On your next Urbex trip take a step back in time and visit ten abandoned schools in Florida that you have to see to believe. Lost and forgotten in the pages of history some of these schools have a dark past many would rather forget. If creepy abandoned schools pique your interest keep reading to learn about Florida’s abandoned schools.
Looking for more exploration guides? Check out Exploring 10 Amazing Abandoned Amusement Parks in The U.S. and The Best Urban Exploration Locations In The US: Top 7 Cities.
The Best 10 Abandoned Schools In Florida
Old Melbourne High School
In 1919 the Henegar HighSchool building was constructed. In May of 1921, 13 students made up the first graduating class of Henegar High School. In the early twenties, Melbourne was a two stoplight small town. By the mid-twenties, a land boom brought in many new residents. Suddenly Henegar High School was overflowing with students.
In 1926 Melbourne High School was constructed for $200,000 by the W.T. Hadlow Company of Jacksonville and W.M. Cristen. Cristen was the architect of many of Melbourne’s important historical buildings.
The new building was still insufficient to hold all of the students and a third building was constructed soon after. This building was called the Melbourne School Complex. Eventually, the two outer buildings were closed in the late 60s. Student enrollment was at an all-time low with just 331 students enrolled. The Henegar building was later closed in 1975. After it’s closure the building was used for some time by Brevard Junior College. It was then used by the school and the county as office space.
The west building was demolished in 1980 to make room for Trinity towers, an apartment complex. In 1983, residents formed a non-profit, Brevard Regional Arts Group (BRAG)
And worked to restore the tow remaining school buildings. The group raised $2.5 million in cash and deeded the properties to the school system.
In 1991, Henegar Centers for the arts opened. The Melbourne High School building still sat unoccupied. Over the years there have been many plans for restoration but those plans have fallen through. BRAG sold the building to Zimmerman Development and in 2015 the building was demolished.
Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys
In 1897 the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys and organized and it opened in 1900. This school served as the Florida State Reform School and it reported to the Florida state legislature. The name of the school was changed several times before returning to the original name.
The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys gained a reputation for beatings, abuse, torture, rapes, and even murder of its students by the staff. In 1903, an inspect found that students were commonly kept in leg irons. In 1914, a fire broke out in one of the dormitories killing 6 boys and two employees. They were buried in the Boot Hill cemetery located north of the campus.
In 1934 13-year old Thomas Varnadoe and his 15-year old brother Hubert were accused of stealing a typewriter. The two boys were sentenced to stay at the school. Thirty-eight days after arriving at the school, Thomas died. Years later when his nephew sought to bury his body back home he was told there was no record of where Thomas was buried.
In 1940 Owen Smith was sent to the school for wrecking a stolen car. Owen escaped along with another boy. The school superintendent sent a letter to the Smith family stating the school cannot locate their son. Later on, Owen’s body was found partially decomposed underneath a house. His family went to collect the remain so they could have an autopsy preformed but upon arrival, they found that the school employees had already buried their son.
The school has countless other stories of abuse and neglect. In a 2010 report published by the U.S. Department of Justice 11.3% of the boys surveyed at the school reported they had been a victim of sexual misconduct by staff. In 2010 the state closed the school due to budgetary limitations.
Public School No. 8
Graded Springfield School, known today as Public School No. 8, opened its doors in 1909. It’s unclear who designed the building but it was likely to be done by Richard Lewis Brown. Brown was Jacksonville’s first African-American architect and he worked on several Duval County School projects during his career.
The neighborhood at the time was working-class. The surrounding area experienced rapid population growth and in 1926 the school needed to be expanded. Roy Benjamin was hired to design the expansion. He is best known for his work designing the Florida Theater and San Marco Theatre.
As the city continued to grow, the neighborhood declined. Accessibility to the school was cut off with the Haines Street expressway constructed in the early 60s. In 1991 the school became a Montessori school in an attempt to attract more students.
By the late 1990s, Public School No. * was the second oldest public school building still in operation and badly in need of repairs. The school board decided to close the school and relocate to a new building 17 miles away. In 2005 Public School No. 8 was home to Springfield Head Start Center before permanently closing down in 2015.
The building remains today is a state of disarray, boarded up to prevent trespassers from entering.
Annie Lytle Elementary School
Built-in 1891 Annie Lytle Elementary School was originally named Riverside Park School. It was a small wooden schoolhouse built to serve the growing population. Eventually, the building was considered a fire hazard. In 1917 The school was rebuilt on the same site by the Florida Engineering and Construction Company and designed by architect Rutledge Homes. It was completed in 1918 and cost $250,000.
The building has high ceiling classrooms, large windows, and even a fireplace in the cafeteria. During the 1050s the construction of I-95 and I-10 isolated the school and led to its closure in the 1960s. The building was then used by the school board for storage and office space before it was condemned in 1971.
In 1999, the property was purchased and designs were drafted for Lytle Place Condominiums. Due to the public outcry, the building was named historical landmark and demolition halted for the time being. The school sat for some time and its future is unknown. Groups of volunteers from Riverside Avondale Preservation meet to provide light upkeep on the building and plant flower from time to time but as of now, there are no plans for the building.
Old St. Anastasia Catholic School
Built in 1914 by the Parish of St. Anastasia, the school was impressive. It was meant to serve thirty families in the Fort Pierce area. When the school was completed it stood empty for the first five years.
In 1919 the public school of Delaware Street burned down and the parish kindly lent the school it’s building rent-free for the next six years. Around the same time, the St. Anastasia church was torn down and the school held it’s religious services. A new church building was built in 1926 and with the arrival of three Dominican nuns, the school opened its doors and fifty-two children were enrolled in grades one through eight.
In 1927 the church had a debt of $48,000. The Great Depression was a difficult time for St. Anastasia parish. Tuition costs just 3 dollars a month and the church covered the cost for many of its parishioners who couldn’t afford to pay. Somehow the school managed to stay afloat and help the community.
In the 1950s the parish grew to 400 families and school enrollment was around 201. The parish constructed a new school with the help of donations. The old 1914 building was leased to the local CETA program for several years and then eventually sold for $120,000.
Over the years the building has been damaged badly from hurricanes. Work was done to keep the building standing and in 2000 it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The building remains vacant to this day but in decent condition considering it is over 100 years old. This is one of Florida’s abandoned schools that is highly worth a visit.
Old Norwood Elementary School
The Old Norwood Elementary school was built in 1926 to serve the metro north neighborhood. It was open for eighty-two years before it was finally closed in 2008. The school was purchased by the Grace and Truth Community Development Corp and there are plans in the works to convert it into and affordable housing. The $15 million project aims to make 84 units, retail space, and a 500 seat auditorium that will be open to the public.
This project will also house a community center for seniors, a pharmacy, and health facilities. The new Norwood Business and Development center now stands where the old Norwood Elementary School once stood. The design was constructed to keep as much of the original charm as possible.
Old Pahokee High School
The Pahokee High School was built in 1928. A deadly hurricane delayed the opening of the school until 1930. Pahokee High served students from Port Mayaca in western Martin County. At the time of its, opening Pahokee was the third most populous city in Palm Beach County. The school was later replaced with Belle Glade High school in 1941 and Pahokee was left abandoned.
Built in the Mediterranean Revival style the ornate building earned a spot of the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. It’s beauty still stands even though the school was a relatively unknown blip on the map.
The first floor has largely been partially demolished and the wooden framework is exposed. Thought the outer facade of the building is made of stone and concrete much of the interior of the building is made from wood.
The flooring is the original wood and surprisingly solid. The original coiled steam radiators look to be in good condition. The original metal staircase leads to the second floor. The rusty stairs are stable to climb is you are careful. On the second floor, you will find many of the windows have been blown out. The second floor contains many classrooms that are still very much intact. There are blank spots on the walls where the blackboards once were hung.
Since its closure ownership was handed over to the city of Pahokee. Many ideas and plans to renovate the building have come and gone.
Time has not been kind to the city of Pahokee but the high school building still stands today and has withstood many deadly hurricanes.
Robert Hungerford Preparatory High School
The town of Eatonville was the first self-governing all-black township in the United States. Towns like Eatonville were created because local town police forces refused to protect black residents. 160 acres of land was donated in 1898 by Robert Hungerford for the creation of the school. Donations came in across the country to help construct the school.
Initially, the school was built to serve a handful of students but by 1927 attendance rose to more than 100 students all who lived on the campus. Night classes were also available to the adult community of Eatonville. The school was a private school and students had to make their own arrangements for transportation.
The school offered classes to grades 6-12 boys and girls. The school was well equipped and offered a proper education to its students. They prepared students for vocational work and college admission.
In 1950 the school became a public school and many of the original campus buildings were torn down and replaced. Due to low student enrollment, the school closed its doors in 2009. The school’s auditorium and field are still available for public use. In 2016 the Orange County School Board opened up the property for bids from developers. No plans are in place at this time for the property and the school still sits as one of Florida’s abandoned schools.
Old Weirsdale Elementary School
Opened in 1923 the Old Weirsdale School served students from grades 1 to 12. In Weirsdale and the surrounding areas. In 1955 Lake Weir High School opened and the Old Weirsdale School officially became an elementary school.
The school closed its doors in the 1970s when a new elementary school was constructed. The building remained empty until 2000 when it was converted into an opry house, Hawhee’s Country Music Opry. Later it became Weirdale Opry. Eventually, it became The Orange Blossom Opry which still continues to operate today.
In 2001 the schoolhouse was used in the filming of Jeepers Creepers. Much of the old school building remains untouched. It still stands today as one of Florida’s abandoned schools in a state of neglect.
In the 1850s the town of Popash was founded. The town was primarily a farming and cattle ranching community and the schools let out at strawberry season so the children could help harvest.
In 1886 a railroad made many promised to the town but the town was looked over for the nearby town of Zolfo Springs. After that, the town of Popash slowly began to fade.
The Popash school was constructed in 1898 and later replaced with a brick building in 1912. It closed in 1948 as more and more residents moved away from the town.
The school sat for many years of one of Florida’s many abandoned schools. After its closure, it saw a great deal of vandalism and kids looking for a scare. In 2009 the school was demolished.
Florida’s Abandoned Schools
Florida is home to many unique abandoned schools. Many of these ten abandoned schools still stand today. These abandoned schools allow us to step back in time and learn about Florida’s unique history.
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