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Ogden High School

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1937, Hodgson and McClenahan; 1970s renovation, Sterling Lyon; 2009–2014 renovation and additions, EDA Architects and CRSA Architecture. 2828 S. Harrison Blvd.
  • Rear courtyard with cafeteria addition
  • East facade detail
  • Interior view of addition

Ogden High School is an impressive example of New Deal architecture in Utah. The school was designed by the architectural firm Hodgson and McClenahan, whose principal, Leslie S. Hodgson, is widely regarded as the region’s most influential architect in the first half of the twentieth century. Built in 1937, this Art Deco building is one of the best examples of the style in the state and its $1.2 million construction cost made it the state’s most expensive high school at the time. The school occupies a 660-foot-square city block located just a few blocks southeast of Ogden’s city center. With the 1929 economic crash, Ogden’s agricultural, business, and rail industry suffered and the federal funds to build a new school provided desperately needed jobs in a town that had experienced significant population growth in the early twentieth century.

The majestic peaks of the Wasatch Range form the backdrop for the three-story structure, which, despite its horizontal massing, displays vertical emphasis with its bands of windows separated by brick pilasters, the decorative spandrels that stress verticals and diagonals, and in the roofline terracotta trim that echoes the peaks of the mountains beyond. Brickwork moves elegantly in geometric patterns. It turns and twists around corners, broadens and shrinks to cap off surfaces, and it perforates and retreats around the framework. While Art Deco in the Southwest was often regionalized, the detailing of Ogden High does not refer to local fauna or any other symbolism related to Utah’s landscape or cultural heritage. The building is grounded in place by the expansive use of local brick while abstract patterns connect Ogden High to the larger context of national education.

The main entrance is distinguished by an additional story, double-height windows, and cast terra-cotta spandrels in a geometric motif. The three double-door entrances feature geometric-patterned metal transoms. Inside the main entrance is a lobby with a central staircase; the double-height windows and the immense corridors create a sense of expansion. The most elaborate interior space, however, is the auditorium, which features intricate Art Deco plasterwork in an explosion of gold, purple, yellow, and green.

Since 1937, the school has gone through two major additions and renovations. In the late 1970s, Sterling Lyon renovated the library and expanded the facility. In 2009, EDA Architects and CRSA Architects were hired to expand the school and complete renovations and seismic upgrading. EDA’s leading architect, Robert Herman, was an alumnus of the school. During this project, much of the slab-on-grade foundation was replaced and strengthened using mining equipment to drill some 60 to 90 feet into the ground. The original roof was replaced and braced to a strengthened brick veneer. The auditorium also underwent a restoration, with the elaborate plaster motifs repaired using a mix of the latest precision tools as well as traditional brushes and handwork. Original seating was refurbished as was the wainscoting, and new lighting and catwalk systems were installed. The facility expanded to the east with an 8,500-square-foot addition that houses a new cafeteria and commons area, as well as a 54,000-square-foot athletic facility. The updated building was inaugurated in 2014.

References

“Ogden High School.” Utah Heritage Foundation. Accessed July 19, 2016. https://preservationutah.org/.

“Stunning Renovation for Ogden High School.” Utah Construction & Design Magazine, March 1, 2013.

Weible, David. “Ogden High School: How A Utah Community Saved Its Beloved Art Deco Gem.” National Trust for Historic Preservation, January 10, 2014. https://savingplaces.org/.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Zach Clegg
Shundana Yusaf
Coordinator: 
Shundana Yusaf
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Data

Timeline

  • 1937

    Built
  • 1970

    Renovation
  • 2009

    Renovation and additions

What's Nearby

Citation

Zach Clegg, Shundana Yusaf, "Ogden High School", [Ogden, Utah], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/UT-01-011-0076.

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