Artist & Architect of the Jewel on the Hill: Walter Roy McCornack
A celebration of Handley High School in its 100th anniversary year would not be complete without an examination of the architecture yielding this stately structure on its perch. On Sunday, March 3 at 2:00 p.m., Winchester historian Carl Ekberg will present: “Artist and Architect of the Jewel on the Hill: Walter Roy McCornack” in the Patsy Cline Theatre at Handley. Ekberg will also discuss the consequential alliance in 1919 of R. Gray Williams, President of the Handley Board of Directors; Fred Clerk, first superintendent of the Winchester Public Schools; and Walter McCornack, architect of the school. This important triumvirate, often overshadowed by John Handley himself, had a huge impact on what Handley High School would become – its type of school, educational philosophy, building design, and site plan. Ekberg’s presentation is free and open to the public.
R. Gray Williams, lawyer and president of the Handley Board of Trustees, had big, even grandiose, plans for Winchester’s new school to be constructed with funds from the Handley bequest. As speculation has it, on Saturday morning, July 19, 1919, he escorted architect Walter Roy McCornack of Cleveland to the corner of Braddock and Gerrard streets in Winchester, gazed westward, spread his arms, and proclaimed, “We’ve got 72 acres, plenty of money, and we want a school that’s distinctive and extraordinary; what can you do for us?” McCornack gulped, took a deep breath, and articulated a vision for a grand plan, based on Jeffersonian principles, that would integrate school building,
grounds and academic centers within. Williams immediately grasped the brilliance of McCornack’s vision and exclaimed that “Handley will become the intellectual and civic center, as well as the outdoor playground, of this town and region.” Winchester would never be the same.