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Historic Penns Grove High School to be Repaired, Not Replaced

January 16, 2012

The Penns Grove-Carney’s Point Regional School District has announced a promising 180 degree change of plans regarding the future of Penns Grove High School (now Penns Grove Middle School), listed as one of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places

Penns Grove High School (now Penns Grove Middle School), Penns Grove, Salem County

in New Jersey in 2011.

The local landmark, which was built in 1935 by the Public Works Administration and has served generations of area residents during its 76 years in continuous operation as a school, retains a high degree of historic integrity. Aside from a  rear addition, few architectural changes have  impacted its Classical Revival design, the product of Byron H. Edwards of the noted Philadelphia, and later Camden, firm of Edwards & Green.

When included on the 2011 list of the state’s most endangered places, the school building was threatened with demolition.  In November 2010, a local task force charged with determining whether to rehabilitate or replace the school voted to replace the building with a new structure.  The decision was influenced by input from an architect, stating that it would be more expensive to modernize the building than to replace it. The new building project would’ve cost an estimated $28 million, including approximately $9 million in funding from the State of New Jersey.  Local tax rolls would have been responsible for contributing the needed additional funding.

Concerned about how this decision was made, local advocates took action, forming the friends group Save Our School and pressing the school board to reconsider, and it appears that their hard work has paid off. The school board announced this weekend that instead of demolishing the current building, they will instead focus on needed repairs and upgrades.

What turned the tables? According to a January 14 article in area newspaper The Sunbeam, Penns Grove-Carney’s Point Regional School District Superintendent Dr. Joseph Massare cites the economic downturn and state influence, but also, local pressure: “We received a tremendous amount of email from the older alumni, people that graduated in the ‘80s, ‘70s and ‘60s who went through the middle school and voiced a strong opinion,” Massare said. “That has influence, they have an opinion, it was part of the factor.”

We’ll continue to keep you posted, but for now, it appears that another once-endangered resource has a new lease on life, thanks to people caring enough to raise their voices.

Preservation New Jersey is proud to promote the rehabilitation and continued use of New Jersey’s historic schools. We know that rehabilitation is more sustainable, creates more jobs, and saves money. But most importantly,  we know that only this approach creates the ideal learning environment that every child deserves: 21 century technology and education in an engaging, unique atmosphere.

Check out PNJ’s website and previous blog posts for NJ historic school rehabilitation case studies, and information on Trenton Central High School, another historic NJ school that deserves to be rehabilitated. Also, you can find information on case studies of rehabilitated historic schools nationwide on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s website.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 28, 2012 7:48 am

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