May Street: A photo appreciation

May Street student walks up the central Art Gallery hallway.

Photo by Skyler Beard
May Street student walks up the central Art Gallery hallway.



May Street Elementary, as we know it, starts its final year this week.

The new May Street is under construction just south of the building, on Willard Schilling Field, named for a former principal. The newly-erected second-story beams are beginning to show the shape of the new school. It will open in September 2019, and then the existing complex will be demolished.

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Skyler Beard

MAY STREET HISTORY (AND FUN FACTS)

An all-new May Street Elementary, with main entrance on 10th Street, is coming in September 2019.

The current May Street campus is a hybrid complex of buildings, built at different times: A school has been on the site since 1907. It was the first Hood River High School.

The original building was torn down and rebuilt in the 1920s, and the current gym is the oldest remaining section of that building.

It became Hood River Junior High after the new high school was built in 1927 eight blocks west (now Hood River Middle School).

A concrete bench labeled “Oct. ‘18” dedicated to the class of 1919 remains in the west courtyard.

The main building came along in 1956, with the west wing added in 2001 and a computer lab in 2008. The 2003 play shed, named for longtime physical education teacher Larry Madsen, was demolished earlier this year to make room for the future building

Hood River historian Arthur Babitz provided this information, along with the fact that another school, named Mt. Pleasant, was located a block away at June and 10th streets, where Summit Family Medicine is now. The building became the American Legion Hall in the 1930s, and later burned.

— Kirby Neumann-Rea

In this Kaleidoscope, we begin a year of occasional chronicling of the last year of the old school, with a display of Skyler Beard’s sharp photographic eye.

Beard, who starts his senior year at Hood River Valley High School this week, chronicled the interior and exterior of the historic buildings for his Extended Application (EA) project in early 2018. In EA, each junior at HRVHS chooses a study topic and creates a detailed project, ranging from a conventional paper to a hands-on physical project.

Skyler explored the hallways, classrooms, storage rooms, basement, and attic of the 1920s gymnasium, recording the architectural and instructional feeling of the school. Images range from the old-growth timbers in the attic — unseen to all but a few people — to the cheerful teddy bear that has for years graced the front window next to the main entrance.

The bear and the dusty globe on this page are among Skyler’s favorite images, along with the cherry-laden entry sign.

The photos started as his EA project, but are permanently stored on his website skylermustache.com, along with other galleries by the aspiring photographer.

The galleries include Portrait, Wildlife, Travel, and Black and White.

He’s set to graduate in 2019 and has plans for some type of career in photography. He’s busy this time of year with a growing portrait client list of fellow members of the Class of 2019.

Skyler initially thought of creating a book of May Street photos for the EA project, but opted to create the website that is now his broader showcase.

Skyler’s father, Kelly, is May Street principal, which gave Skyler the access and insight into the many-faceted building. Skyler took photos, often re-taking, from January to June 2018, using his Canon Rebel camera and tripod, capturing available light in all but a few cases.

“There was a lot of trial and error. I’d go home and look at something and say, ‘I want to shoot that again’.”

Skyler, who has been pursuing photography since the seventh grade, attended Mid Valley Elementary, so the building was new territory.

“It was challenging to make it exciting. I really enjoyed it, taking a look at it, and it involved a little more work on my part and that was good,” he said.

“I knew it would be a good project, and beneficial for the school, and once I got started I really got into it. I had never done architectural photography. Mainly I do portraits and sports photography, so it was definitely a learning experience.”

His takeaways include, “I realized that the school is definitely due for a new building.”

It is a charming piecemeal warren that is hard to heat, cool and get around in, and Skyler captured the old-shoe comfort of its relics and hidden places, as well as its cracks, stains and holes.

To a first-time visitor, the campus might appear a discontinuous jumble of buildings — which it is, from the standpoint of heating and cooling the campus, maintaining its electrical and plumbing systems, and the sheer matter of moving students, staff and visitors from one place to another.

The school is the only elementary school in the district with steps leading from the front entrance (though side entrances are floor-level.) Inside access involves a variety of stairs, ramps, and narrow hallways. There is no ADA access to the building’s oldest wing without going to the south exterior access door, and the Ted Webber gym was inaccessible for anyone with disabilities until a lift was installed five years ago as part of the gym seismic retrofit project.

The new two-story May Street will feature interactive classroom/commons areas known as Neighborhoods, with a mixture of outdoor play and gathering zones, and relocated bus and parent drop-off areas and a new main entrance not on May Street but on 10th.

See more of Beard's photos online on his website, and in the Sept. 5 print edition.

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‘Kids’ eye view’ in a classroom.

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Old dusty globe stored in the basement.

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Holes in a wall expose lathing in the old section of May Street Elementary School.



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