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Lee School | Photo © 2014 Bullet, www.abandonedfl.com

Lee School

City/Town:
Location Class:
Built: 1915 | Abandoned: 2008
Historic Designation: National Register of Historic Places (February 17, 1995)
Status: Under Renovation
Photojournalist: David Bulit
leeschool
A postcard of the Lee School, including the auditorium which is shown to the left.

The Lee School, later known as the Lee Adult Education Center, is a historic school in Leesburg. The first schools in Leesburg were private institutions with the first being a little log cabin located at the site of Lone Oak Cemetery. There was a later building located at the site of the present city hall where the first floor was used as a school and for church services, and the second floor served as a Masonic Lodge meeting hall.

The first public school was established in 1889. Since there were no county or state funds to building schools at the time, the citizens of Leesburg purchased a brick building located 13th Street, where the Melon Patch Theatre is located today, from the Florida Methodist Conference.

Renewed prosperity in Lake County prompted the County Board of Public Instruction to construct a series of modern schools. Between 1914 and 1916, schools were constructed in Clermont, Umatilla, Tavares, and Leesburg. Students in rural districts were transported to the larger schools where they could benefit from the better facilities. The consolidation of schools also meant that more money could be spent on fewer but more efficient facilities.

In 1914, the old school on 13th Street was condemned, and construction began on a new school building and auditorium. Designed to hold grades 1 through 12, the new buildings were completed in the spring of 1915 at the cost of $40,000.

Lee School | Photo © 2014 Bullet, www.abandonedfl.com
The school was last known as Leesburg High School before its closure

The south building housed all the grades until 1918 when further consolidation by the Board of Public Instruction prompted the construction of the north building. The structure was completed in 1923 and became the high school. Due to schools closing in outlying areas such as Whitney, Lisbon, and Yalaha, more rooms were needed and twelve classrooms were added in 1926.

Enrollment at Lee School continued growing rapidly and it became necessary to hold classes in nearby churches. Leesburg High School located on 14th Street was constructed in 1927 to house the junior and senior high school students.

Between 1928 and 1974, Lee School served as an elementary school. During that time, the auditorium was razed, as well as the twelve classrooms which were added in 1926. The school also served as a community center and a hurricane shelter. During World War II ration books were issued at the school, and the facility served as a daycare center for children of mothers working in the war effort.

In 1974, a cafeteria was constructed and it became Lee Adult Education Center, providing citizens of Lake County who have not finished high school with the opportunity to obtain a diploma. On February 17, 1995, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, joining the Mote-Morris House as the only other Leesburg site on the list.

By 2008, the school was closed and the property was put up for sale by the Lake County School District. The property was purchased in 2014 by Tony Benge, a developer based out of Orlando, for $200,000. Current plans call for restoring the buildings and turning the property into a 152-unit for people needing memory care, assisted living, and independent living. Many years later, nothing had been done with the property and its rapidly deteriorating condition has given it a place on the Florida Trust’s 2020 11 to Save, a list of the most threatened historic properties in the state.

Bullet

David Bulit is a photographer, author, and historian from Miami, Florida. He has published a number of books on abandoned and forgotten locales throughout the United States and continues to advocate for preserving these historic landmarks. His work has been featured throughout the world in news outlets such as the Miami New Times, the Florida Times-Union, the Orlando Sentinel, NPR, Yahoo News, MSN, the Daily Mail, UK Sun, and many others. You can find more of his work at davidbulit.com as well as amazon.com/author/davidbulit.

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