The Cohn building opened in 1928 as a junior high and the first phase of the building, as we know it today, was only in the northwest wing. By 1936, the Nashville City School Board determined West Nashville was ready for a new high school. Today, looking at the building from Park Avenue, the 1936 addition was a new wing that was added to the left side of the building. In 1936 Cohn ran the length of Park Avenue from 48th to 49th Avenues. In less than 10 years the Cohn building doubled in size.
In 1936, the official name of the school was changed to Corinne L. Cohn High School. The tenth grade was added in September 1936. During this period in the history of America the WPA (Works Progress Administration) was operating a movement to give Americans jobs to be self supporting and help the country with relief from the Great Depression. No paper work can be located to confirm that the additions in 1936 to Cohn High School were a WPA project, but it is very likely.
By the 1939-40 school year, Cohn High School had a well rounded, six- year course study, an excellent library, a fine band and orchestra, a splendid chorus, a strong school newspaper, an accomplished speech department and a faculty of 36 teachers. By the end of the school year in 1940, Cohn High School was celebrating its first graduating class.
Cohn High School was named in memory of Corinne L. Cohn. Mrs. Cohn was born in 1866, in Nashville, and she passed away in 1928. Cohn Junior High School was the first school in the Nashville school system named for a female. Mrs. Cohn was responsible for the idea of junior high schools in Nashville. She was introduced to the concept in Louisville. Although Mrs. Cohn passed away before the Cohn building opened, her husband Mr. Charles Cohn, made several very generous donations in memory of his beloved wife. Mr. Cohn’s lavish acts of kindness never went unnoticed. In the beginning, Mr. Cohn donated 2,000 books to the Cohn library with a trust fund for replacements and additions. In his will Mr. Cohn left $5000 to Cohn’s library which was in addition to $1500 previously given. Each year the interest from the $6500 endowment was spent to enrich the library resources. The library at Cohn may have been the best equipped public school library in the state.
Mr. Cohn’s donations didn’t stop with the library. He helped provide band uniforms, and he gave the first basketball teams (both boys and girls) their uniforms. He gave the school a beautiful, excellent organ. This probably made Cohn the only high school in the state to have an organ.
In 1941, plans were underway to expand Cohn High School again. The plans had to be abandoned due to the outbreak of World War II. During the war the school rose to its obligations in selling bonds, making bandages for the Red Cross and gathering scrap iron and waste paper. The Cohn Clarion staff furnished morale to the soldiers in the Armed Services by sending the school newspaper all over the world. During World War II, Cohn students and teachers in the armed services received the Clarion regularly. The “Marching On” column provided its readers with the names and addresses of former students. Hundreds of the Cohn graduates and students went to war to defend the people and ideas they loved. By the end of World War II, twenty-four Cohn alumni had given the ultimate sacrifice. A plaque was on displayed in the Cohn auditorium to recognize the former students who proudly served their country. The plaque that once hung on the wall in the auditorium now is in the Cohn Alumni Center.
In 1949 ground was broken for another addition to Cohn High School. A new wing was added that once again doubled the size of the Cohn building. With this expansion the building grew on the south west corner, from Park Avenue to Elkins Avenue and half way up the block on Elkins. A new gymnasium, a dining room, 14 classrooms, a home economics department, a new science lab, and an orchestra and band room were in the project that cost almost a million dollars. After the completion of the 1949 Cohn High School expansion project, the building covered a 48,090 square foot area of ground. The floor space of the three stories of Cohn High School is 129,777 square foot.
Over the years, Cohn High School has seen other changes. In the late 1960’s another building renovation project was started. A smaller gymnasium was added to the south east side of Cohn. Cohn High School now occupied an entire block in the West Nashville Community.
Cohn High School never had a playground, but the students could always use Richland Park for outside activities. Cohn High School’s football field was Sikes Field. Sikes Field was first opened in 1940 and was located three blocks away, where Cockrill School is located now.
A few years ago the windows were replaced at the Cohn Building. The windows have helped the Cohn Building become more energy efficient. One other change to the Cohn High Building is an elevator has been installed. The elevator was needed to help the Cohn building be in compliance with the Americans with Disability Act. The elevator has helped make Cohn accessible to anyone.
Still one other alteration to the building was the name change. In 1986, Cohn High School reopened its doors as the Cohn Adult Learning Center. The Cohn Adult High School Program was established to serve the growing need in the Nashville adult community to complete high school and earn a diploma. The Community Ed Program is made up of both vocational and recreational classes. The classes operate on a quarterly basis. Classes may change due to interest in the community. Classes range from computer classes to stained glass to gardening and financial investment. Homework Hotline operates out of the Cohn Building. Homework Hotline offers support to students all across the Middle Tennessee area. For over 50 years, the area known as the school cafeteria is now home to the Senior Renaissance Center. Five days a week members of Nashville Senior community can come to the center for activities. Many of the attendees of the SRC attended Cohn when it was the local High School. They now have the privilege of participating in activities that are at the senior program.
A few years ago the auditorium was in need of repair. The alumni of Cohn rose to the occasion. A group of alumni donated enough funds to restore the auditorium. The classroom which was formerly the Home Economics room is now home to a recently updated Computer Lab.
The large gymnasium was built in 1949 and for many years the location where exciting basketball games took place. The home teams were known as the Tigers and later the Black Knights. The large gymnasium was also the location of many very loud pep rallies. The gym was host to a few donkey basketball games as well. Over the last few years the hardwood floors have been replaced. Currently in the Gym a student can participate in fencing classes, and practice with their volleyball teams.
A person can enroll in an English Folk Dance class. On the second floor, directly across from the main entrance, were once the offices of the guidance counselors and to the right was where the Cohn judges held court. This area is now the offices to the Community Education Program. A GED Program is located in the northwest end of the building on the first floor. This end of the building was the location of typing and business classes and Diversified Occupation. Woodworking classes were taught in this location prior to the typing classes. An area at Cohn now used for storage on the first floor was once known as the Dungeon. At one time this was also the location which Tiger Town entertained the teenagers at Cohn.
Currently on the third floor, is an alternative high school program. The alternative program at Cohn takes up the entire third floor. The area once used by the Cohn Art classes, is now used as the cafeteria for the alternative school. An Oasis Center now occupies the room once used as the Choir Room. When Cohn was a community high school the band room and a cosmetology class were also located on the third floor.
Through the years, Cohn High School was an invaluable institute of learning in the West Nashville community due to the hard work and determination of many individuals. If only one person deserves the recognition for Cohn High School being the superlative facility, which once served the West Nashville community, that person would be Mr. W. R. Rochelle. Mr. Rochelle was principal at Cohn from 1939 until his retirement in 1965. Mr. Rochelle was the second principal at Cohn High School. The first principal was Professor Jonas Sikes. Mr. Rochelle was assistant principal to Professor Sikes for two years, until Professor Sikes retired. With his optimism and intellect, with idealism and foresight, Mr. Rochelle gave direction and leadership to Cohn High School for almost thirty years. He had an inquiring mind, majestic in scope that gave Cohn High School a wealth of practical ideas for development which in great measure advanced the growth and improvement of the school. He helped to open avenues of fame for some students and for some teachers, though he never made any bid or immortality for himself. His responsibilities were demanding, but he always took time to talk to the students. He was sensitive to the needs of each individual and had devoted his life to teaching, guiding and helping young people. He secured countless scholarships for ambitious college students and assisted others in securing employment. After Mr. Rochelle retired, his efforts to help young people continued. He became the Executive Director of the Davidson County Association for Retarded Children which was also the Nashville Youth Services and the Training and Rehabilitation Center, now named the Rochelle Center.
The Cohn building opened to the public in the fall of 1927 and has been updated to have the same requirements as any building built in the present time. Over many years ago, Cohn had its beginning as a center of West Nashville community education. Today the Cohn building is still serving the community.
The above was compiled by Yvonne Eaves, Cohn High class of 1975.