayed at least once. By fall 1886 construction was complete enough for students and teachers to use the building, though it didn't seem to be finished until 1887. We hope to have more on the school.
* Well, after we got into this a bit, we found an old-media note that would have simplified things! Drawing on her earlier 1932 dissertation, Constance Weinman contributed "A History of the Salem Public Schools, 1893-1916," to Marion County History, XIII: School Days I, and said clearly that Pugh designed the school. Weinman also added that among the chief cities in the Willamette Valley, Salem was late to develop high school education; she also felt Salemites were generally dismissive of education. It's an interesting antecedent to the So-Lame/Salemia meme.
** The Cooke-Patton house was razed for the State Library and Capitol Mall in 1939. Virginia Green's note on 1938 has some of the history and notes on the passing of Luella Patton in 2007.
*** This piece references a Reverend William Pugh as the patriarch, not David Pugh, Sr. The biographical material cited here in the cemetery records is in part compiled from the oral histories in the Book of Remembrance of Marion County, Oregon Pioneers, 1840-1860 by Sarah Hunt Steeves (1927). Drawing on material from Catherine Entz Pugh, the wife of David Hall Pugh, it contains several short biographies of Pugh family members, and identifies the father as David, Sr. The Reverend William must be interpolated from some other source.