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The old Frankfort High School, built of Ohio sandstone with Bedford limestone trim, dominates the east side of downtown. Known fondly as “Old Stoney,” the Richardsonian Romanesque structure with Jacobethan elements boasts a four-story corner tower with a steep conical roof, elaborate gabled dormers, tall stone chimneys, a green clay tile roof, and a large round-arched entrance. It is two-and-a-half stories on a raised basement. Originally built in 1892, the current structure is a 1926 reconfiguration following a disastrous fire in 1922 that left only the stone walls standing.
Frankfort, the seat of Clinton County, was laid out in 1830 but grew slowly until the arrival of its first railroad in 1870. By 1886, the city was crossed by five railroads. Frankfort’s population doubled each decade between 1870 and 1890, from 1,300 to 2,803 by 1880 and to 5,919 by 1890. This period saw extensive growth and prosperity, which was reflected in the substantial business blocks, residences, and public buildings erected throughout the community. Frankfort’s previous high school, completed in 1874, had served students from both the city and Clinton County. The growth of Frankfort’s population and the increasing numbers of rural students gave rise to the need for a new building, which became the pride of the county.
Old Stoney was designed in 1891 by architect Arthur A. LaBelle (1855–1896) and was built the following year by contractors Pierce and Morgan. It was sited along the east bank of Prairie Creek on the east side of downtown Frankfort, one block from Courthouse Square. The area to the east was a developing upper-middle-class neighborhood of two-story frame houses of mainly Queen Anne and Stick/Eastlake styles, to be joined by Colonial Revival and Craftsman houses early in the following century. The school building featured classrooms with tall windows that offered ample daylight and ventilation. The center wing contained a double-height assembly room on the second floor. The 1922 fire, apparently caused by a student’s lab experiment, resulted in a new interior and floor plan designed by architect Rodney W. Leonard. Contractor John Paden completed the work in 1926, and the school reopened. The rebuilt interior included a skylit gymnasium in place of the original assembly room.
The massive building served proudly as the city’s high school for seventy years, then became a junior high until 1974. Too important a community landmark to be destroyed, Old Stoney was leased to a group of citizens—Old Stoney, Inc.—in 1976. Several offices moved into the building: the second-floor gymnasium was taken over by the Clinton County Historical Society in 1980 and City Hall occupied much of the rest of the former school. Just in time for Indiana’s Bicentennial in 2016, Old Stoney was temporarily vacated for a major renovation to plans created by architects of the Architura Corporation. The original structure cost $50,000 in 1892; the renovation budget is just under five million.
Brown, Frederick Dale, “Old Frankfort Stone High School,” Tippecanoe County, Indiana. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1991. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
Grove, Helen E. Franklin, Indiana: A Pictorial History. Charleston, SC: G. Bradley Publishing, 1994.
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