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The 100th Anniversary of Taylor Elementary School will be celebrated on October 14 and everybody is invited. (Downtowner Photo By Jack Armistead)
Miss Atkinson’s 2nd grade class at Taylor School in 1952. (Photo Courtesy of Robert and Sherry Lankford)

All Alumni And The Public Invited For Fall Carnival and Homecoming

Celebration For 100th Anniversay Of Taylor Elementary School Scheduled With Day Of Festivities On Saturday, October 14th

By Yolanda Brown
Taylor School Staff Teacher

On Saturday, October 14th, Walter Herron Taylor Elementary School in West Ghent will celebrate 100 years of memories during their Fall Carnival and Homecoming.

Over one hundred alumni, some in their 90s, have been contacted and will be honored at the event. Taylor Elementary, which began as Taylor School, has a long history of educating the youth of Norfolk and has produced many upstanding citizens in its long history, including three former mayors.

Descendants of Walter Herron Taylor will also be present and recognized during this event. The school is currently being led by Principal Charlene Feliton. In its 100 years, there have been a total of twenty principals, only three of which have been women.

Besides the usual carnival games, food, and family fun, this year's event has special significance because of the 100 year anniversary. A temporary museum is being created which can be visited during the Carnival and Homecoming. The museum will include many newspaper articles and other memorabilia from the past 100 years.
There are items from the 50 year celebration in 1967, where students put on a pageant. There are class pictures from various years, and although there are gaps, some group pictures date back to the 1930s.

Information about Walter Herron Taylor will be available. Student-led tours of the facility will be given during a portion of the day. The creation of a time capsule is also being planned.

W. H. Taylor Elementary School was named in honor of Walter Herron Taylor, who joined the Confederate Army in 1861, and became adjutant to General Robert E. Lee. After the war, the Norfolk-born Taylor continued to live out his life as an upstanding citizen of our city. He was a local banker, lawyer, author, and railroad executive. He served in Norfolk municipal offices and as a State Senator. His portrait, donated by Taylor Family members, hangs in the building. The Taylor family also donated the Jean-Antoine Houdon sculpture of George Washington that still stands in the atrium of the school today.

Taylor School, which opened in September 1917, was built on a site formerly known as Cromwell Farm according to a document written by the school's first custodian, Mr. George T. Sharp. He remained the custodian of the school for at least 33 years. The document, "History of Walter Herron Taylor School," is still stored in the building and provides some colorful and little known history. It is not certain when the document was written, but it seems to date somewhere around 1950.

Once covered by mud, and later, oyster shells, "the site of the Taylor School was out in the country." Sharp wrote when referring to Princess Anne Road, "There were very few houses from Princess Anne out to the underpass and to the west, none out to the N. & W. (Norfolk and Western) tracks. Colley Avenue, Hampton Boulevard and Princess Anne Road were mud roads. I have caught rabbits and killed snakes all around the school and (there were) birds of all kinds. After the first year, buildings were going up every day."

There was no lunchroom in the beginning, but eventually one was added in the basement. The building started with twelve classrooms, with four more being completed by 1919. Taylor was the first "grammar school" in Norfolk to have an auditorium. Many school and community functions were held there, since it was the only auditorium in the area.

During the Spanish flu epidemic of 1919, Taylor School served as a hospital and was closed to students from late September to mid-November while the Red Cross turned classrooms into make-shift hospital rooms. Flu victims were brought in from all over the city. "The charge was one dollar a day for those who could pay and no charge for those who could not," Mr. Sharp said.

By the 1990s, Taylor School was growing tired and lacked many of the modern necessities and technologies that are so critical to a twenty-first century education.
The community and the city came to the realization that a new building would be an essential addition to our city. It was built directly in front of the old one, facing Princess Anne Road. The new W. H. Taylor Elementary School opened its doors to students in June 1999, and was dedicated in January of 2000.

The 2017 Carnival and Homecoming celebrating 100 years of Taylor is going to be an exciting event for the entire community and city. Walter Herron Taylor Elementary School has a tradition of providing a quality public education to the citizens of Norfolk and the school continues to be the cornerstone of a proudly diverse and caring community.

(Editor’s note: Yolanda Brown, author of this special story, is a 5th Grade Teacher at
W. H. Taylor Elementary School)

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