Located in downtown Nashville across the street from the U.S. Custom House (1882), Hume-Fogg High School is notable for its Collegiate Gothic architecture, urban setting, and rigorous academics. Built in two phases from 1911 to 1922, the building is a rare surviving example of a public high school in operation for more than a century in the central business district of a large American city.
The current Hume-Fogg building sits on the site of two earlier high school structures: the Gothic Revival Hume, which opened in 1855 as the state’s first public high school, and the Victorian Gothic Fogg, which opened in 1874. Though demolished to make way for the new school, Hume-Fogg retains their dedications to local educators Alfred E. Hume and Francis B. Fogg.
Costing $625,000, the block-long, four-story building was designed by St. Louis-based William B. Ittner (1864-1936), one of the country’s leading school architects, who earned his degree from Cornell University. From the 1890s to the 1930s, he designed over 430 schools across the U.S., including over 50 in St. Louis. In 1910, Nashville’s mayor and school board members visited Ittner’s 1909 Soldan High School in St. Louis, and chose it as a model for Hume-Fogg. Also in Tennessee, Ittner designed Knoxville’s Park City Junior High School (1927) and he consulted on the design of three new elementary schools and a high school expansion in Johnson City in 1929.
Hume-Fogg’s central entrance block and west wing with courtyard were constructed during the first phase in 1911–1912 with Robert Sharp (1851–1920) as the supervising architect. A native of Northamptonshire, England, who immigrated to Nashville in the 1870s, Sharp specialized in the design of Classical Revival residences, churches, and civic buildings. Hume-Fogg’s east wing with courtyard and an auditorium was completed in a second phase from 1916 to 1922 with Henry C. Hibbs (1882–1949) and Donald W. Southgate (1887–1953) as the supervising architects. A 1904 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s architecture school, Hibbs specialized in academic buildings such as the George Peabody College for Teachers. Southgate earned an architecture degree from MIT in 1911, and became a respected architect in Nashville.
Though most of Ittner’s schools in the Midwest, including Soldan, were brick, it seems likely that it was Sharp who specified the use of locally quarried hewn limestone, which was prevalent in Nashville. Beyond materials, the architectural style of Hume-Fogg is nearly identical to Furman Hall, a four-story Collegiate Gothic Revival building completed at Vanderbilt University in 1907. Designed by the New York architectural firm of Snelling and Potter, Furman Hall was constructed of reinforced concrete faced in Bedford limestone and features octagonal castellated towers flanking the entrance.
At Hume-Fogg, octagonal castellated towers also flank the central entrance and castellated parapets are located at each corner. Other Collegiate Gothic Revival details at Hume-Fogg include Bowling Green cut stone trim and carved relief sculptures, including academic symbols and dated shields above the Tudor-arched entrances. Typical of Ittner’s schools, the building was equipped with expansive banks of windows, skylights, and an E-shaped plan with interior courtyards, all of which provided light-filled interior corridors and classrooms. The school also featured state-of-the-art plumbing, heating, and ventilation systems. The interior is trimmed with Tennessee marble. Each floor contained 28 offices, classrooms, and laboratories, serving over 2,000 students.
Originally a segregated whites-only school, in 1964, Hume-Fogg became Nashville’s first public high school to integrate. Since 1982, the school has operated as an academic magnet school for gifted and talented students, and consistently ranks as the top public high school in Tennessee, with 99 percent of its graduates going on to a four-year college.
The school’s first major addition was completed in 2015, when a $7.2 million brick gymnasium and underground parking garage was constructed at the northwest corner of the building. Designed by Nashville-based Kline Swinney Associates, the 1,450-seat gymnasium incorporated original limestone walls and cut stone details into its design. The school is currently undergoing a $20 million interior renovation that will enlarge classrooms for its 925 students, as well as upgrade operating systems and technology.
Baker, Mary C., “Hume-Fogg High School,” Davidson County, Tennessee. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 1974. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
Boucher, Dave. “Hume-Fogg welcomes new gym.” Tennessean, September 24, 2015.
Collins, Cameron. “The St. Louis Schools of William B. Ittner.” Blog. Accessed March 30, 2018. http://www.distilledhistory.com/.
Garrison, Joey. “Construction of new Hume-Fogg gym to begin next month.” Tennessean, March 12, 2014.
Jones, Robbie D. “Henry C. Hibbs,” North Carolina Architects and Builders: A Biographical Dictionary.Raleigh: North Carolina State University, 2013. http://ncarchitects.lib.ncsu.edu/.