Fairview Junior High

  ...The Art-Deco Masterpiece of Historic-Memphis   


Memphis Fairview Junior High opened in the Fall of 1930.  It was a new school and adjustments were needed.  There was no library, no books or librarian.  It would be two years before there was a sports department.  There was no curtain for the auditorium - nor motion picture equipment.   It would be several years before there was a Glee Club and school Band.  But the school did have something no other school in Memphis had:  It was a masterpiece of Art-Deco Architecture designed by Memphis architect Noland Van Powell of the architectural firm of Edward Lee Harrison.  With its distinctive buff color, Fairview certainly wasn't the traditional Memphis "red-brick schoolhouse."  The first principal was C. H. Wadley who remained at the school until 1947 before moving on to South Side High School.  Fairview Junior High has been on the National Register of Historical Places list since 1989.

Fairview Junior High  

Special thanks to Sue Lee Johnson, Nancy Tucker Douglass, Maureen Thoni White and Gene Gill for Fairview Yearbooks and to Nancy, Sue, and Gene for their Fairview memorabilia and to Sue and Gene for scanning the Fairview Yearbooks.


Fairview takes its name from the old Memphis Fairgrounds complex.  It was located to the south and east of the school site and the school had a good "view" of the Fair.  The construction of the school began in April of 1930 and was completed in September of the same year.  The cost was approximately $335,000.  The primary exterior material is brick with cast stone, terra cotta, and marble used for embellishments.  The embellishment panels incorporated into the design around the building, feature educational iconography of the period - economics, industry, and transportation.

   1930...Under Construction  

There are also original art-deco light fixtures throughout the building and there have been very few modifications over the years.  Fairview was the 2nd Junior High built in Memphis - two years after the first, Bellevue Junior High.  The school has been used continually for grades 7 through 9 since 1930, until it added the 6th grade and became Fairview Middle School.  It is the only school built in the Art Deco style in a city where Art Deco isn't widely represented.  Thus Fairview represents a rare and very fine example of this architectural style. 


An Art Deco Masterpiece


Central and East Parkway

1934 Football Champs


1945 Library

Vintage Classroom



1945 Kitchen



Fairview Base Hospital ... and the 1937 Flood

After moderate to heavy rainfall in December 1936, and then heavy rain, snow, and sleet through most of January 1937, the Mississippi, Cumberland, and Tennessee Rivers produced a record flood year - the worst single disaster in American history to that date.  Memphis set up a major camp center with barracks at the Fairgrounds.  Medical attention was also desperately needed and with WPA funds, the adjacent Fairview Junior High became the Red Cross Fairview Base Hospital.  A total of 12 city schools served as makeshift hospitals during this disaster and a total of 8,000 refugees were eventually hospitalized in the Memphis area alone.

Fairgrounds Barracks  

   Memphis River Front

Fairview Hospital Room Fairview Kitchen

Fairview Kitchen     


Fairview Linen Room          Fairview Ward Pneumonia Patient Fairview Meals


Fairview ... and growing up

Attending a big school like Fairview after grammar school, meant MAJOR adjustments.  There were no "cloak rooms".  Instead each student had an individual locker in the halls.  One not only had to remember where that locker was, but also the combination-lock number.  There were many more teachers than in the grammar schools.  And every hour students changed classrooms for a different subject with a different teacher.    There was a strange subject called "Civics".  Lots of homework - and all students were expected to do it ON TIME.  .  Oh, yes, there was something called "Study Hall".  Did anyone actually study during Study Hall? 


The transition was difficult, and maybe even a little scary,  but by the end of the first semester, everyone seemed to know their way around -  usually by the time of the first hayride.  All hail Fairview!!!



Safety Council

Cafeteria 1945

Teachers 1947

School Song

Talent Shows

Spring - Cherry Trees

Fairview ... and Art Deco Architecture.

<  In "Memphis:  An Architectural Guide", the most important book about Memphis architecture, architect's Eugene Johnson and Robert Russel Jr. consider Fairview "... the architectural gem of the school system and one of the finest buildings in the whole city."  "...and the real mind behind Fairview was Noland Van Powell.  It's fair to say that this is his surviving masterpiece."


Art Deco is an influential design style that first appeared in France just before World War I and took its name from the "Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Moderns" held in Paris in 1925.  .  It flourished internationally in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s and combines craft motifs with Machine Age imagery and materials.  It's often characterized by rich colors, bold geometric shape, curving forms, sharply defined outlines and lavish ornamentation.  


Fairview's very recognizable Art Deco features...


Buildings were richly embellished with hard-edged, low-relief designs, geometric shapes, and stylized floral and sunrise patterns.  Shapes and decorations inspired by Native American artwork also appear in Art Deco.   During it's heyday, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance and faith in technological progress and was often called "Machine Age Art".


Noland Van Powell (1904-1977) was an accomplished painter and architect who actually had no formal training as an architect.  He served as an apprentice for the Harrison architectural firm before eventually branching out on his own.  The fact that he designed Fairview as an apprentice, makes the finished building even more remarkable.  His work lives on in the designs of the Peabody's Plantation Room, the old Memphis Steam Laundry Building, the Farnsworth Building, Greyhound bus station, the Toddle House diners, and dozens of fine Memphis homes.

Noland Van Powell     


Noland Van Powell Memphis Steam Laundry Farnsworth Greyhound
and some Art Deco designs in other parts of the country .

NYC       Bldg facade San Francisco Los Angeles Arizona Milwaukee
Fairview ... and the Cherry Trees  

Each springtime, students at Fairview were treated to a spectacular display of cherry blossoms.  This was such a major part of the school year that photos of the blooming trees were always featured in the yearbooks.  The trees were planted during the N.Y.A (National Youth Association) which was part of the W.P.A program.  From recent photos it appears that the trees died or were re-moved.  New Cherry trees should be planted because they were a special treat which was sincerely appreciated by students, faculty, and visitors. 

Cherry Blossoms


Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms     


1945 Yearbook

1948 Yearbook

1946 Yearbook 1946 Yearbook 1947 Yearbook 1947 Yearbook Cherry Blossoms
Fairview ... and some Yearbooks

Every page of the five Fairview Yearbooks (below) are posted on this website.  Click on any yearbook cover to open the pages of that yearbook.  Thanks to Nancy Tucker Douglass, Sue Lee Johnson, Maureen Thoni White, and Gene Gill for the use of their yearbooks on this website and to Sue and Gene for scanning the books..


Fairview Logo   


          1945 1946 1947 1948



Fair-Views ...  the school Publications

Fair-Views Magazine . Jan 1938. 

Before the school published a weekly newspaper, these little 20 page books were produced by the students and published once a month  ... >


Fair-Views 1938

Page 1


Pages 2 - 3 4 - 5 6 - 7 8 - 9 10 - 11 12 - 14 14 - 15 16 - 17 18 - 19 20
< Fair-Views Newspapers >

The Newspapers were published each week  with two to six pages.

1945 -1 1945 -2   1945 -1 1945 -2 1945 - 3 1945 -4

1946-1 1946-2 1946-3 1946-4 1946-5 1946-6  

Feb. 1947   

Fairview ... and some "Vintage" Graduates  

Most graduates from Fairview continued on to high school at Central, Messick, and Tech.  After three years with their junior high "BFF" they suddenly moved in different directions and rarely or never saw each other again.  The Fairview graduates featured below all went to Tech High School and they 're the exception, because they have remained close friends for all these years.  Many of these friendships began in grammar school as far back as 1937


7th Ggrade - 1946 8th Grade - 1947 Who's Who 1947 Princess - 1946 Cheerleaders 1947

  1947 Seniors

Who's Who 1947

1947 -Seniors

1947 -Seniors

1947 -Seniors

1947 -Seniors

1947 -Seniors


1948 - 9th grade 1948 - 9th grade 1948 - 9th grade 1948- 9th grade 1948 - 9th grade

1948 -9th grade Who's Who 1948   1949 - 9th grade

1949 - 9th grade


1949 - 9th grade

1949 - 9th grade

1949 - 9th grade

1949 - 9th grade

1949 - 9th grade



Fairview Middle School ...

The JIM CROW laws were state and local laws enforcing racial segregation in the South.  These laws were in effect at Fairview until 1965 but the school was not immediately integrated.  First there was "busing" which resulted in massive "white flight" in the Memphis Schools.  In 1973 the district had 71,000 white students.  In just 4 years 40,000 white students left.   Sometime during this period, the school district reorganized the junior high schools into "Middle Schools" and Fairview became "Fairview Middle School" for grades 6 to 8.


During the last few years, the old school had begun to look a little shabby with quite a few broken windows.  There were only about 300 students enrolled.  The city government obviously was aware that this was a valuable piece of land next to Kroc Center and Tiger Lane.  The closed Coliseum was set to be demolished ... and Fairview sat on a great corner next door.  Hmmm.   The school's days were surely numbered.  But two events occurred at Fairview:  The district replaced a lot of broken windows around the building.  And then the city suddenly spent millions to totally renovate the grand old building - inside and out.  Old Fairview was new again and more beautiful than ever.    Surely there was a good reason for this renovation?


Broken Windows


Aerial View        

Fairview campus

Fairview campus

                Fairview campus


Renovated      Gym - Renovated Renovated Auditorium Renovated Renovated
"Fairview" today ... 

The letter on the right was sent home  with the students who were to attend the school for 2014-2015 year.  As far as we can determine this was the only notification about a major change in the school. 

If you are reading the letter for the first time, it's a sure bet that you'd think the Fairview Middle School would be renamed the "Fairview STEAM School".   But ... 
In one of the best-kept secrets in Memphis, Fairview  Middle School was quietly renamed the "Maxine Smith STEAM Academy."


Once again, the city government appears to re-write History by changing the name of a historic building.  In this case, the change probably saved Fairview from demolition.  But the new name will never be fully recognized because anything written about the school will always contain a footnote that this was originally Fairview Junior High.  Why wasn't this "new" school simply named the "Fairview STEAM Academy?"   
Maxine Smith's name deserves to be on a building - a newer building, not on a building dating from 1930. 



Fairview Junior High Memorabilia ...

1945 Report

1946 Report Card C.H. Wadley 1930 T. C. Brindley 1948 Diploma

Cheerleaders 1947

    1935 Diploma School Plan




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