• Menu
  • Menu
Lee School | Photo © 2014 Bullet, www.abandonedfl.com

Lee School

Location Class:
Built: 1915 | Abandoned: 2008
Historic Designation: National Register of Historic Places (February 17, 1995)
Status: Under Renovation
Photojournalist: David Bulit

Lee School

Lee School, also known as Leesburg High School and later known as the Lee Adult Education Center, is a historic school in Leesburg. The first schools in Leesburg were private institutions, with the first being a small log cabin located at the site of Lone Oak Cemetery. A later building was located at the site of the present city hall, where the first floor was used as a school and for church services, and the second floor served as a Masonic Lodge meeting hall.

The first public school was established in 1889. Since county or state funds were not available at the time for building schools, the citizens of Leesburg purchased a brick building on 13th Street, where the Melon Patch Theatre is located today, from the Florida Methodist Conference.

Renewed prosperity in Lake County prompted the County Board of Public Instruction to construct a series of modern schools. Between 1914 and 1916, schools were constructed in Clermont, Umatilla, Tavares, and Leesburg. Students in rural districts were transported to larger schools to benefit from better facilities. Consolidating schools also meant more money could be spent on fewer but more efficient facilities. In 1914, the old school on 13th Street was condemned, and construction began on a new school building and auditorium, which came to be known as the Lee School. Designed to hold grades 1 through 12, the new buildings were completed in the spring of 1915 at $40,000.

Lee School postcard
A postcard featuring the Leesburg High and Grammar School or Lee School in Leesburg, Fla. It’s postmarked April 7, 1928. Abandoned Atlas Archives


According to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995, the Lee School’s main building is described as such: “The main (east) facade of the south building is divided into three major bays, with a central recessed block flanked by two wings. The central section of the facade consists of eight bays, two of which are occupied by a two-story entrance pavilion. The main entrance stands at the head of a flight of concrete steps, flanked by solid concrete balustrades. The doorway is recessed into the entrance pavilion and consists of a single-leaf glass and aluminum door framed by plate glass sidelights and transom lights. T

he door and window bays in the central block of the main facade are separated by brick pilasters with cast concrete capitals and bases (Photo 2). Pilasters on the entrance pavilion are found on both stories, being separated by a frieze with a rectangular recessed panel in its center. The other pilasters on the facade are two stories high and rise from the level of the window sills of the first story to the cornice level of the windows of the second. The major original fenestration in the building consists of wood frame pivot windows with 1/2/1 lights.

The wings each have three-bay facades. The first and second stories are separated by a frieze band bordered by concrete string courses. There is a granite string course that marks the juncture of the basement with the brick structure above. The sills of the windows on the first story rest upon a continuous string course, and all three string courses continue to the other elevations of the building. The south elevation of the building has a secondary entrance near its center that lies at the head of concrete steps similar to those found on the main facade.

Above the entranceway on the second story is a metal emergency stairway. There is also an entranceway to the basement of the building located near the southwest corner of the elevation. The rear (west) elevation has an entrance that is sheltered by a flat-roofed porch and reached by transverse steps leading to a high stoop. An elevator tower (Photo 8) that provides access to both floors of the building is attached to the north elevation of the building. This elevation also features metal fire escape stairs, and there is a covered entranceway to the school basement similar to the one found on the south elevation.

The interior of the south building contains most of its original hardware and finishes. However, a dropped ceiling has been added to allow the installation of air conditioning, and the original light fixtures have been replaced by fluorescent lighting units.

The main entrance opens onto a short hall flanked by restrooms and storage areas. This hall terminates at a transverse hallway near the school offices. The first floor contains four classrooms. These are found at the four corners of the building at the ends of the transverse hallway. Small foyers at both ends of the hallway contain secondary entrances and stairways to the second floor. These foyers are separated from the hall by glass brick walls. The second floor contains five classrooms, a library, a teachers’ lounge, and restrooms.

Lee School sanborn map
1918 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Leesburg, Fla. Although the Lee School was labeled as “Leesburg High School,” the school was a grammar school as well. Library of Congress

Additions and Alterations

Lee School housed all grades until 1918, when further consolidation by the Board of Public Instruction prompted the construction of the north building. The structure was completed in 1923 and became the high school. Due to schools closing in outlying areas such as Whitney, Lisbon, and Yalaha, more rooms were needed, and twelve classrooms were added in 1926. Enrollment at Lee School continued growing rapidly, and holding classes at nearby churches became necessary. Leesburg High School, located on 14th Street, was constructed in 1927 to house junior and senior high school students.

Between 1928 and 1974, Lee School served as a grammar school. During that time, the auditorium was razed, as were the twelve classrooms, which were added on in 1926 as they were deemed structurally unsound. Lee School also served as a community center and a hurricane shelter. During World War II, ration books were issued at the school, and the facility served as a daycare center for children of mothers working in the war effort.

In 1974, a cafetorium was constructed, and Lee School was renamed Lee Adult Education Center. This center provided citizens of Lake County who had not finished high school the opportunity to obtain a diploma. On February 17, 1995, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, joining the Mote-Morris House as the only other Leesburg site on the list.

A postcard featuring a photo of the Lee School


By 2008, the Lee School was closed, and the Lake County School District put the property up for sale. In 2014, Tony Benge, a developer based in Orlando, purchased the property for $200,000. Plans were in place to restore the buildings and turn the property into a 152-unit assisted living facility, but those never got past the planning phase.

Ocala-based Prospera Senior Living bought the property in November 2018 for $1.25 million, with plans to turn it into an assisted living and memory care community. However, when crews started working on the buildings in 2019, they discovered it was in worse shape than they thought. Crews stripped the ceilings and found issues with the electric wiring, plumbing, and HVAC. The sprinkler system was also not up to code. Original cast iron pipes were also removed from the buildings. This was when the plan changed to outright demolishing the structures.

Since the property is on the National Register of Historic Places, any plans for calling for its demolition would have to be signed off by the local historic preservation board. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic that any plans were halted, and it was also around this time that the site was listed on the Florida Trust’s 2020 “11 to Save” because it was at risk of total demolition. After some back and forth, it was agreed that the smaller of the two buildings, the north building, would be demolished.

The original plan called for restoring the 1915-built building. It would have been saved and turned into 14 apartments as part of a larger complex with 49 apartments. Instead, in May 2024, the entirety of the school complex was demolished.

Author’s Note: In 2019, the movie The Mad Hatter (2021), starring horror movie icon Michael Berryman, was filmed at the Lee School along with the Howey Mansion which was the subject of the film. Since its release, it has garnered unfavorable reviews and sits at a 2.8/10 on IMDB.

Photo Gallery


David Bulit is a photographer, author, and historian from Miami, Florida. He has published a number of books on abandoned and forgotten locales throughout the United States and continues to advocate for preserving these historic landmarks. His work has been featured throughout the world in news outlets such as the Miami New Times, the Florida Times-Union, the Orlando Sentinel, NPR, Yahoo News, MSN, the Daily Mail, UK Sun, and many others. You can find more of his work at davidbulit.com as well as amazon.com/author/davidbulit.

View Locations

Copyright © 2009- - Abandoned Atlas Foundation - board@AbandonedAtlas.com | Designed By Prairie Nation Creative, LLC - Disclaimer