Walter Zick And The Mid Mod Pods

Lynn Zook and I took a little field trip the other day. We were up and down Maryland Parkway looking at the many bank buildings from the 60’s. Could this be a Zick and Sharp? Is that one the same as in the drawing we have? We’re still doing our research on the bank buildings.

IMG_9039But the real fun part of our outing was the time-warp down memory lane as we went back to High School for a few minutes. We visited Valley High School on Eastern Avenue at Vegas Valley Drive. It was the first of several “Pod Schools”.

I’ve driven by Valley a couple hundred thousand times over the years, and never really paid it much attention. What’s visible from Eastern isn’t all that interesting, and I don’t pay attention to schools in general.

But I just had to find out what the famed architects Zick and Sharp and created back in the 60’s, and that meant I had to get onto the campus one way or another.

ZICK slide 56 Valley High SchoolWe timidly (yes) pulled into the parking lot thinking we’d get a one or two pictures taken before we were chased away.

We were armed only with the camera and 3 slides from the CD application to have a school named after Walter Zick. We quickly tried to get our bearings, and grab a photo or two, but…..

No one showed up, so we got our long shots and started trying to figure out what was what based on the slides.


Slide 56 above is a terrific study in itself, and started to give us a clue as to what was meant by “pod”.

Zick slide 57 Valley High School 1966When we went around the corner so that we were on the Vegas Valley Drive side, we found the same spot as this photo from 1966.

The building is curved! The suspended awning faces Vegas Valley, and the peaked supports create a grand entryway.

It’s certainly Mid Century Modernism. No doubt about it, and none of it is visible from Eastern Avenue. 



IMG_9039Today it looks like this. The fences aren’t an improvement. My back is to a long fence that now surrounds the school. The Gates that have been installed between the columns mess it up completely from an aesthetic point of view. We got this close, were inside the fence and still hadn’t seen an adult yet. The fence didn’t seem to be there to keep me out, so it must be to keep the kids in.






IMG_9045We stopped and talked to some gangly 15 year olds. They weren’t even curious about why I was taking pictures. They didn’t know what architecture really meant. They didn’t care that they didn’t know. That was baffling. Maybe I was only baffled because I’ve never had a teen-ager. If I was one of those kids, I’d have been asking questions a mile-a-minute.

We followed them right into the school and figured we’d get thrown out immediately. I don’t recall ever being called into the principal’s office 40 years ago, and was imagining it happening to me now.

Once again, though, not an adult in sight. Lynn suddenly realized that this was exactly the layout of Clark High School from when she was a student. Now I had a tour guide, and we decided to press on. I found my self wandering further and further into the dark recesses of my own high school memories, while Lynn was busy figuring out which locker would have been hers if we were over at Clark.  The light went on and Lynn realized what she’d always known, but never thought about before. The school was arranged like the spokes of a wheel. The center pod was open space with all the lockers, and it was surrounded by other pods which contained the classrooms.

IMG_9046“Let’s go down the ramp and see the cafeteria”. I followed and found myself in a cavernous room with a barrel ceiling, exposed steel beams, high clerestory windows and stunning suspended light fixtures.







IMG_9050IMG_9051I got a real kick out of the lit signs for the boys and girls bathrooms. Why the boys room one was mounted to flush to the wall, and the girl’s room was ceiling mounted didn’t make sense.



IMG_9049One of my favorite elements of all however were the arch supported pendant lights that surrounded the cafeteria.

So once again, I didn’t end up in jail; had a great afternoon with a great friend; and got to see some of the wonderful Mid Century Modern Architecture and Design of Walter Zick and Harris Sharp.

With a legacy like this, how could the Clark County School District have ever passed up Walter Zick for a school to be named after him.

We’ll be helping Walter’s family to apply again, and I think by the time we finish this series, we’ll have generated plenty of support.

Below the fold are Slide 58 with a broad view facing north, and the rest of the pictures that I didn’t use in the body of this post. All of the pictures in this series (and almost every picture on this blog) is a clickable thumbnail, if you’d like to look at them in a larger format.


The 1970’s Theater addition to Valley High School, also by Zick and Sharp.







Zick Slide 58 Valley High School 1966Slide 58 is a  1966 photo facing north from Vegas Valley Drive







IMG_9036This is as close as I could get to the same shot as Slide 58 above.

When I took this picture my back is to some of the ASS UGLY portable classrooms that totally obscure the beauty of the building from the street.







Lynn Zook, the queen of Las Vegas History.

It was a windy day.







IMG_9056Uncle Jack, is glad to report that MOST of his High School flashbacks during this field trip were happy ones.