A Young Girl's Speech Opened A School!

On the afternoon of Friday, November 19th, 1909, 10-year-old Annelle Chandler addressed a crowd of 300. Hers was the only speech given for the Arlington Heights Public School’s official opening.

Annelle had already spent five days there, after moving from a much smaller building nearby. She noted “how much more the children liked to study in their new school.”

The streetcar suburb began as Chamberlin Arlington Heights in 1889-90, but the first developers’ fortunes sank, and growth had been slow despite a successor group’s elaborate marketing. Still, the first schoolhouse was deemed inadequate by 1903.

Even in that simpler era, bureaucratic mills ground slowly. Residents wanting a self-governing authority took a vote and sent returns and other documents to Austin. They waited four years. On Nov. 2, 1907, an official notice confirmed Arlington Heights’ incorporation. A reporter stated that “some of the papers in the case were lost or misplaced, which caused delays, and the matter has hung fire in the attorney general’s office ever since.” With the new status, an independent school district could be formed and bond elections held to fund buildings and road improvements “and to put on city airs generally.”

Fort Worth architect and historian John Roberts describes the two-story landmark that still stands where El Campo angles off of Camp Bowie Boulevard. Designed by Sanguinet and Staats as a T-shaped structure, “most of the building is [faced with] yellow brick with a maroon brick used at the base, in bands, and in a decorative pattern at various locations. A combination of arched and rectangular openings is used for the school’s windows and doors.”

From 1917 to 1919, the military occupied much of the neighborhood, training soldiers at Camp Bowie for battle in France while educators and students carried on. Arlington Heights filled in rapidly after World War I ended and the camp closed, and Fort Worth reached out to incorporate the suburb in 1922. In that year, the first Arlington Heights High School was built next door; the 1909 building became an elementary school. Several metamorphoses later, it is now part of the Fort Worth school district’s Boulevard Heights School and Transition Center, serving students with special needs.

Physical changes have detracted from its beauty. Sometime after 1946, district officials ordered the gracefully curving eaves and spiral fire escapes lopped off. Brick and mortar connected it to a 1954 structure that also links to the former high school.

Standing on the green lawn near the main entrance, one can imagine the scene and sounds and hopes of that autumn day nearly 106 years ago. A Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer recalled that, ” . . . when the children raised their voices in song while the flag was being raised, the national airs could be heard for blocks.”