Preserving Our History: Old Jupiter School

You can tell a lot about a culture from the way they treat their past.  When people collectively preserve and learn from their history, they leave a legacy for future generations to grow upon.  When a community tears down and covers up historical sites and buildings to make way for the “new” and “improved,” they destroy the threads that connected the community together in the first place – a shared story, a common beginning, a link to those who came before them.

I am extremely proud that, in 2006, after great community support, The Palm Beach County School Board voted 5 – 1 to spend $6.4 million to renovate the Old Jupiter School’s interior.  In addition, members of the community and representatives of the Save Old Jupiter School task force committed to raising funds to renovate the school’s auditorium.

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Hedrick Brothers Construction renovated, repaired, and upgraded the 17,400-square-foot, two-story building to accommodate 164 students in classrooms and a lab. (Sun Sentinel)

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Education in Jupiter has always been unique.  A formal education program began in 1887 at the Life Saving Station, under the watch of Captain Charles R. Carlin.  The next year, classes were moved to the Captain’s home across the Loxahatchee River.  The Carlin’s house was the first public school in Jupiter and employed the area’s first professional teacher, Mr. Ammonette.  Eventually, there were three schools operating in Jupiter: a lean-to building alongside the Loxahatchee River, the “Octagon School” named after it’s shape, and a school at the lighthouse.  However, the maintenance of three schools was expensive for the town.  A second room was added to the Octagon School and all three groups of students were combined into one.

Jupiter School Boat
The school boat called “The Maine” by students which, according to legend, was a lifeboat salvaged from the battleship U.S.S. Maine that exploded in the Havana Harbor during the Spanish Civil War.  

The tiny population of Jupiter lived mostly along the coast and on the Loxahatchee River.  Travel over land was very difficult due to lack of navigable roads and the most popular mode of transportation was by boat.  Dr. Charles Jackson, who began teaching in Jupiter with his daughter Mary in 1895, operated the school system’s first and only “school boat,” picking up students who otherwise would have no way to get to school.

In 1911, Jupiter built a two-story, cement block schoolhouse near the original Town Hall.  The school’s electricity was generated by a windmill.  Three teachers were hired to instruct students in the lower grades.  High school students went to Palm Beach High School in West Palm Beach (now Dreyfoos School of the Arts).  However, the Florida Land Boom (the state’s first real estate bubble) was drawing new residents to South Florida.  The town’s student population outgrew the schoolhouse and it was difficult for high school students to travel from Jupiter to West Palm Beach for class each day.

Jupiter School 1950s
Students at the new Jupiter School for grades K-12 in the 1950s

In 1927, for $150,000, the Town of Jupiter built what is now referred to as “Old Jupiter School,” the first permanent school able to accommodate the town’s population.  All students in Jupiter in grades K-12 attended class there with the exception of the town’s African American children, who had their own school in Limestone Creek.  Jupiter School opened with nine teachers, three trustees, and 100 students.  It was a state of the art facility with a science lab and an auditorium with a stage.  There was no air-conditioning.  Jupiter School was also one of only eight Florida schools accredited by the Southern Association, meaning graduates could go on to attend college.  The school was the town’s primary education facility until 1964, when Jupiter High School opened.

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Designed by architect William Manly King, the principal designer of all Palm Beach County schools built in the 1920s, Jupiter School is an excellent model of the Mediterranean Revival Style.  It has a parapeted and barrel tiled roof, stucco exterior finish, and ogee and pointed arches over the doors and windows.

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JUP Mama only attended Jupiter School for a few months in the spring of 1969 before moving on to Jupiter High School.  Yet, after coming to Jupiter from Detroit, Jupiter School was culture shock.  First of all, she no longer had to ride the bus to school.  My grandmother dropped her off each day, even though she lived on Center Street and could have walked the 1 mile trek to school.  (I had a minor panic attack when she mentioned this, thinking of my poor little 11-year-old mother crossing six lanes of Indiantown Road during morning traffic.  She laughed and assured me this was no big deal because, until I was born, Indiantown Road was only two lanes, one in each direction.)

In addition, she didn’t have to eat lunch indoors due to winter weather and the students could go outside for recess.  JUP Mama’s favorite memory of Jupiter School is getting juice from the juice machine after recess.  For 50 cents, she could get a box of fruit punch.

Jupiter Elementary Class

In 1976, Jupiter Middle School opened and “Jupiter School” became Jupiter Elementary School.  The historic 1927 building is now used as the school’s administrative offices.

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The current Jupiter Elementary School

Did you attend Jupiter School?  Share your favorite memory in the comments section below.  I’d love to compile a list of Jupiter School stories to include in a future post.

xo,

JUP Girl

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Historical facts for this post were taken from the Town of Jupiter’s website and the application for the school’s listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

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