Woodrow Wilson High School, Restoration Award

100 South Glasgow Drive
Dallas, TX

Historic Restoration Award

This award acknowledges a historic resource that has been properly restored to a specific time period. Projects must fully demonstrate adherence to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Restoration. A special emphasis is placed on completed projects where owners, architects and contractors practice exceptional care in respecting the original fabric and setting of a historic structure.

Woodrow Wilson High School was designed by the prominent Dallas architect Mark Lemmon and opened in 1928. Designed in the Elizabethan Style, it was located on the eastern edge of the City of Dallas, and was constructed as the most innovative and certainly the most expensive high school at that time.

Woodrow had been the recipient of very limited regular maintenance and bond-funded improvements; resulting in overcrowded conditions, unsympathetic alterations of the building’s interior ambiance, and advanced deterioration of many of the building’s important features. Fortunately, school staff, alumnae and the community had kept close watch on the historic school and had worked with the Dallas ISD to avoid the kinds of renovations and improvements that have proven disastrous to the historic character of schools in many parts of the country. In 2008, a bond program was passed, providing $14 million for a major addition and to correct many of the school’s most pressing needs, including preservation needs.

This bond funding was viewed by the Woodrow community as an opportunity to address many critical needs and to replace, restore and implement solutions in a way that was not just sensitive to the historic structure, but allowed restoration of important systems and architectural elements. To this end, all of the wooden and metal windows were retained and restored to their original condition. Historic metal lanterns, originally fabricated by local Potter Art Metal were refurbished or replicated in the same bronze and brass materials by the current Potter Art Metal (now operated by the grandson of the creator of the original fixtures). Where classrooms were rehabilitated, the character-defining woodwork was preserved and new acoustical ceilings were installed to the height of the original ceilings, preserving the full height of the original windows. The auditorium was restored and the front hallway was modified to be more like its 1928 appearance. Most importantly, a major addition was constructed and added in such a way as to be consistent with the provisions of the Secretary of the Interiors Standards.

To the community, the bond represents victory over the existing challenges of an aging facility and recognition of the value of the rich historic character of the architecture to today’s students and the community.

The most immediate challenge was the location and configuration of the new addition to best address the overcrowding. A historically appropriate response seemed to dictate that the addition be 3 stories to match the historic school. The response was a thoughtful addition that does align the height of the historic school and connect each floor level via a transition element that clearly defines and separates the old and new. The new building stands as a product of today’s construction yet shares a material and color palette with the historic school. The renovation and restoration of Woodrow Wilson High School is a bold recognition by the Dallas ISD of the proper approach to historic buildings and a willingness to work with the needs of the campus and desires of the community.