Graveraet then and now

Marquette school notes nine decades

MARQUETTE — A milestone is being noted for the stately brick building along Front Street where so many locals and former residents spent much of their formative youth.

The Marquette Area Public Schools Education Foundation held a ceremony Saturday to mark the 90th anniversary of Graveraet School, now an elementary school and the home of Kaufman Auditorium where many community events and concerts are held.

Helping coordinate the event, which was to include a presentation by local historian Jim Koski, was Linda Winslow of Marquette Township. A 1969 graduate of Marquette Senior High School, she also attended Graveraet in seventh and eighth grades.

It was a different world then.

“We had to get up really early because we had to take the bus,” said Winslow, who believed school started at 6:30 a.m.

Also, days were split for a time between the younger students and the high schoolers.

That made for a logistical challenge.

“We had to empty our lockers every day because someone else used the lockers in the afternoon, and if you didn’t empty your lockers, they threw your stuff on the floor,” Winslow said.

It also wasn’t easy on some students.

“We had to carry home books for five classes,” she said.

However, it might have been easier for other pupils.

“The high school students loved it because they didn’t have to get up,” Winslow said. “Their first class probably wasn’t until 12:30.”

The curricula was different as well.

“We didn’t have gym or home (economics), just core classes, I’ll call them,” Winslow said. “That’s all we had.”

However, there was music taught in the auditorium, she said.

Economics forced the half-day schedule.

“We went half-day because the residents of this community would not vote a millage to build a new high school,” WInslow said.

A book on Graveraet has been researched and presented by Sara Cambensy, now a state representative for Michigan’s 109th District and a former MAPS employee. It’s called “A History Of The Graveraet School.”

In September 1916, Louis G. Kaufman, a national banking figure and notable Marquette citizen, sent a letter and a check for $26,000 to the school board to cover the costs of land and clearing for the new school site.

The gift was given in memory of his mother, Juliet Adelaide Graveraet, who was the sister of Robert Graveraet, an early area pioneer.

Since the United States was swept into World War I, things were put on hold for a while, but on May 4, 1917, the board of education announced the new building would be called Graveraet High School.

The book includes an architect’s drawing of the school, which was erected at a cost of half a million dollars of taxpayers’ money and opened to the public in 1927. Its Kaufman Auditorium was named after Louis G. Kaufman, who established a $100,000 endowment for the school, while the Sydney Adams Gymnasium was named after pioneer Sydney Adams whose widow, Harriet R. Adams, donated the two lots on which the gymnasium stood.

Graveraet has seen many changes throughout the years. It has served as a school for junior and senior high, grades 9-12, grades 7-8, grades 6-8, grades 4-5, grade 5 and Marquette Alternative High School students during various periods.

The building now serves students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Not only is Graveraet Elementary School a place for education, its Kaufman Auditorium is a local center of culture for events such as lectures and concerts.

It’s also unique in that it’s home to a Steinway grand piano chosen by famed composer George Gershwin and donated to what was then Graveraet High School by Mrs. Alexander D.B. Pratt of Loma Farms.

Auditorium Director Lantz Whitfield handles all the bookings, scheduling and billing for the facility. He retired from teaching after 33 years, 25 of which he spent with MAPS as director of bands at what was then Graveraet Middle School, and director of bands at Bothwell Middle School.

“In my view, Graveraet is a product of ‘The Greatest Generation,’ largely seniors now,” Whitfield said in an email. “It was the only high school in Marquette until the current high school was built in the ’60s. Many generations of high school students graduated from Graveraet High School. The students of that generation were bonded by the struggles of those times. World War II, the Depression were all events that they experienced together and it seems to have created a special bond.”

In fact, he said Kaufman still hosts class reunions from graduating classes from Graveraet High School, including this summer’s reunion of the Class of 1959.

Whitfield also noted that Kaufman established a Lyceum program bringing in numerous travel programs, lectures and artists to present to Marquette’s schoolchildren and the general public.

“All of these things bonded the graduates of Graveraet,” he said.

Although many graduates undoubtedly have moved to other regions, there remains along Front Street the scenic brick building and grounds — which have a bit of mischief in their background.

“The school has lots of local history and charm,” Winslow said. “In the days of old, people used to put dish soap in the fountains, and there would be bubbles all over.”

Winslow said Graveraet still has its terrazzo floors, which grace cathedrals in Rome.

Terrazzo is a type of composite floor made from chips of various materials.

“It never really wears out, but it’s hard when you fall on it,” Winslow said, laughing.

Graveraet’s heritage can be continued in another way.

Donations may be made to the Marquette Area Public Schools Education Foundation, she said, by donating to a special Graveraet School scholarship. Interested donors can visit mapseducationfoundation.weebly.com.

Why does she believe Graveraet is special to the community?

“I think because so many people went there, and it’s been taken care of,” Winslow said.

She has little doubt that care will continue, comparing it with the Peter White Library.

“It’s like the library,” Winslow said. “People have that love of the building.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.