Tennessee Modernism: Highlander Folk School by Stanley C. Reese

Structure: Highlander Folk School, Allardt Campus
Location: Allardt, Tennessee
Architect: Stanley C. Reese
Date: 1933
Tidbit: You may know of the Highlander Folk School (now called the Highlander Research & Education center). But you may not know about the time that ambitious school tried to create a new headquarters.

In December of 1933, after having been gifted 200 acres of land near Allardt, Tennessee, the Highlander Folk School decided to create a new, more prominent campus to function as their headquarters. The goal was to transition by 1934. The co-founder (and director) of the school, Myles Horton, took to the newspaper to proudly proclaim this new goal.

Reese’s drawing mixes a bit of prairie style with arts and crafts (a-la Greene & Greene)

The school commissioned architect Stanley C. Reese to design the new headquarters. Reese was a Chattanooga-based architect at the TVA, although its unclear if he worked at the TVA when he was commissioned. Reese was tasked with making a structure that would awe those who beheld it, and Reese delivered. His plans were hefty and stunning, receiving praise in Pencil Points (June 1936), specifically for their detail. The plans included a dorm large enough for 15 students, a furniture-making shop, and a teacher’s cottage. What the plans lacked, however, was practicality.

In February of 1934, the school wrangled some volunteers to help build the structure. In order to keep costs down, they were instructed to use only wood and sandstone found on the property. Every day, in the bitter cold, the ragtag 15-person crew of college students and employed factory workers attempted to cut + haul 85 tons of sandstone from the quarry. It proved to be an extremely slow process, one which took until September of 1934. In October, with no money left to support the new build, the school called the Allardt project quits.

Horton’s article proclaiming the new venture featured this picture of the 28-year-old Reese