At the polls on Oct. 29, 1877, the City of Bryan voted to establish a free public graded school--a very progressive step in an era of private schools. Interested citizens immediately bought and donated this block for the site. Financial help came from the George Peabody Foundation, a philanthropic agency devoted to education in the post-Civil War South. Cornerstone was laid in 1879. The first session opened in the fall of 1880 with noted East Texas educator Percy V. Pennybacker (1860-99) as principal. There were five other teachers and seven grades. Top floor of the 3-story brick building was the auditorium, used for chapel, calisthenics, and other programs. Dormer windows were set into the roof. Classrooms were on first and second floors; heating was by wood-burning stoves throughout the building. The schoolyard had a boys' and a girls' side. On each side there was an arbor with benches and tables where pupils ate lunches brought from home. A cistern with tin cups chained to its rim provided water. Outmoded by 1919, the old "graded" (or "east side") school became an adjunct to a new structure built that year, and housed gymnasium, cafeteria, and shop department. It was razed in 1949.