Saturday, October 9, 2004

Withrow remembered

From 1904 to 1925, the man whose name lives on in a high school was instrumental in modernizing Cincinnati schools

By Jennifer Mrozowski
Enquirer staff writer

Principal Thomas Boggs holds a portrait of Abraham Lincoln done by Cincinnati artist Warren Stichtenoth, stored in the boiler room of the school but ready for display this weekend at Bond Hill Academy.
Photos by CRAIG RUTTLE/The Enquirer
As the Cincinnati school district plows ahead with its $1 billion school reconstruction plan, the Art League of Cincinnati thought it only proper to honor one man who was instrumental in modernizing the city's schools.

Art League members chose Sunday to honor John Murphy Withrow.

Withrow, after whom the Hyde Park high school is named, served on the Cincinnati school board from 1905 to 1924 and was president for much of that time.

League members later learned the tribute would fall on what would have been his 150th birthday.

"We decided that was fate," said Robert Flischel, an Art League board member.

During Withrow's tenure, the district built 35 schools with modern heating, ventilation and temperature controls, toilets, showers, kitchens and lunchrooms.

The tribute to Withrow will be held at Bond Hill Academy, a 1932 school building that is to be demolished and rebuilt as part of the district's building project. Some of Withrow's descendents plan to attend.

A sampling of paintings by Cincinnati artists will be on display Sunday at Bond Hill Academy, 1510 California Ave., from 2-4 p.m.

• "Big Orange Rock at Beach with Sailboats and Donkey" by Reginald Grooms (1900-1989)

• "Four Mexican Women, Sitting at Fountain" by Emma Mendenhall (1873-1964)

• "Red Paddle Wheel with Suspension Bridge" by Warren Stichtenoth. Stichtenoth, who lives in Springdale, was a student at Bond Hill.

About 50 paintings from the Cincinnati Public Schools' art collection also will be on display. The district has a collection of more than 900 sculptures, stained-glass windows, murals, fountains, paintings and other architectural elements estimated to be worth millions of dollars, Flischel said.

Schoolchildren donated pennies and nickels to the Art League in the early 1900s.

The league purchased the paintings for them.

Bond Hill Principal Thomas Boggs said he feels fortunate the students see paintings daily hanging on the school walls.

"When I think about the art collection and the theme that we used at our open house - restoring the pride - I remember there is a lot of history here at Bond Hill Academy," Boggs said. "These paintings show a part of that history and that the school is committed not only to educating kids academically, but also educating kids though the arts."

The league has been holding "Art League Afternoons" for about seven years, Flischel said.

"A lot of people have never been in Cincinnati Public Schools," said Flischel, who edited and photographed a book about Cincinnati Public Schools' art and architecture.

Doris Mayans, also an Art League board member, said the tribute to Withrow and the art display at Bond Hill Academy will give residents an opportunity to see the historic Georgian Revival school before it's torn down.

The district is building 36 new schools and renovating 30 more. Some buildings like Bond Hill that didn't meet state standards for renovation are to be demolished to make way for new ones.

Cincinnati Public Schools spokeswoman Janet Walsh said the district worked with the state and Cincinnati Preservation Association to save some schools that otherwise would be closed or demolished, but Bond Hill didn't qualify. She said the community also wanted to build at the same site.

Mayans, a retired teacher, grew teary-eyed recently as she walked the halls of Bond Hill Academy, which was being constructed the same year she was born - 1931.

"It breaks my heart that's it's obsolete," she said. "In my view, I could teach here right now."

Construction on the new building is expected to be complete by 2007.


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