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Deep Historic Roots in Evansville

George Cullen

Our partnership with Evansville schools goes way back – 99 years to be exact. It all started during World War I when Evansville’s elementary school was experiencing crowded conditions. Prior to the referendum process we all know so well today, instead a simple vote was cast at their annual meeting in 1921. With a total of 212 votes, voters approved to fund building a new elementary school for $115,000, but the loan had to be repaid within fifteen years. The District did not waste any time, the project went out to bid and JP Cullen was awarded the project as the lowest bidder and began immediately. This was just the first project complete of the nearly decade long partnership.


First School Construction Referendum

By 1936 Evansville was again in need of a new school; the oldest of the three buildings was evaluated by the State to be in poor condition. The board decided to bring a solution of building a new school before the voters. It was the first time there had been a referendum for school construction and the first-time federal money was sought to aid in funding.

The voters overwhelmingly approved the referendum to build the new school 288 to 145.  A few months later, and the notice went out to the local newspapers to ask for construction bids. JP Cullen submitted and was again the lowest bidder by $133 and awarded the project. Construction began immediately. Classrooms were moved to City Hall, the library, and the Congregational Church, so school could remain in session while construction took place.

By January 21, 1940, construction was complete and the school was ready for the 1940-41 school year. For the first time in a decade the school opened without the headlines that there was overcrowding in the schools, a major milestone for the community and District.

60 Years Later

It was not until the turn of the century that the District decided to embark on another new construction project, 60 years later. Up until then, they were making renovation and addition projects work to their current buildings.

In 2000, the District and JP Cullen developed a 20-year master plan to address renovations to existing facilities, academic area improvements with a focus on community spaces (gyms, libraries and cafeterias), expansion of athletic facilities, energy efficiency and upgraded technology throughout the entire District. All under the leadership of Gary Albrecht, District Administrator, who has since retired.

The Final Step

The last step in the 20-year master plan was to address the 99-year-old aging middle school. In November of 2018, Evansville residents approved a $34 million capital referendum to renovate JC McKenna Middle School with JP Cullen. Fast-forward about a year, the renovations are complete and ready for students – just in time for the 2020-21 school year.

Renovating JC McKenna really brings our nearly 100-year partnership full circle with Evansville. The relationships we have made, the lives we have changed and most importantly the future we have been able to provide for the generations and generations of Evansville students is truly rewarding.

We are so fortunate to have a partner like Evansville Community School District.

The Cullen Way

That was just a brief look into one of our long-standing partnerships but we pride ourselves on being known for these relationships and going above and beyond for our clients. Check out our book, The Cullen Way, for a dive deeper into our history, historical partnerships, and why we do what we do.


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April 9, 2024