By early afternoon, Callie Salisbury-Butcher had to send a volunteer out for more plastic knives and plates.
That was a good problem to have.
Turnout was over the top on Saturday at the 100th birthday party for Lawndale Elementary, one of Akron Public Schools’ smallest and oldest buildings.
“Right now, I’m overwhelmed with the number who came to celebrate,” Lawndale Principal Kathy Maddex said amid a bevy of children making crafts in Lawndale’s learning resource center, contemporary lingo for what once was called the library.
Lawndale got its humble beginning in a one-room frame building on Wilbeth Road in the Lawndale Allotment of the Coventry Township district. Back then, it served kindergartners through eighth-graders.
In 1912, the district opened an imposing, four-room brick building on 25th Street in the village of Kenmore and added to the building many times during the coming decades. In 1929, Kenmore was annexed into the city of Akron and the building was absorbed into the Akron schools.
Lawndale’s artistic highlight is a 10-foot by 8-foot canvas depicting the then-thriving rubber industry in Akron. Painted in 1947 by a Lawndale art teacher and her pupils, it still hangs in a top-floor stairwell.
As the years went by, the higher grades were moved to middle schools. Today, Lawndale serves about 170 kindergartners through fifth-graders. Some classes were combined this year due to district budget cuts, and some classes have 30 students enrolled, Maddex said.
With its glossy, dark wooden floors, abundance of steps and two-story configuration, though, the building is much unlike those of today.
“I keep telling them we need an elevator,” complained fifth-grader Jordan Blackburn, one of eight students specially selected to lead pre-scripted tours through the small building.
With just 12 classrooms, a two-room office, a gymnasium that doubles as a cafeteria and assorted other offices, Lawndale offers little in the way of extras. The future of the building is not bright.
“We’ve been hoping for the last couple of years that they wouldn’t close us down by 2012, so that we could honor our great 100 years,” said event co-planner Salisbury-Butcher, a Lawndale third-grade teacher.
She and co-planner Lauren Presutti, the Lawndale PTA president, planned for 500 visitors and easily passed that mark. The day was full of crafts, food, concerts, guest speakers and, of course, cake — marble with whipped cream frosting.
One visitor was Jon Andrews of Stow, who attended Lawndale from 1952 to 1958.
He hadn’t been back to the building since then, but still recalls the name of the custodian [Mr. Haggerty], his sixth-grade teacher [Mrs. Robinson] and principal [Mrs. Putnam].
“This brings back a wealth of memories,” he said.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.