LHS’ main building turns 90 years old

Skylar Raymond, Features Assistant

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During spring break this year, the LHS building sat empty on March 26. But that date marked the 90th anniversary of the opening of the main building on the school campus. Steven Branting, a local historian, graduated from LHS in 1966 and gave The Bengal’s Purr insight to the unique history behind the school and its main building.

Lewiston High School’s main building was built in 1927 by Curtis Richardson (who also built the Davenport Hotel in Spokane). It was actually the fifth high school building that had been built in Lewiston. After opening this building in 1928, LHS became one of the largest and most prestigious public schools in the Northwest, Branting said.

Although the building has some differences now, most of the structure and layout is the original. One of the biggest differences in the main building today is that it no longer has a gymnasium. With the original building, there was no Booth Hall for the gym. For basketball games and P.E. classes, students used the stage in the auditorium. Booth Hall opened in 1963, and by the summer of 1972, a wall went up behind the auditorium, blocking off some of the stage.

The main building also originally had large windows that started at the base of the building and extended to the roof. On the first floor, the classrooms that now house English and journalism were previously chemistry rooms.

In 1955, the building gained two entire wings. These added two floors of classrooms and a library to the original structure, virtually doubling the size of the footprint of the school. Looking down the halls of the main building, Branting pointed out, one can see where the original wall structure ends and where the newer classroom add-ons begin.

Lewiston High School used to have graduating classes of more than 600 people. Today, most graduating classes are around 400. This was because parents from all over the prairie wanted their children to attend LHS, Branting explained. Students who lived far from Lewiston stayed with families during the week to go to school. Some students stayed in town all year and not see their families for long periods of time.

The reason for this, Branting said, was that LHS was considered one of the best schools in the area before other high schools were built. The high school had the first-ever band and orchestra in the Northwest, established in 1906. Students and staff saw this as a great accomplishment and, at one point, the music classes had over 150 students. From winning awards, to making college scholarships available, the band and orchestra were a huge starting point for LHS, Branting said. The programs brought students from all over the area.

The LHS community has bled purple and gold from day one. There are different assumptions of how the colors came about, but the most common theory is that they came from plums.

Lewiston’s downtown area was busy with plum farming in the early 1920s, Branting said. The deep purple, from the outside of the plum, shows devotion and wisdom; while the rich gold on the inside symbolizes compassion and courage, he explained.
Although the LHS community has sported purple and gold for over 90 years, the mascot wasn’t always the Bengal. Historians have yet to find out which mascot came first, but the class of 1924 chose the Bengal for its strength and power, Branting said.

Since its opening, Lewiston High School has had a strong impact on the community surrounding it. The growth of the town is credited to the high school’s accomplishments, Branting said, and the school continues to leave its mark every day. It gives the community public education and school spirit that last a lifetime. Branting said that he sees alumni of LHS continue to show Bengal spirit and pass it through the generations. All of this positive influence comes from the supportive community and authenticity of the building, Branting said. In 2016, a bond passed for a new high school to be built in Lewiston. This new building will give students more opportunities to succeed in high school and will have enough room for freshman students as well as sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The original main building however, will be used by LCSC for extra classrooms and may be renovated in the future.
With the new high school under construction on Warner Avenue in Lewiston, the legacy of the original building will continue to inspire future students in the years to come.

Lewiston High Schools campus layout in 1950, without the science building. Photo courtesy of Steven Branting.

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LHS’ main building turns 90 years old