|Built in 1899, the Talent Elementary School is located in the center of Talent, Oregon and for more than a century and served literally and figuratively as the center of civic life in that community. First used as a school and then, acquired by the city in 1914, this one-story building has housed virtually every aspect of local government, serving as Talent’s city hall, city offices, post office, and the library in addition to hosting a wide variety of non-profit community groups, public lectures, dances, public movies, and other events. The Period of Significance under Criterion A, Education, begins in 1899 with the building’s construction and ends in 1911 when the building ceased to serve as a school. The building’s association with Government and Politics and Social History begins in 1914, with the city’s acquisition, and continues through 1971 when Talent built a new city hall and moved its administrative functions out of the building for the first time since 1914. The Talent Elementary School is locally significant under Criterion A, for its strong and continuing association with the development of Talent, Oregon and its role in that city’s local government. The building is also significant under Criterion C, as a rare and almost entirely intact example of 19th century wood-frame vernacular architecture as used for public purposes in the southern Oregon region. The period of significance under Criterion C is 1899, the date of construction.
Built in 1899 as the third building occupied by the Talent Elementary School, by 1912 this large one-story wood frame building located in the center of Talent, Oregon was in use as that city’s first city hall. Purchased from the school district in 1914, under various names the Talent Elementary School, including the Talent City Hall and the Talent Community Center, has housed the full range of public and social organizations that have collectively played a pivotal role in the history and development of the community. The Talent Elementary School has been formally known as the “Talent Community Center” since 1965. The property is eligible for listing under Criterion A and C, in the following areas of significance.
Education: Constructed in 1899, the third Talent Elementary School was constructed by School District #22 to accommodate a growing school-age population. In July 1899 the citizens of Talent unanimously approved funds to construct a new school in a special election. The new building was completed on schedule and classes were first held in the building in early December 1899. By 1910, after just eleven years of school use, the community of Talent was still growing and pressure again mounted for the construction of a newer and more modern school facility. Construction on the fourth Talent Elementary School, built of brick, began in May 1911 and was completed by late that year. Although the district may have held classes in both structures for a time during late-1911, the older wood-frame building was soon vacated.
Politics/Government: Occupied by city offices in 1912 and purchased by the City of Talent in 1914, four years after its incorporation, the Talent Elementary School was Talent’s first permanent city hall and until 1971 housed virtually all elements of local government, including administrative offices, city council chambers, police, public works, and the building and planning departments. Indeed, with the exception of the local fire department (located in a now removed structure elsewhere on the same tax lot) the nominated property contained all local government functions in Talent, Oregon for nearly seven decades.
Social History: The Talent Elementary School building is strongly associated with a variety of community and social functions in Talent, Oregon, including the “Ladies Improvement League (later the Talent Community Club), which advocated for the city’s original purchase of the property in 1914 and worked to maintain and improve the building and its grounds for local use. Between 1920 and 1964 the Talent Elementary School housed the Talent Library, partially funded and staffed by the members of the Community Club. Numerous other local groups and functions, including boy and girl scouts, the VFW, Lions Club, Talent Garden Club, Red Cross and others have all relied upon the Talent Elementary School for regular meeting space.
Architecture: The Talent Elementary School is a large and substantially “as-built” example of late-19th century wood-frame vernacular architecture, exhibiting elements associated with the Classical Revival style that was popular during the later part of the 19th century. One of, if not the, oldest example of wood-frame vernacular public-use structures in southern Oregon, the building exemplifies the design and character of typical construction as used for schools, churches, and other public buildings.