A Louisville-based developer has ‘big plans’ on the rehabilitation of a ‘historical marker’ in Paducah, Kentucky. Currently known as the Jetton Schoolhouse Apartments located at 401 Walter Jetton Boulevard, the building, constructed in 1920 served as an educational facility for high school and middle school children through 1981. In 1981, the two middle schools in Paducah merged and since that time, the building has been used for a number of organizations, businesses, and housing.
The history of the building is rich indeed. In 1920, the facility built for education, was the first location for Augusta Tilghman High School. After respected Paducah native, Walter C. Jetton returned to western Kentucky in 1922, he became the principal of the school and continued to do so for 34 years. Before returning to Paducah, Jetton received his higher education from the University of Kentucky and the University of Chicago and previously taught school in other parts of the state as well as Oregon.
With the city of Paducah growing in population, a larger building became necessary for the school so Superintendent Mark L. Scully spearheaded the construction of a new building to be located at 2400 Washington St. Under the leadership of Jetton as principal, the new high school was erected in 1955.
After Augusta Tilghman High School moved to Washington St., Jetton Junior High School was born. Back in the day, there were two junior high schools in Paducah; Jetton and Brazelton. After graduating from elementary school students from Jackson and Cooper Whiteside attended Jetton Junior High and students from Morgan and Clark Elementary attended Brazelton.
Through 1980, the two junior highs educated seventh through ninth grades. In 1980, Jetton was renamed Walter C. Jetton Middle School. After one year, the two junior high schools merged and became Paducah Middle School.
Remembering junior high days and the competition between the two Paducah schools is a memory for the history books. The Jetton Braves adorned colors of maroon and white while the Brazelton Catamounts wore red and white.
Behind Jetton Junior High, the buses would load and unload students each school day, and on Friday game nights, directly behind the parking lot and down a small levee the Braves’ football field was ready for action. The players on the football team were quick and fast. The cheerleaders were happy and wore big smiles. They had a rhythm in their step and unlimited energy that couldn’t be duplicated.
The rivalry between the two schools was intense and electric. If there was ever a win to be had, it was definitely the win against the other Paducah school.
After Walter C. Jetton Middle School closed its doors in 1981, students either attended Paducah Middle School or Augusta Tilghman High School and the former educational building morphed into several ventures.
The Walter C. Jetton building has been home to the Paducah Symphony Orchestra, the Paducah Parks and Recreation, and the Paducah Board of Education. After each of these organizations relocated, the facility was closed for a year or so to later reopen in 1999 as affordable housing.
The current owner, Franklin Mosco stated in a Paducah Sun article that when he bought the building 20 years ago for $50,000, he spent approximately a million-and-a half refurbishing it for tenants. He said the time has come for another make-over. He confirmed that he and the Marion Group are working out the details for the sale and if all goes according to plan, potential construction could start in October.
On the Facebook post by Mayor Brandi Harless she said, “A few years back, we had a code issue with the property seeing significant decline. Oftentimes our first responses to these situations are dread and fear of losing a building. This can lead to paralysis and only doing things the way we’ve always done them. I asked the team to give me a chance to work with a developer to see what we could do. We’ve been working hard ever since to reimagine this important historic property.”
Jeremy Dyer of the Marion Group plans to create new housing built to facilitate Paducah artists. His idea is to have 60 workforce housing units and partnerships with art-centered non-profits that will offer training and education. He wants to restore the symphony hall and part of the library that would become a community service facility. It would primarily serve low income residents throughout Paducah through art education and training as well as entrepreneurship training.
Paducah Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Reece King wants to launch a music academy. Private instructors would offer lessons at reduced rates and there would be chamber choir concerts that could benefit from smaller venues. Plans for the Paducah Symphony Orchestra to stay at The Carson Center for concerts and rehearsal still remain. This is just another opportunity to bring music to all.
The current residence of the Jetton Schoolhouse Apartments will need to relocate during the construction project and will be offered the opportunity to remain at “The Dunlap” apartments (the planned name for the new space) or find other housing. The Marian Group plans to have 39 more units located in the gym and library area. First considerations will go to artists.