Gorrie Elementary School: Why do they call it that? Back to school edition

10:55 AM, Aug 17, 2011   |    comments
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  • Gorrie's creations were like a cold popsicle on the tongue that was hot, sweaty Florida.
  • This statue of Dr. John Gorrie is on display in the U.S. Capitol.
  • This photo from the State of Florida shows a mock-up of Dr. John Gorrie's ice machine in an Apalachicola museum.
  • Hyde Park Grammar School, now Gorrie Elementary, is shown in this photo from the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System.

Just imagine, for five seconds, living in this state without air conditioning. Well -- thanks to this guy -- that sticky, sweaty nightmare is over.

Back to school time is coming up fast in the Tampa Bay area. For some kids, it's already here. And a few dozen students will be heading back to a school named for one particularly important Floridian.

Why do they call it Gorrie Elementary School?

Close the windows? Soaking sweat. Open them? Swarms of bugs.

Then, like a frosty-cold popsicle touching the tongue that was this sweltering southern state, a Panhandle doctor -- John Gorrie -- invented relief.

"He wanted to, of course, have his patients be as comfortable as possible," explained Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

"And so what he did is devised a way for air to blow over blocks of ice, thereby cooling that air and cooling the patients." 

Kite-Powell says John Gorrie is known as the father of air conditioning.

And there was more in that brain of his, including the first machine to make ice!

Since there's a good chance there's an ice maker your house, this invention may not seem like a big deal.

But creations based on Gorrie's ideas transformed the way we eat, what we do for fun, the way we heal people, and the future of our entire state.

"Once we overcame the heat with air conditioning, it really fostered that main land boom that we had in the 1950's," Kite-Powell said.

Between 1900 and 2000, Florida's population grew from half a million to 16 million.

Way back, even before 1900, little ones were learning at Hyde Park Grammar School in the South Tampa neighborhood of Hyde Park.

It's the oldest continuously run public school in the state, and the first in Hillsborough County to feature -- drumroll, please -- indoor toilets!

In 1915, the school was renamed to honor the man whose inventions led to the Florida we know today -- and to some very refreshing ice-filled beverages -- Dr. John Gorrie.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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