One Last Walk Through Nola Dunn Elementary
By Robert Griffith, Updated March 2010

During the first months of 2009, the Burleson ISD demolished Nola Dunn Elementary School. What a way to mark the centennial of the Burleson Independent School District!

As a product of the BISD, I am thankful for the education I received. I have supported, and will continue to support the BISD as it labors to provide schoolchildren with a decent education in challenging times while keeping up with a rapid population increase and changing technology and instruction methods. So while the buildings on the Nola Dunn campus appeared to be in decent, if not good shape, I understand the desire of the district to start over in constructing a modern, state-of-the-art school rather than invest capital enlarging aging structures. To spin a biblical phrase, one might say it is easier to destroy then to create...

Still, the historian in me, and the sentimental fool as it were, wishes the district had taken a different tact. The campus received considerable renovations in 2000 when it reopened as the Academy at Nola Dunn. When I spent three days photographing the campus in preparation for its destruction, I marveled at the new tile floors in the old school lunch room and the number of new walls within the old classroom wing. Was this money spent for nothing?

"Saving Nola Dunn" is a moot point now, since the buildings are gone. The edifice rising from the dust and ash of the old is stunning. I am proud of the district, the architects, and the skilled workers on site who conceived, designed, and are now building a structure that borrows from elements of the 1910 Burleson School. Still, nothing to be built on that site will inspire the affection I had for my old school, nor will it replace the simple structures where generations of students learned as Burleson grew from a small agricultural town of a few hundred to the big city it has become. Though the new school will keep the name Nola Dunn, it will forge its own story, its own history, and chances are fifty or sixty years from now, some young person will shed a tear when their old alma mater is done away with in favor of something bigger and flashier.

If you are interested in a CD of high-resolution pictures from Nola Dunn before, during, and after its demolition, please e-mail me.

View from Dobson Street looking toward Ellison
at the front of the Nola Dunn Elementary campus.

The front entrance to Nola Dunn Elementary.

Converted into the lunch room in about 1968, this room
originally served as the school's auditorium when built
in 1947. At some point, probably in the 1970s, sheet metal
covered the old picture windows. An extensive remodel of
the campus in 2000 reinstalled windows in this room,
affording students and educators alike a striking view
of Dobson Street and, in the distance, the Burleson skyline.

Another view of the aforementioned
lunch room looking toward the kitchen.

The trophy case off the main hall in the 1947-built
classroom wing. The smooth, off-white tile below the
case is original, stretching the length of the hall.

Just inside, one can go left to the lunch room or out a door to
portables and an all-purpose metal building; right to the school
and principal's office and what used to be the nurse's office,
two kindergarten classrooms, an A/V room, and other classrooms;
or straight ahead, as this view shows, to ten rooms in the old
classroom wing constructed in 1947 and added to in 1963.

Looking to the right where newer classrooms, the A/V room, the
nurse's office, speech therapy, a teacher's lounge, and two
kindergarten classrooms are located.

Looking left to the doors leading out of the classroom wing.

Outside the door mentioned above is a covered walk leading to
a portable building with two classrooms, an all-purpose building,
and, farther to the right, the shop building and gymnasium.

Looking back to the front doors of the school.

One of the few remaining doors in the old classroom wing.

Each room had one or two transom windows like this one.

Unfortunately, a teacher let their kids go wild in this
classroom, where I attended first grade. There are pen,
pencil, and washable marker scribbles from floor to ceiling.

Workers remove inset bookcases from the wall. At one time
metal lockers were in these walls. Behind them, the brick
marking the edge of the 1947 classroom wing is visible.

One of the classrooms looking out on the playground. This
room, along with others in the same hall, were added to
the school during previous expansions before 1980.

In this and other classrooms, gaps in the drop-down panels
reveal a previous ceiling and a mess of network cables and
electrical wires added over the decades.

The classroom where I had kindergarten, like its twin
next door, was added to the school prior to 1980.

The shop or vocational building, constructed in 1947.

Inside the classroom at the front of the shop building.
Note the new floors, windows, and cabinetry.

The gymnasium, constructed in 1936 for roughly $35,000
with assistance from the Works Progress Administration.
The gym was remodeled at a cost of $70,000 in 1977 and
remains in good condition given its age and use.

A mass of furniture being stored in the gymnasium.

Another view of the furniture being stored in the gym.

It takes a little imagination, but the wall in this picture
was once the "cut-out" in the gymnasium for a large stage.

Transom windows from the original classroom wing
sitting on the bleachers in the old gymnasium.

Burleson's first school lunch room, built in 1947, and later
used as a library, classrooms, the administration building,
and as the teacher resource center, "The Niche".

Looking from the front entrance of the original
lunch room building to the back of the structure.
Notice the fresh appearance of the floor, walls,
and ceiling of this soon-to-be demolished building.

The fireplace in the original lunch room
building is one of the few details of the
old structure still remaining.

One of two old windows in the original lunch room building still visible.
The others appear to be covered with sheet metal siding on the exterior
and drywall on the interior.

View from the rear of the original lunch room building looking forward.
Note that the interior of the building appears almost new and certainly
fresh and clean. There are no cracks in walls or the floor and no
evidence of leaks in the ceiling.

The utility closet in the original lunch room building has the other
remaining original window visible to the naked eye. Note the difference
between the walls in this room and those of other rooms in the structure.

This room appears to be a kitchen and laundry room, though by the taking
of this picture it is hard to tell what its purpose was. Again, look at
the clean condition of the walls, floor, and ceiling in the original
lunch room building, soon to be torn down.

Workers remove one of the large air-conditioning units.

Exterior of the original classroom wing (right) and a
section of an addition to the campus prior to 1980 (left).

One of the few outward signs of serious damage to the
Nola Dunn campus is this apparent rot in the soffit
on the old classroom wing.

The oldest piece of playground equipment at Nola Dunn.
I am unsure exactly when it was built, but my brother
played on it in the 1980s when it looked just as
weathered as it does today.

A lovely little flower blooms beside the shop building.

Related Article:
Replanting the Seed: Origins of the BISD, by Robert A. Griffith
The Burleson Gymnasium and Lunch Room, by Robert A. Griffith

Links