100+ YEARS OF EXCELLENCE
HISTORY OF TAYLOR
W. H. Taylor Elementary School was named in honor of Walter Herron Taylor. Norfolk-born Taylor lived out his life as an upstanding citizen of our city. He was a local banker, lawyer, author, and railroad executive. He served in Norfolk municipal offices and as a State Senator. The Taylor family also donated the Jean-Antoine Houdon sculpture of George Washington that still stands in the atrium of the school today.
Taylor School, which opened in September 1917, was built on a site formerly known as Cromwell Farm according to a document written by the school’s first custodian, Mr. George T. Sharp. He remained the custodian of the school for at least 33 years. The document, “History of Walter Herron Taylor School,” is still stored in the building and provides some colorful and little known history. It is not certain when the document was written, but it seems to date to around 1950.
Princess Anne Road was once mud, and later covered by oyster shells. “The site of the Taylor School was out in the country.” Sharp wrote. “There were very few houses from Princess Anne out to the underpass and to the west, none out to the N. & W. (Norfolk and Western) tracks. Colley Avenue, Hampton Boulevard and Princess Anne Road were mud roads. I have caught rabbits and killed snakes all around the school and (there were) birds of all kinds. After the first year, buildings were going up every day.”
There was no lunchroom in the beginning, but eventually one was added in the basement. The building started with twelve classrooms, with four more being completed by 1919. Taylor was the first “grammar school” in Norfolk to have an auditorium. Many school and community functions were held there, since it was the only auditorium in the area.
During the Spanish flu epidemic of 1919, Taylor School served as a hospital and was closed to students from late September to mid-November while the Red Cross turned classrooms into make-shift hospital rooms. Flu victims were brought in from all over the city. “The charge was one dollar a day for those who could pay and no charge for those who could not,” Mr. Sharp said.
By the 1990s, Taylor School was growing tired and lacked many of the modern necessities and technologies that are so critical to a twenty-first century education. The community and the city came to the realization that a new building would be an essential addition to our city. It was built directly in front of the old one, facing Princess Anne Road. The new W. H. Taylor Elementary School opened its doors to students in June 1999, and was dedicated in January of 2000.
Walter Herron Taylor Elementary School has a tradition of providing a quality public education to the citizens of Norfolk and the school continues to be the cornerstone of a proudly diverse and caring community.
Yolanda Brown, 4th Grade Teacher, W. H. Taylor Elementary