Thursday, July 16, 2009

Landmark in Danger of Demolition

The building we now use as a middle school is actually 3 buildings joined together. The first and most grand was built - out in, what was then, the middle of nowhere - in 1904. An addition was tacked on to the west side around 1927, I think, and included "the pit" - then the final section was added on some decades later.

If you aren't able to attend school board meetings, you might not be aware that several companies were contacted to give a quote on tearing down the 1904 structure.

There has been talk for quite some time about what to do with the old building. It has been shuttered and neglected for many years. With no one required to walk through it on a regular basis, a leak in the roof was undiscovered until significant water damage had occured. Mold remediation in the affected areas has been estimated to cost over $25,000, while cleaning, painting, and other repairs to the building have been estimated at between $175,000 and $225,000 - a sum the school district simply does not have to spend on an old, unused structure.

The Ohio Revised Code allows a school district to "sell" an old building for a nominal fee to non-profit organizations that may be interested. Unfortunately, our local geneaology and historical group doesn't have enough money for those repairs, either, and I am not sure who else might be interested.

To get an idea of how salvaging an historic building can be done, we only need to look at Monclova, where volunteer labor under the direction of a prominent local contractor saved and restored their beautiful old school. Now it is the host to many community events, the YMCA operates a day care in one wing, and upper levels are rented to others for exercise classes, etc. It is now a thriving part of the community - and it's wonderful!

Our 1904 building was made possible by the founders of Swanton - some of whom remain prominent families in the community to this day. Its construction was of the highest quality and materials of the time, and little of its original grandeur has been lost - at least on the exterior.

The interior rooms, heating and electrical systems and other things need serious attention. But it remains a jewel in our town - even though it has been sealed off for many years. (Actually, our building is in MUCH better shape than that of the old Monclova school prior to its restoration!)

Anyone with a little vision can see how this wonderful old structure could again play an important role in our community- but it will take money and labor to bring it to fruition.

Is there anyone out there who is willing to try and save the 1904 building for posterity and community use? If we pooled our resources, money and otherwise, we could do it - together. But something must be done relatively soon if we are going to save it from the wrecking ball.

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