A Columbus fixture known for stylish appearance and aiding people with disabilities will celebrate birthday No. 50 on Thursday, and that’s reason to celebrate.

It’s not a local resident, but a school: Columbus Signature Academy — Lincoln Campus.

The barrier-breaking school opened in 1967 at 750 Fifth St., when it was known as Lincoln Elementary.

Designed by the late Gunnar Birkerts, an internationally known architect who also designed St. Peter’s Lutheran Church located across the street, Lincoln architecturally is known for its use of natural light, a unique multi-purpose area in the center of the building and the way it blends into the surrounding landscape.

More importantly, it’s acclaimed for being the first school building in the United States to provide handicapped access to both levels of the two-story structure with ramps, elevators and extra-wide doors.

Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Johnson, dedicated a plaque at the entrance of the building a few days after its opening, praising the school and community for its efforts to beautify America. In her remarks, the first lady said: “It is said that architecture is Frozen Music, but seldom in history has such a group of devoted artists produced such a Symphony of Stone as presents itself in the eye of Columbus, Indiana.”

The American Institute of Architects celebrated the school with an Honor Award in 1970.

The importance of the school building will be celebrated again Thursday with a public event. Student-led tours are planned from noon to 1 p.m., and an hour-long celebration begins at 1 p.m.

For those who never have set foot in the school, despite passing by, attending the public event to get an up-close look would be worthwhile. The school, which has educated thousands over the years, is part of the fabric of the community and has an important place and story.

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