First Coast Finds: Annie Lytle School | News

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First Coast Finds: Annie Lytle School

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Hundreds of thousands of people drive past her every day without even a notice. Under the busiest freeway interchange in Jacksonville sits one of the city's oldest schools. 

The Annie Lytle School has been closed for decades but a special group of people wants to keep her in the public eye and preserve her dignity.

Public School Number Four was built in 1917 and later renamed Annie Lytle School after a long time teacher and principal. The windows and doors have long since been boarded up and plants have taken over. But one group who wants to save the school is dedicated to cleaning it up and attempts to reverse the vandalism that occurs here almost weekly. "With just plywood it's hard to keep the vandals out," says Paul Bremer, a volunteer with a group that calls themselves Save Public School Number 4. "It's a mess in here and it's been vandalized for many, many years," said Bremer.

Bremer is one of a few dozen volunteers who wants the school saved. Over the years, the once ornate halls and classrooms of Annie Lytle have been overtaken with graffiti. "It's been going on for 25 years. They're probably the children of some of the people that originally put graffiti in here that are now putting graffiti in here," said Bremer.

Despite the no trespassing signs and plywood over entrances, people still make their way in, usually at night. Some post their experiences on YouTube. Kids are drawn here because they think the place is haunted. Others come here for shelter.

Volunteers like Patsy Bryant remember as a little girl when Annie Lytle was a vibrant school before it closed in 1960. She wants the building to regain its dignity. "I saw it when it was in good shape and I have watched it end up like it is right now. I want to do something about it and I want this building open," said Bryant.

It's a constant fight between those who want to damage the school and those want to save it. Last year, the roof of the auditorium caught fire and this year a car smashed into the front of it. Annie Lytle is on the Jacksonville historic register and it would take city council action to tear it down. But the conservation group is confident Annie Lytle can be saved. "I'd like to see this school preserved, the easiest thing to do is to do it as a school," said Bremer.

But for now Annie Lytle remains as a century old Landmark Legend whose fate is still uncertain.

There have been efforts to turn the school into condos over the years but those plans have failed. Studies have shown to renovate it as a school would cost between $7 and $9 million dollars. Save Public School Number Four is looking for more volunteers to help clean up the building. They meet every weekend.

Here's a link to their Facebook page.


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