Annie Lytle Elementary School is also known as “Public School Number Four.” The grammar school turned elementary school closed its doors for good in 1960. Today, the abandoned school is known as one of the most haunted buildings in Florida.
Originally a small wooden schoolhouse
In 1891, a small wooden schoolhouse was built on the plot of land that would eventually become Annie Lytle School. This schoolhouse, known as Riverside Park School, was used until 1915 when it was deemed to be a fire hazard.
In 1917, a new schoolhouse was built on the site of the previous Riverside Park School. Construction was completed in 1918. Technically, its name was Public School Number Four, but it was never referred to as such. Instead, the new school became known as Riverside School or Riverside Grammar School.
Public School Number Four overlooked Riverside Park once it was completed. The building featured columns at the school entrance, a large gymnasium, high ceilings in classrooms, large windows, and even a fireplace in the cafeteria. All the classrooms were located on the second floor of the school, while the administrative rooms, cafeteria, library, and gymnasium were all located on the first floor.
Interstate construction forced the school’s closure
In the 1950s, the school was renamed Annie Lytle Elementary School to honor a former teacher and principle, Annie Lytle Housh. In the 1950s, construction began on the I-95 and I-10, which isolated the school.
The interstate was erected only one hundred feet from the school, which caused the school to become isolated. Similarly, the sound of the cars driving on the I-95 and I-10 drowned out the lessons being given in the classrooms on the second floor of the school.
The school was nearly demolished in 1999
The school closed its doors to students for good in 1960. After its closure, the building was used primarily as office space and storage for the Duval County Public School System. Many locals claim that the building was rented out to a Catholic School in the late 1960s or early 1970s, but there are no records to confirm this claim. The building was condemned in 1971.
The old school was sold in 1980 to the Ida Stevens Foundation, which wanted to renovate the school to create apartments for senior citizens. The Ida Stevens Foundation had undertaken a similar project with the Duval High School in Jacksonville. However, federal funding fell through and the school was never renovated.
In 1995, a fire caused part of the roof to cave in. In 1999, the school was nearly demolished but many historic societies rallied to have the school designated as a historic site. In 2000, Annie Lytle was designated as a historic site, which saved the school. However, the building has stood vacant for over 50 years now. Every surface of the structure is riddled with vandalism, and garbage is thrown throughout the property.
One of Florida’s “most haunted” buildings
Annie Lytle Elementary School is considered to be one of Florida’s most haunted buildings, though most of the myths seem to just be folklore. One story states there was a cannibalistic principal feeding on the students, while another myth claims there was a psychotic janitor who took kids to the boiler room to burn them alive. Of course, none of these myths are true.
Nonetheless, Annie Lytle Elementary School has been dubbed the “Devil’s School” because of these ghost stories. After the school was closed and abandoned it did become a hotbed for crime. Drug addicts and homeless people quickly moved into the abandoned building. There are multiple counts of vandalism, trespassing, breaking and entering, and arson. However, Jacksonville police assure everyone that these crimes happened after the school’s condemnation, not before.
Today, Annie Lytle Elementary School is completely fenced up with no trespassing signs. There are cameras monitoring the activity on the grounds and it is common for security to show up. People get arrested for being here so it is difficult for anyone to access the decaying school today.