Atlantic City voters, BOE approve demolition and abandonment of historic schools
The saga of failure to choose rehabilitation over replacement for New Jersey’s historic schools continues in earnest. On April 22, voters in Atlantic City approved $80 million in bonds for the construction of two new schools, one of which will stand on the site of the soon-to-be-demolished Richmond Avenue School, at 4115 Ventnor Avenue. A second historic school, New Jersey Avenue School, is slated for abandonment upon completion of the proposed Pennsylvania Avenue School, a second planned new educational facility to be constructed on the block bounded by Pennsylvania, Baltic, Virginia and Mediterranean Avenues.
Both historic schools date from the early 1900s, and are two of a dwindling number of examples of Atlantic City’s remarkable architectural past. This town that formerly hosted some of the Jersey shore’s greatest architecture is now infamous for the rampant demolition of that architecture, and it appears that the Richmond Avenue School is next on the list. The New Jersey Avenue School, if left vacant, will likely suffer the same fate within a short time.
Disregard for the rehabilitation potential of New Jersey’s historic schools is a long-standing trend throughout the state: PNJ listed New Jersey’s historic public schools as a most endangered resource ten years ago. The adequacy with which historic school buildings can serve a 21st Century student population is heavily debated across the country, and much study has proven that in fact, school rehabilitation is both financially feasible and culturally ideal. Rehabilitated historic school buildings provide students with a state-of-the-art educational facility within unique, engaging architecture that instills both school and community pride. Historic school buildings provide a connection and have a significance to communities that few other buildings can match, and when this significance is balanced with the needed amenities for today’s educational system, truly one-of-a-kind educational opportunities are created.
The National Trust has compiled case studies and research demonstrating just how successful historic school rehabilitation can be: Preservation New Jersey encourages New Jersey’s communities and elected officials to learn from these successes, and fight proactively to save our state’s remarkable remaining historic schools.