PORTLAND — Built on the site of a former horse racing track in 1922, Deering High School was recently named one of the most beautiful public high schools in the country by Architectural Digest magazine.
The magazine posted a list of the most beautiful high schools in each state on its website Sept. 12, and Deering was the choice for Maine.
The school, located at 370 Stevens Ave., was designed in the English Renaissance style, also known as Tudor Revival, by local architect John P. Thomas, according to information on Deering High’s history provided by Great Portland Landmarks.
Additions were built onto the original building in 1932 and 1982, Landmarks said, and the Maine Historic Preservation Commission determined it was eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
“The building’s Tudor inspiration can be seen in the large bay window with heraldic motifs above the main entrance, its strong horizontal banding and its quoin detailing,” Landmarks said.
“This style was typical of Thomas’ work and characterized his aesthetic, contrasting with his more contemporary design for the Stevens Avenue Armory less than 20 years later,” Landmarks added.
Stefanie Waldek, who wrote the piece on the nation’s most beautiful high schools for Architectural Digest, said in an email that she looked at hundreds of images in collating her list.
“After viewing dozens of schools per state, I selected ones that were architecturally significant—typically historic buildings, though some modern ones stood out, too,” she said. “And then I narrowed down my selection to one per state by making an aesthetic judgment.”
In the text of the article, Waldek said some of the nation’s public high schools “are veritable works of art (and) we wouldn’t blame you for mistaking them as universities, private homes, or even castles, in some cases.”
“Representing a vast range of architectural styles, from Gothic to Art Deco, these structures, both historic and modern, often represent the pride of a community,” the article added.
Landmarks said Deering High School was originally built to deal with overcrowding in the neighborhood’s original secondary school, now Lincoln Middle, which is also located on Stevens Avenue.
In addition, according to Landmarks, a new high school was needed after a 1921 fire at Lincoln Middle that damaged much of the building and left Portland’s Fire Captain dead and six other firefighters injured.
“Deering High School is the first of three public schools encountered when traveling north along Stevens Avenue towards Morrill’s Corner and has always been an important community hub,” Landmarks said.
The school’s web page says Deering has now become “the most diverse high school in the state of Maine. Our students speak over 50 home languages and come from more than 30 countries on five different continents.”
Portland architect John P. Thomas designed Deering High School in 1922 in the Tudor Revival style he most favored, according to Greater Portland Landmarks.
Deering High’s “Tudor inspiration can be seen in the large bay window with heraldic motifs above the main entrance,” Greater Portland Landmarks said.
A view of Deering High School circa 1925.