Preservation Round-Up: We Heart Historic Schools Edition

Posted on: December 27th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments

Written by Renee Khulman    

The 1930 Schuylkill School, listed on Pennsylvania's at-risk list, is scheduled to be demolished for a parking lot this month. (Photo: Preservation Pennsylvania)

Happy Monday, Nation! Here's your Preservation Round-Up, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s twice-weekly digest of preservation tidbits from around the country. Today we're going to do things a little bit different; instead of serving up a smattering of news and notes from here and there, we're going to get all retrospective and take a look back at 2010 through the lens of one of our favorite issues -- historic schools.    

With just a few days left until we wear funny hats and clank glasses, year-end lists are running rampant. You know what I'm talking about -- most shocking celebrity moments, biggest holiday gift items, world's highest earners. Maybe you've even started making some lists of your own. Resolutions for 2011? Things to re-gift next holiday season?    

Anyway, all of this list-making got me thinking about about how my preservation crush fared in 2010. So, without further adieu, here's a round-up of news -- and yes, some lists -- that you should know about if you also heart community-centered schools.    

This year, Colorado Preservation, Inc. combed the Centennial State to inventory schools that were at least 50 years old and created Our Living Legacy, a film featuring six of the schools that have been renovated. The Tacoma (Washington) Public Schools got a similar list when it hired an architectural historian to survey its school buildings two years ago. As a result, the city council listed six more historic schools on the Tacoma Register of Historic Places this month. Preservationists believe the school district to be a national model, “acknowledging not only the architectural and cultural significance of these structures, but also that these places matter deeply to our community.” This is a key point because the school system owns one of the largest collections of significant historic buildings in the city.   

Some folks also made lists of abandoned schools. Kyle Munson of The Des Moines Register maintains a list of “prairie castles,” former brick school buildings that have been given a new life as something other than a school. Old Ohio Schools posts “knock-your-socks-off” images of now-demolished schools to encourage more thoughtful decision making. The Alliance for Historic Wyoming lists schools that have been demolished and describes the short-sighted policies behind their abandonment.     

Historic Tacoma encouraged the local school district to identify and list their historic school buildings on the city's register of places important to their community. (Photo: Historic Tacoma)

When Preservation Pennsylvania released its annual at-risk list last week, the organization listed the 1930 Schuylkill School in Schuykill Township. Ironically, the school’s thick stone walls represented “permanence” to the school’s philanthropist, Frank B. Foster. For the past eight years, the Friends of Schuylkill School have urged preservation, but sadly demo is scheduled to begin this month to make way for a new parking lot.    

Preservation Dallas had a similar idea, but their most endangered list includes all of the historic buildings owned by the Dallas Independent School District. The organization called attention to the need for catching up with deferred maintenance and discouraged demolition of the city’s “venerable and beloved schools.” Preservation Dallas points to the district’s recent effort to update the Booker T. Washington High School as a model for combining historic and new educational facilities elsewhere in the district.    

In Detroit, the Historic Designation Advisory Board spent $33,000 surveying schools built before 1960. This summer, the Michigan Historic Review Board approved a list of 88 nominations to the National Register of Historic Places. Now that’s a list! Preservationists sought this listing as a way to encourage reuse of these historic buildings instead of demolishing the community anchorsPreservation Wayne makes the point that if these buildings were listed, the new owners could take advantage of tax incentives for rehabilitation and that the repurposed buildings could continue to serve their community.    

Now, does all of this have you inspired to save some schools in 2011? Check out this literature review of relevant research we recently posted here at PreservationNation. It summarizes some of the best thinking out there and offers some really compelling points to ponder. Also, check out our list of recommendations for encouraging more community-centered schools.    

With that, enjoy your Monday! Got any tips, news, or otherwise preservation-related fluff? We’d love to include it in the next round-up. Send us your links on Twitter and Facebook, and maybe you’ll see it here next week!    

Renee Kuhlman directs the Helping Johnny Walk to School: Sustaining Communities through Smart Policy program. This project, undertaken through a cooperative agreement with the US Environmental Protection Agency, helps states encourage more community-centered schools through both policy and practice. She can be reached at

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.

Civic, News Round-Ups

3 Responses

  1. Kelli

    December 27, 2010

    Here in Des Moines we’re trying to find someone to help preserve the Whittier school. (Read about it here:

    The Des Moines Rehabbers Club has listed it on our Most Endangered Buildings list two years in a row. (

    One of the challenges we’re facing is finding a good use for a building that was really designed to be a school and doesn’t easily convert to be something else. One of my favorite historic school preservations in Chicago turned the large classrooms into loft-style apartments and kept the original slate blackboards in place.

  2. Richard Gibson

    December 27, 2010

    In Butte, Montana, we cared about a 1917 school, individually listed on the National Register, that was demolished in 2007 despite a new historic preservation ordinance. Pictures are all that are left – some are here: .

  3. Renovate Ohio Schools

    December 29, 2010

    Over 90 Ohio Schools Were Demolished In 2010

    Unfortunately, the list is even bigger for “pending” demolitions.

    Here is just a small sample of what was lost:

    1925,36 Jefferson HS – Adams County
    1930 Roosevelt Jr. High – Butler County
    1909 Dover Township Public School (Westlake) – Cuyahoga County
    1930 N. College Hill Jr. High – Hamilton County
    1924,29,39 Burnham HS (Sylvania) – Lucas County
    1926 Wilbur Wright HS #1 – Montgomery County
    1915 Hudson ES – Summit County

    Follow the link below to see a complete list of Ohio schools lost in 2010.

    Renovate Ohio Schools