Ten Good Reasons to Show Historic Schools Some Love

Posted on: April 27th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments

Written by Renee Kuhlman  

The three-story Albemarle High School Building has been a part of the small community of Albemarle, North Carolina since 1924, and is conveniently located in a residential neighborhood just one block from the central business district. Despite initial opposition from the school board, the community rallied support to save this building from demolition and to renovate it as the Central Elementary School in 2002. Local residents believe the renovation has contributed to the continued vitality of this rural community. (Photo: Albemarle Downtown Development Corporation)

Today is Historic Schools Day, which is part of School Building Week, an annual program organized by the Council of Educational Facility Planners. To celebrate, I thought I’d start a conversation about the many reasons why we love our older and historic schools.  

Here’s my top ten (in no particular order).  

Reason #1 – They’re old. Yes, that’s right – we love them because they have served and continue to educate our students. From the worn grooves on their staircases to their old-fashioned lockers, these buildings simply exude history.  

Reason #2 – We like how they look. We love admiring their architecture, which has been enjoyed by generations before us.  

Reason #3 – We like where they’re located. We think being able to walk and bike to school is pretty cool, not to mention the fact that it’s great for the environment.  

Reason #4 – We like their “compact build” (small footprint, multiple stories, etc.), which allow them to be nestled in our neighborhoods.  

Reason #5 – We appreciate the workmanship and long-lasting materials that went into them. We like walking on their gleaming terrazzo floors and appreciate the longevity of their slate roofs.  

Reason #6 – We think the schools’ civic design and prominent placement shows how much education was – and is – valued by community members.  

Reason #7 – We like wondering about the generations who came before us. Did the folks in those old class photos have as much trouble in high school as I did? Did we take math in the same classroom? Did I use their locker?  

Reason #8 – We enjoy seeing our neighbors there – whether it’s to vote, to enjoy a potluck supper, or to walk around the track after hours.  

Reason # 9 – We appreciate the care that has gone into maintaining the building…even more so now that we’re older ourselves.  

Reason #10 – We like that they are true centers of community.  

I know these aren’t all of the reasons. Take a moment to celebrate Historic Schools Day by telling us what you appreciate about the older and historic schools in your town. Need some inspiration? We hear dusting off those old yearbooks really helps to get the wheels turning.  

Renee Kuhlman is the director of special projects for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Center for State and Local Policy. The National Trust undertook the “Helping Johnny Walk to School: Sustaining Communities Through Smart Policy” project through a cooperative agreement with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.   

Want to learn more? Click here to download the recently-released "Helping Johnny Walk to School: Policy Recommendations for Community-Centered Schools."

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.


4 Responses

  1. Emily Gette-Doyle

    April 27, 2010

    We like our historic school because it is GREEN!

  2. lloyd alter

    April 27, 2010

    great article. Here are 5 more I wrote for Treehugger and the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario:

    Reason 11: They are flexible. They are not value engineered within an inch of their lives but have big rooms that can be used in many different ways.

    Reason 12: They are already standing. The energy embodied in their bricks has been bought and paid for. The carbon footprint of their replacement is huge.

    Reason 13: They have big windows and high ceilings. They were designed before fossil fuels were cheap and take best advantage of natural light and air.

    Reason 14: They are solid. They have been around for a long time and were built to last.

    Reason 15: We are going to be designing buildings like this again. Why tear down the ones we already have?

  3. Barbara Mackey

    May 5, 2010

    They symbolize the importance of education in our communities and to our nation.

  4. Debra Atwell

    May 6, 2010

    A 1929 Mediterranean Revival building in the center of Vero Beach’s most important Historic-yet-undesignated neighborhood, that began as a Country club but has been used a s a much beloved beloved private school-the St Edward’s lower school is being sold,presumably to a developer. The school backs to a golf course-The Riomar golf course-and will become just another site for homogenized estate homes-this in spite of the fact that the street-“Club Drive”-named for the school building-is lined with available,empty homes for sale .

    What can I as Chair of the city’s HPC do if the school is only looking at the property as cold hard quick equity ?

    It is a stunning locale-it could easily be a private Gallery,a Literary Guild ( small,Southern Yaddo)…..but they want the money NOW…..
    I fear for this building ,it has a historic Florida marker,but is not designated by the State….

    Any advice ,please contact me: Debra Atwell ashwoodgrovepolo@gmail.com