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Lyles Station Historical School and Museum
Lyles Station School is located within a section of Patoka Township in Gibson County, part of rural southwestern Indiana. The area was settled by free African Americans in the 1830s and the unincorporated community of Lyles Station was established in 1849. By 1900, the town had a population of more than 800 people. Much of Lyles Station was destroyed by the 1913 flood, which devastated communities throughout the Ohio and Wabash river valleys.
Lyles Consolidated School was built circa 1919 to serve the children of the surrounding township, replacing two neighboring schools. The square building has a footprint measuring 54 by 57 feet, with its primary facade facing east. A long east–west dirt drive leads up a small knoll upon which the school sits. A dense growth of trees is located on the west side of the grassy site behind the school with a few scattered trees in front. The two-story brick and wood building exhibits features of the Prairie Style with its low, flat roof and overhanging eaves. Horizontality is emphasized through the use of brick on the first story and clapboard siding on the second. The building lacks ornamentation and exemplifies its style through simplicity of form. The structure employs load-bearing red brick walls at the lower level and wood framing for the upper level and roof. A simple wood frieze and cove molding encompasses the perimeter at the juncture between the eave and wall. A ten-foot-square cupola with a hipped roof projects from the center of the roof. Each side of the cupola is composed of three sections of wood louvered panels. A brick chimney rises from the northeast quadrant of the roof.
The main entry is on the east elevation. This vestibule area is formed by two brick columns carrying a simple wood entablature. Eight-light, two-paneled wood doors are flanked by ten-light sidelights. Above the doors, a thirty-light transom spans the area between the columns. The fenestration is symmetrically placed around the entry area. Eight double-hung, two-over-two, wood sash windows are dispersed equally between the floors. Three nine-light fixed wood sash windows are centered on the facade above the projecting entrance.
Lyles Consolidated School features a well-organized interior plan. The main entry opens onto two flights of wooden stairs. The steps to the south lead to the first floor while those to the north lead to the second level. The upper floor was primarily used for educational purposes while the lower level contained areas for large assembly, home economics classes, storage, and mechanical systems. The first floor is divided into two portions by a central east–west hall. An auditorium is located on the south side of the hall. A home economics classroom in the northeast quadrant contains the only plumbing hook-ups in the building; a utility area is located in the northwest corner with a boiler room and coal storage room in the middle. A variety of materials are employed on the first-floor level: the ceiling surface is corrugated metal; heating pipes are hung from the ceiling with metal rods; cast-iron radiators are also ceiling-mounted along with metal and glass light fixtures; the walls are painted brick; and the floor is concrete.
The second floor consists of three classrooms, an office, coatroom, and small storage room. The office is located in the northeast corner with the classrooms occupying the remaining three corners. The coatroom holds a position adjacent to the office on the south side. A central hall links the rooms and the storage space is situated above the stairs to the first floor. The materials of the second level vary from those of the first, mainly through the greater use of wood elements. The ceiling surface is corrugated metal with hung metal and glass light fixtures.
Lyles Consolidated School was integrated until 1922, when all white students were relocated to Baldwin Heights School. This segregation took place during the Jim Crow period and similar measures accompanied the rise of the 1920s Ku Klux Klan in Indiana. Lyles Station's school was integrated once again in the 1950s, but was closed in 1958 due to declining enrollment. The vacant building deteriorated over the following decades until Lyles Station Historic Preservation Corporation (founded in 1997) began plans to restore Lyles Consolidated School for use as a local heritage classroom, living history museum, and community center. Restoration of the long-neglected building began in 1998 and was completed in 2003.
Today, the restored Lyles Consolidated School continues to operate as a museum and heritage learning center dedicated to telling the story of African Americans in rural Indiana.
Beil, Kevin D. P.E. Structural Investigation: School House (1919), Princeton, Indiana. Indianapolis, Indiana, May 30, 1997.
Lyles, Carl C. A History of Lyles Station, Indiana. Evansville, IN: University of Southern Indiana, 1973.
Lyles, Carl C. Lyles Station, Indiana: Yesterday and Today. Evansville, IN: University of Southern Indiana, 1984.
Shaw, Bill. “A Beacon of History.” Indianapolis Star, February 2, 1997.
Thornbrough, Emma Lou. The Negro in Indiana Before 1900: A Study of a Minority.Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.
Zorich, Rebecca C. “Lyles Station.” Research paper prepared for Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1997.
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