The oldest high school in service in New Hanover County, New Hanover High School, at 1307 Market St., Wilmington [Map this], was the largest secondary public school in North Carolina when it was completed in the 1920s.
The county Board of Education began acquiring land on the 1300 block of Market Street in 1914, as the nearby neighborhoods of Winoca Terrace, Carolina Heights and Carolina Place were rapidly growing. A cornerstone for the new building was laid in 1919, and the first classes were held in the center block in 1922. Its adjoining wings were completed in 1925.
Designed by Wilmington architect Leslie N. Boney, the main building and its neighbor, Trinity United Methodist Church, are the only full-scale examples of glazed tile use in Port City architecture, according to historian Tony Wrenn.
The school gymnasium on Princess Street, also designed by Boney, was built between 1930 and 1940.
The auditorium, Brogden Hall — named for legendary football, basketball and baseball coach Leon Brogden — was completed in 1954, designed by Boney’s firm. For many years the largest public venue in New Hanover County, Brogden Hall was the scene of Azalea Festival pageants in the 1950s and ’60s and is still frequently used for public concerts.
A notable feature is the pedestrian bridge crossing Market Street in front of Brogden Hall and connecting the campus on the either side. Completed in 1976, it was designed by architect John R. Oxenfeld and built by Miller Construction.
The high school’s Isaac Bear Hall was originally built as a separate elementary school in 1918 on the south side of the 1200 block of Market Street. In 1947, it housed the first classes of Wilmington College, which grew into the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The college occupied all or part of Bear Hall until 1962, when it moved to its present campus off South College Road. Most of Bear Hall was demolished in 1964-65, although parts of the building remain in use as a campus annex.
For the first four decades of its history, during the segregation era, NHHS was the county’s white high school. Token desegregation under a “freedom of choice” plan began in the 1964-65 school, will full integregation, with full desegregation following the closure of nearby Williston High School in 1968
Notable NHHS alumni include the novelist and newspaper columnist Robert Ruark, the nationally known artist Claude Howell, broadcaster David Brinkley (who apparently never graduated, dropping out to work full-time for the Star-News), film and television actress Beth Grant (“Rain Man,” “Little Miss Sunshine”), Jim Goodnight, CEO of the business softward company SAS, and Don Payne, a writer and consulting producer for the animated TV series “The Simpsons.”
Two NHHS graduates received Medals of Honor during World War II: Charles P. Murray Jr., who retired from the U.S. Army as a colonel, and William D. Halyburton Jr., a Navy Corpsman killed in action while serving with U.S. Marines on Okinawa.
Among its athletic greats were NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Christian A. “Sonny” Jurgensen; Roman Gabriel, who went on to quarterback for N.C. State University, the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles; former NFL defensive end Clyde Simmons; NBA basketball player Kenny Gattison; and major league baseball outfielder Christopher T. “Trot” Nixon. Tennessee Titans tight end Alge Crumpler graduated with the Class of ’96; at NHHS, he was a state champion in the discus and a three-time state champion in the javelin.
Brogden — who doubled as New Hanover County’s athletic director from 1945 to 1976 — coached Jurgensen and also coached the Wildcats to six state basketball championships between 1956 and 1962.
Date posted: March 5, 2010
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