Special Report: Bay High’s Landmark Buildings to be Torn Down

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Inside Building 11 at Bay High School, there are subtle reminders of what was once the school’s cafeteria.

“Some of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life we’re right here in this cafeteria,” said Superintendent Bill Husfelt, who graduated in 1976.

A floppy disk stuck in the ceiling beam puts into perspective just how long its been since the cafeteria last served students. For the past 16 years, the building has been used for wrestling practice and storage.

A walk inside, however, brings back memories for the alumni who ate lunch there.

“I would have a Pepsi and a bag of potato chips. They were ten cents a piece so I could eat in the cafeteria for a dollar, five days a week,” said Dianne Cowgill, Class of 1961.

“Thursday was a big day. You always brought an extra dollar because it was fried chicken day,” recalled John Whited, Class of 1980.

The cafeteria was built in 1955. It was an addition to the original, iconic building on Harrison Avenue, which first opened as “Bay County High School” in 1926.

“My daddy graduated from here in 1933 so it’s been a historical monument here on Harrison Avenue,” said Ann Digsby, Class of 1959.

The memories and sentiments may be strong, but the buildings haven’t held up as well.

The original building closed in 1974 to make way for the current administration building. That pales in comparison to what’s about to happen to the campus, though, beginning next year with the demolition of the old cafeteria.

“It’s been more or less storage and so the time has come where we need the space more than we need the storage so we’re getting ready to tear it down,” Husfelt said.

Over the next five years, School Board members will spend more than $20 Million in Half Cent Sales Tax dollars and private donations to revitalize the county’s oldest high school.

Construction crews will also be tearing down the math and science classroom wings to make way for a new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) building and the Barbara W. Nelson Fine Arts Center.

In 2015, The Marion G. and Barbara W. Nelson Family Foundation donated about $7 Million to help build fine arts centers at Bay and Mosley High Schools.

“Really hate to see this building go, but we’re going to have a much better thing here,” Whited said.

The new additions will provide more opportunities to students, but one of the changes will be a nod to the past. The district is renovating the administration building to resemble the original architecture.

“In four years, Harrison Avenue will look totally different than it looks now,” Husfelt said.

Many alumni have expressed interest in having a brick from the cafeteria or classrooms. The district anticipates construction crews will be able to save some of the bricks so school organizations can sell them to raise money.

There are no plans to tear down the old gymnasium, which still hosts physical education classes and sports practices. Some alumni joke that it smells the same now as it did decades ago.

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