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Fair Street opens its doors to students, community this week
Fair Street Alumni Association’s Linda Hutchens prepares to place a photograph of the original Fair Street School inside a glass case that lines Heritage Hall on Friday inside the new Fair Street Elementary. Hutchens has dozens of old photographs to place in the case when framed. Anyone wishing to donate an 8-by-10 picture frame may bring them to the school’s main office.

Fair Street School ribbon cutting
When: 4 p.m. today
Where: 695 Fair St., Gainesville
Note: Participants are asked to wear school colors, maroon and white.

Sitting in the Gainesville school superintendent’s office is a stuffed tiger named Tyrone.

“He has been in the Fair Street office for as long as we know,” Merrianne Dyer said. “At least 40 years, if not longer.”

But Tyrone has been without a permanent home for the past two years since the former Fair Street School building was razed so a new elementary school building could take its place.

Today, school officials, alumni, students and community members will gather for a ribbon-cutting at the new Fair Street School. The building officially opens to students Wednesday following fall break.

Tyrone’s new home awaits him in Heritage Hall, the school’s main entrance, soon to be lined with memorabilia from years past, merging the old with the new.

Former Fair Street students and others have been donating items they’ve kept through the years.

“Most of the items may be like yearbooks, pictures, diplomas and other artifacts like that,” Fair Street Principal William Campbell said. “It’s neat to look at the pictures and see who is in the pictures and say, ‘Oh! His great-grandchild goes to Fair Street.’”

Historian and Fair Street alumna Linda Hutchens has been the appointed curator of many of the items. While some are in storage, she also has kept several pieces in her home. Along with her report cards, the high school diplomas of her parents will be displayed.

“There are other old newspaper articles that I have,” she said. “There are some old programs, graduation programs. Just things like that.”

In the former building, some items were on display, but Heritage Hall will serve as a larger, dedicated area for what really amounts to a museum exhibit.

As current students walk through the main hall every day on their way to class, they will be able to see the pictures and memorabilia. Campbell said the sense of history runs deep, even in the youngest of students.

He shared a story of a child who noticed a picture that was hung in the former building.

“One of the kids saw one of the maintenance guys and said, ‘Mr. Smith, I saw you in the picture when you went to Fair Street,’” Campbell recalled. “He said, ‘What picture?’ And they showed him the picture, and it was a picture of his father when he went to Fair Street. So that is another neat part about it. There’s a lot of history, a lot of family, a lot of deep traditions.”

Several students have had families attend the school for generations since it opened in the 1930s to serve Gainesville’s black community. Campbell said that now he is seeing the children of former Hispanic students come through, adding a new layer to the school’s unique diversity.

“There’s such a deep sense of pride, family pride and community pride,” Campbell said. “They’re just so proud of their school.”

Dyer said she is looking forward to seeing the restored photographs displayed in the cases and on the walls. She said she hopes a picture of one landmark will find its way to the school.

“There was a candy shop on the corner across (from) the school, called Miss

Marie’s Sweet Shop,” Dyer recalled. “I heard people talk about it forever. I’m hoping (a picture) will emerge. I’ve often wondered if there is one.”

Also on display will be the athletic trophies, including the back-to-back state football championship awards the Fair Street team won in the 1950s when the school served high school students.

And, of course, Tyrone the stuffed tiger will be there as well.

“I am cleaning him up, making sure he’s sewed and looking nice for his return,” Dyer said.

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