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Showing the way for historic schools as models

August 19, 2009
The former Hazleton High School, carefully rehabiltated for less than a new building, now serves as a state-of-the art elementary/middle school in NE Pennsylvania.

The former Hazleton High School, carefully rehabiltated for less cost than a new building, now serves as a state-of-the art elementary/middle school in NE Pennsylvania.

Our friend Mindy Crawford at Preservation Pennsylvania has shared some outstanding examples of Pennsylvania’s creative and successful historic schools restoration and rehabilitation projects (see our previous blog post about New Jersey’s dismal, un-sustainable and destructive approach to school modernization).

The former Hazleton High School – built in 1926 — was deteriorated and nearly

Hazleton High School hallway before rehabilitation

Hazleton High School hallway before rehabilitation

demolished before community leaders and graduates came to its rescue.  In 2003, the school board hired a preservation-friendly architect, Vern McKissick, AIA, to analyze the historic building.  “It was a fantastic structure,” McKissick reported.  “It was more substantial than anything we would build today.  I told the board I might not be able to renovate (it) for less cost than new construction, but I could do it a year faster.”

Light fixtures and doors were among the original elements re-used as part of the restoration

Light fixtures and doors were among the original elements re-used as part of the restoration

It turned out that the rehabilitated landmark came in costing $3.5 million less than a comparably-sized new structure would have cost.  The former cafeteria was remodeled into a state-of-the art library and other historic spaces were re-purposed while new facilities were inserted in the beautifully restored building, now used as an elementary/middle school.  Mindy from Preservation PA says “it’s an amazing school, complete with a joint community use of the theatre.”

We’ll find and post more examples of rehabilitated historic schools from the region.  (Let us know if you know of some!) Maybe a road trip for Trenton, Camden and SDA leaders to see that it can be done?

The new, fully equipped library

The new, fully equipped library

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