Orange Street School: From A Moat Comes A Century Of Education

The Ramones once sang, “Well, I don’t care about history…” Lucky for you all, we do! While the Ramones head to rock-n-roll high school, let us crack open our history books to learn about St. Augustine High and Grade School at 40 Orange Street – also known as Orange Street School.

A section of a map showing a high school.
St. Augustine High and Grade School appears under construction on the 1910 Sanburn Insurance Map. (UFDC)

Before opening its doors to pupils, the site served as part of the city’s colonial defense line known as the Cubo Line. W.S.M. Pinkham, superintendent of schools and a former mayor of St. Augustine, convinced the U.S. Congress to authorize the transfer of land – then known as “The Lines” – from the Secretary of War to the school board for educational purposes. The donated land in 1909 ran to the San Sebastian River. With the land, Pinkham intended to build a new institution to meet the needs of the area’s growing population by replacing an 1868 public school on Hospital Street (now Aviles).

A black and white postcard of a large brick building with children in front of it.
A postcard of St. Augustine High and Grade School in 1911. (Florida Memory)

⁠In October 1910, St. Augustine High and Grade School opened with an enrollment of more than 400 students in grades 1-12. Savannah architects Robinson and Reidy designed the building in an eclectic revival style for $60,000. The school’s ground-floor basement contained the lunch and recreation rooms, plus bicycle storage. The next two floors housed 23 classrooms, a large auditorium, and a library. The two science labs sat on the top floor.

A color photograph of a multi-story brick building with vines.
St. Johns County School Board and District Administration Offices seen from Orange Street. (UNF Digital Commons)

By 1924, student enrollment outgrew the space, so construction began on a new high school down the street (the site of today’s Ketterlinus Elementary School). As the school’s population continued to change over time, so did the institution, which went on to be known as the Orange Street Grammar School and finally Orange Street Elementary School. The building finally closed its doors to pupils in 1981. Two years later, it reopened as the St. Johns County School Board and District Administration offices, which still operates out of the historic structure today.

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