2005-09-09 / Front Page

Schneider School is facing extinction

By Warner M. Montgomery

A fire drill at Schneider School in 1948
A fire drill at Schneider School in 1948

Old Schneider School is in danger. Developers Ben Arnold and David Bryant have purchased the Schneider Apartments from Madelee Partners who inherited the property from T–John Inc. who turned the abandoned school into apartments in 1979. Arnold and Bryant have announced plans to renovate the 90–year–old structure and upgrade the apartments. This is a wonderful adaptive reuse of an historic building.

The downside, however, is their intention of changing the name. Being young, energetic, and innocent developers, Arnold and Bryant are obviously unaware of the historic sentiments connected to the building.

A fifth grade play at Schneider School in 1946
A fifth grade play at Schneider School in 1946 Schneider School has a rich history in the development of Shandon and Columbia. To erase the name from the building would deprive the thousands of people who attended and supported the school of a major part of their legacy.

A brief history of Schneider School

The town of Shandon was established southeast of the City of Columbia in 1903 by Robert W. Shand, a developer, lawyer, and Civil War veteran. The first school in Shandon was built in 1906 at the northeast corner of Lee and Queen streets. It was called Shandon School and came under the the administration of S.M. Clarkson, Richland County Superintendent of Education.

Shandon School at the corner of Maple and Devine Streets in 1909
Shandon School at the corner of Maple and Devine Streets in 1909 The first teachers were Miss Marion Means and Miss Katie Duncan. A third teacher, Miss Nan Pagett was added before the first year ended. Within three years, Miss C. Dozier, Louise DeBruhl, Jessie Patterson, and Mr. S.M. Busby were added to the faculty. The early Shandon School trustees were Scott, Swygert, and Jeter. The Shandon School building was also home to the Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Methodists as they organized their new congregations in Shandon.

By 1908, the enrollment outgrew the building. A new six classroom brick building was constructed on a one–acre lot at the corner of Devine and Maple streets in 1909 for $10,000. The trustees listed on the 1909 cornerstone are S.T. Carter, C.M. Scott, L. Bremer, L. Miller, C.J. Bruce, and W. Maxwell.

The building had six large Ionic columns supporting a Greek–style roof with decorative cornice. In the center of the roof was a bell tower with a school bell. The entrance to the school was through double doors into a wide hallway which ran the width of the building. Stairways at each end of the hallway led to the second floor. It had steam heat. A 400–seat auditorium in the rear was later converted into two classrooms.

S.M. Busby became the first principal of the new school. He left after one year and was followed by P.L. Geiger and H.V. Knight. The first teachers in the new building were Miss Patterson, Mary Reid, Nan Miller, Ann Bellinger, and Miss Sepocht. Miss Sophia Bellinger taught music.

P.L. Geiger was principal of Shandon School in 1911. In 1913, Shandon School, with its 300 students, was annexed by the Columbia City School System and Wilbur S. Wertz became the principal. He had graduated from USC in 1905 and done graduate work at Peabody College. The five teachers were Nadine Ott, Hess B. Hamby, Regina Williams, Mary D. Clarkson, and Mary D. Tarrant. Wertz taught a class of 29 seventh graders including Edward Beall, Albert Vannerson, and Vell Toney.

Graduates of Shandon went on to Columbia High School.

The first PTA officers were W.S. Wertz, president; Mrs. C.I. Simons, vice president; Mrs. W. P. Etchison, secretary; and Mrs. Theodore Quattlebaum, treasurer.

The outside toilet facilities were replaced in 1913 with basement bathrooms accessible from the school yard. Jessie G. Patterson joined the faculty in 1914, and Helen Haddon came on in 1915.

In 1917, Wertz left Shandon to become principal of Taylor School and Watkins Elementary School. He served until he retired in 1950. He died in 1954.

Samuel P. Schneider succeeded Wertz as principal at Shandon School. The new principal taught a class of 26 seventh graders including Lois Quattlebaum, Sam Carter, and Thomas Kennedy.

Jessie Patterson left in 1917 to teach at Mill Creek and was replaced by Miss Septima C. Smith who in 1967 wrote and published an excellent history of the school, Schneider School, 1906–1967 . Jennie Lee Craig began teaching in 1917, and Ester Graydon joined the faculty the next year.

The school received major renovations in 1924. In 1926, an addition and a heating plant done by W.A. Crary and Son cost $57,706. There was another addition by G.R. Price Construction Company in 1950. Other renovations were done in 1951 and 1966.

Schneider was principal of Shandon School for 19 years until his death May 26, 1936. On May 13, 1937, S.P. Schneider’s birthday, the name of the school was changed to Schneider School.

The first school May Queen was Coles Heyward (Mrs. Dwight Cathcart) in 1926. She was followed by Louise Davis (Mrs. W.C. Outz) in 1927.

Guy L. Varn became principal in September, 1936, with an annual salary of $2,100. He remained until 1946 when he became district director of personnel. He became the fifth superintendent of the Columbia City Schools (District One) in 1961. Roy J. Ellis succeeded Varn as principal and remained for 20 years when he became district director of testing.

Clifton L. Harkey was principal from 1965 until 1973. Ruth Ott was the last principal of Schneider Elementary School.

In 1975, the building was used as an alternative school, and Sam A. Heyward was principal. The Walk–In School headed by Dr. William Howell also used the building.

Schneider ceased to function as a school in 1977. The school board voted September 25, 1979, to sell the building and use the money to beautify other schools. The school was purchased by T–John Inc. for $325,000 and retrofitted into the Schneider Apartments.

Some of Shandon/-Schneider’s many outstanding teachers were Janie Brooks, Ruth Bundrick, Emma Davis (first SC teacher to be an exchange teacher, later president of SC Retired Teachers’ Association), May Douglas, Louise Drummond, Nelle Marsh, Mrs. A.L. Moses, Virginia Pack (later principal of Belvedere Elementary School which was re–named for her), Mary S. Richardson, Mrs. John D. Rogers (later library science professor at Columbia College), Gertrude Thurmond (sister of Sen. Strom Thurmond), Reka Richards (daughter of Gov. John G. Richards), Grace Sease (later assistant principal of Dreher and Flora High Schools), Septima C. Smith (author of the history of the school), Mary D. Tarrant (first Schneider teacher to retire under SC’s retirement law, 1945), Ann Thacker, Alma and Mary Van Landingham, and Catherine Wertz Davis (daughter of the first principal).

(This information is from the soon–to–be–published Columbia Schools, a history of Richland School District One, 1792-2000 by Warner M. Montgomery)

Return to top