Bay City Central High School, Bay City, MI

Date posted: April 24, 2013


First occupied in 1922, the three-story Bay City Central High School had been expanded and renovated many times but by 2006, the gothic-style facility was in serious need of renovation.

One of the most significant remodeling projects took place in 1979 when, to conserve energy, original double-hung windows were replaced with insulated panels and considerably smaller double-hung windows. This remodeling greatly altered the exterior and interior appearance of the beautiful gothic revival structure.

During the same remodeling, the third floor was dramatically altered to create an expanded library in the west wing and larger lecture/lab science facilities in the east wing. These alterations eliminated a central corridor with terrazzo floors and lockers both sides.


  • Need to update 1970s efforts to make building energy-efficient with modern technology
  • Need interior electrical upgrades to add numerous computer labs
  • Need bond funding to support the school’s renovation

By the numbers

Dates of Original Construction: 1921, 1930 (3rd floor added to East and West Wings), 1957, 1973, 1994
Dates of Renovation: 1973, 1975, 1979, 1994, 2009
Total Cost of 2006 Renovation: $19 million
Enrollment: 1640 students
Architect: Wigen Tincknell Meyer & Associates, Inc.


A bond issue approved by the voters in 2006 afforded the district an opportunity to improve the educational environment at Central High School while restoring much of the building’s historic character. Construction began on the phased project in 2007 and was completed in 2009.

The school district and the architect, a graduate of Central High School, were committed to restoring architectural integrity while improving the learning and working environment.

Interior renovations to the building were respectful of the architecture while meeting modern needs and educational requirements.

New heating and air conditioning was integrated into the building with minimal noticeable change. Piping and ductwork was installed above corridor ceilings so that classroom ceiling heights could be maintained as high as possible. The modern, high efficiency heating, ventilating and air conditioning system now affords all occupants a comfortable environment while substantially reducing energy consumption.

By necessity to meet appropriate lighting levels, most lighting is accomplished with high efficiency fluorescent lighting. The main entrance lobby was outfitted with period reproduction pendant fixtures. Original ceiling mounted light fixtures in the auditorium were reconditioned and reinstalled thereby holding true to the original architecture.

The third floor West Wing was restored to its original character by restoring the center corridor with classrooms on each side. The restored plan resulted in a bonus in that corridor terrazzo floors had not been removed. They were restored as a part of returning the central corridor plan.

The East Wing of the third floor was also returned to a center corridor plan with terrazzo floors. Science facilities were reconfigured on either side of the corridor providing modern, state of the art facilities for all science curricula.

The exterior of the building underwent extensive rehabilitation/restoration. Masonry consisting of brick and extensive decorative terra cotta required substantial tuckpointing and repair. Some terra cotta that was beyond repair was replaced with a replication made of reinforced resinous product. The most notable of the replacements involved seven foot tall finials; two on each corner of the tower.

Insulated panels and windows installed in 1979 were removed and replaced with large double hung wood windows  that match the original windows. The new windows, equipped with high performance insulated glass, equal the energy performance of the 1979 infill while introducing natural light into classrooms, offices and media center. The new windows are equipped with translucent roller shades that reduce glare from bright sunlight yet allow natural light to illuminate the interior of the building. The flexibility of shading windows is intended to reduce the need for fluorescent lighting.

New entrance doors, even though constructed of modern products to be more energy efficient and damage resistant, are reflective of the original entrances due to the replication of glass panels.

Capping off the exterior restoration is the incorporation of post lights at the main entrance, auditorium entrance and the original gymnasium entrance. These post fixtures closely resemble the original post lights removed many years earlier.

A one-story addition of 8,630 square feet provided increased space for offices so that all administrative functions could be centrally located. The addition also allowed the Library/Media Center to be relocated to the first floor where it would be more centrally located. The addition is reflective of the original architecture but is set apart by simplified architectural detailing.

Key takeaways

  • Rehabilitation is cost-effective. This entire renovation was accomplished for half the cost of a new building. 
  • Additions can help keep a historic school in use by housing new uses and new mechanical systems and allowing the historic building to meet other educational and facility goals.
  • Rehabilitation of existing buildings is the highest form of “green architecture.”



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