Clift High School
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Henry G. Clift High School - 1950's
Picture from the collection of Henry J. Stern

This page contains a brief history of the first Opelika public schools............

Since the early 1900's there have been six schools that were used as High Schools in Opelika, Alabama.  You will find images of Opelika High Schools on the Opelika's Public Schools and the Opelika High Schools pages. 
The image on this page is the Robert G. Clift High School named for the current mayor at the time.  Clift High, which served grades nine through twelve, was built in 1918 after the previous high school was destroyed by fire in late 1916 or early 1917.   A new high school replacing Clift High at a different location was completed in 1959.


Henry G. Clift High School

 A brief history of Clift High School

It was reported that Opelika's high schol was destroyed by fire on January 16, 1916.  The loss was estimated at over $20,000.00 with only insurance to cover $12,000.00.  186 students attended and had to be provided for after the fire.  Temporary quarters were secured at once.  The planning for a new high school building, modern in every way, began soon after.  The new building was to be built on the same site as the old one.
The contract to erect the new high school was given to W.A. Screws.  It is not clear why he gave up the contract at a later date, but it was rumored that W.J. Padgett had later secured the contract after it was re-let.  The plans had to be changed considerable and the contract was reduced to about $33,000.00.  

year later, an article in the newspaper dated January 1918 (writer unknown) entitled "New High School Building about Ready for Occupancy"  the writer stated....
     Many people have been prevented by the bad weather of the last two months from keeping up with the progress in the building of the new high school.  But should they go out to the site where once was the old building they would find an agreeable surprise awaiting them, even as the writer was surprised.  One cold and cloudy afternoon last week on the invitation of Prof. White we went out to look the new building over, and to tell the truth, judging by impressions gained from hearsay, did not expect to find anything so nearly elaborate as we did.  We were fairly astonished on the first sight.  Contructed throughout of dark red brick with sandstone, of severe and simple lines, the whole building stood out with the clearness of a cameo against the leaden sky of that afternoon, giving it a grandeur and magnificence that is almost indescribable.  The newest thing in the eaves, roof makes it different from anything in Opelika.  All equipment will be of the latest, including sanitary drinking fountains and heating equipment.  A feature of the whole building which impressed us was the lighting arrangements.  Even on as dark an afternoon as the one of our visit, every room was astonishingly well lit.  All rooms are wired for electric lights.  All equipment for the new school is of the most modern type.  Prof. White says that the graduating class this year, the class of 1918 and the largest year graduated from the Opelika High School....said that they were going to hold their graduating exercises in the new aditorium whether it is finished or not......and the professor says they shall if it is in his power to let them.(writer unknown)

Some text was taken from a newspaper article dated January 20, 1917 - writer unknown

Note:  When finished the building and equipment will have cost about $60,000.00.  It was decided that the building would be named "Henry G. Clift High School", after the current mayor at the time.  An athletic field was not constructed until 1934 (sixteen years later)......more on that later.  


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