Nation Ford High built to mark town's past, future

Big windows are one of the features of the new Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill.
Big windows are one of the features of the new Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill.

FORT MILL -- When Nation Ford High School is unveiled at Sunday's dedication, residents might find it reminiscent of Fort Mill's past and indicative of a shining future.

That was the vision of Jimmy Wilhide of Moseley Architects, who designed the building.

"The exterior is intended to reflect the historic context of the textile mill," Wilhide said. "We wanted red bricks and simple detailing, but the textile mill is also about big windows and is usually two stories. It's the architectural vocabulary of a mill."

Simple earth tones were brought inside to reflect the surrounding area: terrazzo tile, carpeting resembling textured textile.

Large windows are inset with abstract steel design.

"That is the promise of the future," Wilhide said. "It's a school linked to the past and responding to the future."

Its interior design is mostly linear, but the building bends to follow the curve of the site itself.

It is "master-planned" for future additions, said Jim Britton of the Fort Mill school district's growth consultant, Southern Management Group. It can accommodate an auxiliary gym, a third classroom wing and a stadium in the future.

The 250,000-square-foot school cost about $43.1 million of a $62.55 million voters approved in a bond sale referendum several years ago, Britton said.

Nation Ford High School will open for about 900 students in grades nine through 11 on Aug. 22. It can accommodate about 1,500 students.

In an educational environment encouraging more choice for families and students in public schools, a stand-alone auto technology building is under construction on the site.

In addition to 32 regular classrooms, the school also houses numerous specialty classrooms: 12 science laboratories and special classrooms for business, journalism, pre-engineering, health science, hospitality and tourism, special needs, band, chorus, drama, art, advertising design, health science, food nutrition and more.

The athletic wing includes a 1,800-seat gym, plus fitness and training rooms, physical education classrooms and locker rooms.

The 912-seat auditorium is a fully operating theater with full fly areas, specialty lighting, catwalk, dressing rooms and its own scene shop.

"The school is ready," said Beverley Bowman, Nation Ford principal. "We're excited to open the doors for the first time. We'll try to start the first day of school as an average day."