About Maury High School
Maury High School admitted students for the first time in the fall of 1910. As the oldest high school in the city of Norfolk, Maury is the alma mater to generations of Norfolkians, as well as alumni all over the world.
Built in 1910, Maury High School represented a state of the art high school hailed as “one of the finest buildings in the entire South,” according to the Virginian-Pilot in April 1910. The price tag for this beautiful building was $250,000.00. Norfolk High School, the city’s first comprehensive high school, opened its doors in 1895. A modest facility, it served city students until Maury High School opened.
George McKendree Bain served as the only principal of Norfolk High School, and, upon its opening, became the first principal of Maury High School. In the 1913 edition of The Blue Book, the Maury yearbook, Mr. Bain appears in the faculty list as the “Head of Latin Department” and Principal.
Through the years, the building expanded on its east and west sides in the early 1930s. A gymnasium and swimming pool were added in 1977, and a rear section and new cafeteria and media center were added in 1986.
While the building is an historic landmark, we are most proud of our distinguished alumni and a long tradition of academic excellence. Maury’s alumni includes The Honorable G. William Whitehurst, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and The Honorable John Charles Thomas, the first African-American appointed to the Virginia State Supreme Court.
Maury High School houses the Medical and Health Specialties program in association with Eastern Virginia Medical School. The relationship between Maury and EVMS, which dates back to 1986, allows Maury High School students to take courses at EVMS. The Advanced Placement (AP) course offerings for college credit are second to none, and Maury leads Norfolk Public Schools in participation and achievement in AP programs .
The picture to the right is an animated picture that shows how the facility changed over 100 years. To see the animation, you must click on the picture.
In 1935, staff member Elizabeth Gillespie, a member of the original Norfolk High School and Maury faculty reflected upon the early history of our school. It was published in the 1935 Commodore yearbook.
Norfolk High School
In the fall of 1894 Mr. George McK. Bain, M.A, assisted by Dr. Charles Crow, Mrs. Ella Winston, Miss Carey Reynolds, and Miss Sara T. Lyman organized the Norfolk High School. Before this date, Mrs. Hemenway had started a school in Brambleton, a suburb of Norfolk City. This property of Mrs. Hemenway passed into the hands of the Norfolk School Board, and here in Brambleton, in a Queen Anne cottage, was started the Maury High School.
The children came from the four grammar schools and the private schools of Norfolk. the School Board wished a fully graded high school which would articulate perfectly with the grammar grades and prepare for the colleges and universities of Virginia. This was no easy task; for of Virginia, with college ideas and ideals, Dr. Crow had been educated in Germany and had German ideas, Mrs. Winston and Miss Reynolds had had excellent private school training, Miss Lyman was the only one of the five who had passed through a high school. However, with these five teachers, the High School of the city of Norfolk was begun.
At the outset the following subjects were taught: Latin and Greek by Mr. Bain; German and Mathematics by Dr. Crow; English and history by Mrs. Winston,; French and history by Miss Reynolds; and Science, English and mathematics by Miss Lyman, now the wife of Dr. Charles Vance. The school day was divided into nine periods of thirty minutes each. This division of the day lasted for several years.
The school was popular from the start, and at the end of the first year the School board determined to enlarge the cottage. when September of the second year came, the building was not ready at that time to receive the pupils. The second year also saw some changes in the teaching staff. Dr. Crow had gone to the University of Florida, and two more teachers had been added to the faculty. Mr. Mallory cannon was appointed assistant principal and instructor in mathematics; Miss Lois Tilly of Bryn Mawr College to take the German classes and some mathematics, and Miss Elizabeth Gillespie of Wellesley College to organize and install apparatus for science classes. Mrs. Winston still had the English classes, Miss Reynolds, the French, and Miss Lyman, English, history, and mathematics.
There was at this time, for disciplinary purposes, a system of demerits carrying half-hour appointments after school. These half-hour appointments were met by teachers in turn, and the principal or the assistant principal was always present. The teacher in charge had some arithmetic to do in counting out daily demerits and checking out half-hour appointments.
Examinations were held yearly and not semi-annually as at present. A pupil entering a subject was not expected to finish it until the end of the school year; as a consequence, some pupils repeated a year’s work, and one pupil who has since become a successful businessman in Norfolk repeated his English history for five consecutive years. As he remained in the school all together six years, one can see how much his school life was devoted to English history. Those were truly pioneering days.
During that second year Supt. Kenton Murray, of Norfolk Landmark fame, passed to the Beyond, and we carried on our school work under his successor, Mr. R. A. Dobie. Mr. Dobie had a friend interested in school work in the person of Mr. Boswell Bagnall. These gentlemen were very fond of coming together to Brambleton to visit us, and Mr. Bagnall gave talks upon well known personages of history, such as Joan of Arc and Robert E. Lee. On such occasions, the classes were assembled in a large room on the second floor of the building, and all had the opportunity of listening to Mr. Bagnall’s eloquence.
When the fashion in education of making gardens was at its peak, there was one corner of the large school yard given over to the children’s gardens. Since there was no one to oversee them during school hours, their unaided efforts were not a success. Norfolk schools was to be made. In the High School we had drawings, compositions, diagrams and tabulations of various data to get properly placed in the exhibit.
Eventually the building in Brambleton had been enlarged until it resembled a setting hen with outstretched wings; but qith all the added rooms, the building was very inadequate and outmoded as a building for a high school. The grove in which it was located was originally a grove of tall Southern pines. These trees were disappearing one by one, and the little Queen Anne structure became more conspicuous in its inadequacy for educational purposes. It was a wooden building which finally one evening “took fire” and was partly burned down.
Mr. Dobie had in the meantime constructed a number of new brick grammar school houses. One of these, located on Omohundro Avenue, became the temporary home of Norfolk High School. Although the building in Brambleton was shabby, the pupils and Mr. Bain’s staff of teachers had won a place in the educational world of city and state. The Norfolk High School had high standards of scholarship, and the students and graduates then and since have taken responsible positions both in the state and nation. Our sojourn in the Omohundro building was only until a suitable structure could be built.
Into the new building we came in 1911, filling it and even then asking for more room. Then also came Assistant Principal M.K. Cannon with his card indexing system, and Mr. T.G, Rydingsvard with a well equipped Manual Training staff. The sciences were not forgotten, and the equipment then installed has had to care for not only classes of four teachers, as in 1911, but for classes of nine teachers with overcrowded laboratories and class rooms, as at present.
In 1912, while Mr. Bain was standing on the front steps of the new building he was accosted by a small boy: “Hi! Are you the king there?”
Messrs. Thompson and Neff, the architects, have enlarged the building to shelter the oncoming tide of young life, and still we are cramped for room. The departments of English, Mathematics, Languages, Sciences, Home Economics, Commercial and Manual Arts, Music, and Graphic Arts are fully organized and have more than their proper quota of students at present. The reorganization of the High School made a change in name necessary, so the name of Matthew Fontaine Maury, the south’s great geographer, was selected.
In 1916 the cultured, kindly gentleman, Mr. George McK. Bain, passed away. Mrs. Winston had preceded him, as had Miss Reynolds. To be with her brother, Miss Tilley had gone to New York City. Thus the old staff passed into new hands, with Mr. Mallory Cannon as principal for a short time. Our present Principal, Mr. A. B. Bristow, with Mr. Lemuel F. Games as Assistant Principal, now directs our course through this period of depression with its crowded classes and undermanned teaching corps.
Maury High School has had so many warm friends in Norfolk, so rich a heritage of worth while scholarship in teaching staff and graduate students that the future success should be assured.
April 3, 1935 ELIZABETH GILLESPIE