By John R. Schirmer
Historic Whiteside Hall Gymnasium in Nashville could receive a face lift in time for its 80th anniversary in 2020.
The Nashville School Board Monday night took the first step toward restoring the facility, which opened in the fall of 1940. The board authorized Superintendent Doug Graham to write a letter-of-intent to the Department of Arkansas Heritage stating the district’s interesting in applying for a grant to repair the structure.
Freddie Horne, president of the Howard County Historical Society and a former teacher, discussed the process with board members.
The window for submitting letters-of-intent opened Sept. 13 and closes in December, Horne said.
The process includes sending pictures of Whiteside and a letter saying that the district “wants to apply for a grant. They [DAH personnel] will come and look at Whiteside.”
Grants are awarded in March, according to Horne. If the application is approved, the work would be done in 2020.
The Department of Arkansas Heritage awards Historic Preservation Restoration Grants of $10,000 or above to owners of property which meet criteria such as being listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are owned by a not-for-profit organization or municipality. Whiteside meets those qualifications, Horne said.
Horne encouraged the district to apply for $100,000. Every $2 provided by the restoration program must be matched by the recipient with $1.
“If you can afford $50,000, there’s a good chance they’ll give you $100,000,” Horne said. “You can apply as often as you want to” after the initial funds are spent.
Horne said there are about 72 windows in Whiteside and most need to be replaced at a cost of about $1,000 each. Ten doors should be replaced at $1,000 each.
Horne showed pictures of windows which must be replaced, damaged wood and other items in need of repair.
In addition, “I don’t know if the electrical wiring meets code,” Horne said. If it doesn’t, the wiring must be brought up to code before any other grant funds can be spent.
Horne said a facility such as Whiteside likely will be moved to the top of the list when Arkansas Heritage considers grant applicants. It is on the National Register and is used extensively by the community, he said.
The restoration work can be done in stages as funds are available, according to Horne.
Whiteside was built in 1940 by the National Youth Administration, a New Deal agency sponsored by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. NYA was a branch of the Works Progress Administration and focused on providing work and education for Americans ages 16-25.
The gym is the last school building of this period to survive in Nashville, according to information provided by Horne at the meeting. Board members agreed that the historic building should be preserved.
The facility is named for John Garrett Whiteside, a Nashville native who served as a congressional secretary for Arkansas senators and representatives from 1907-1947. Whiteside was responsible for securing funding for the gym under the NYA program.
Whiteside typed the declaration of America’s entry into World War I, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
On Dec. 8, 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor the day before, Whiteside was responsible for certifying the declaration that a state of war existed between the United States and the Axis powers. Both houses of Congress approved the war declaration in a record time of 33 minutes, the encyclopedia says. “Whiteside was responsible for presenting that declaration for the signatures of Sam Rayburn of Texas, speaker of the House of Representatives, and Franklin Roosevelt, president.”
When Whiteside delivered the declaration of war to the White House for Roosevelt’s signature, the president reportedly said to him, “It is remarkable that you should have handled both resolutions which commit this country to the greatest wars in history,” according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
The typewriter which Whiteside used for the declarations is displayed at the Howard County Museum in the former Presbyterian Church building.
In 1945, Whiteside delivered the United Nations charter to the White House, along with the Senate ratification of America’s participation in the peace-keeping organization.
Whiteside had a heart attack at his home on July 2, 1947, and died before a doctor could arrive.
Horne’s presentation to the board followed the Scrapper Moment recognition which featured the Scrapper Supermarket foot pantry (see related story on page 1).
In other business, the board hired Tony Horn and Ashley Sweeden as bus drivers. Robert Henderson was hired as teacher and coach retroactive to the day when he started in the district.
Henderson earlier had been hired at Fountain Lake High School but left when the Cobras’ head coach abruptly resigned during fall camp.
Before the board meeting, district administrators presented their annual report to the public. The report will be included in the Sept. 25 News-Leader.