Here at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, we're big fans of neighborhood schools, so much so that we've written two reports on their value - Why Can't Johnny Walk to School? and Helping Johnny Walk to School. We love seeing schools remain in use for educational purposes. However, we also understand that communities change, and that sometimes the kids who once made a school's halls ring with laughter grow up, move away, and raise their own children elsewhere, leaving their home neighborhoods with more school buildings than students. In those cases, as you might suspect, we love to see a building adapted for a new use. (We're walking the walk on that right now, in fact - Denver's Emerson School is in the process is being rehabbed to house our Mountains/Plains Office and other preservation organizations.)
Thanks to several new listings in our Historic Properties for Sale website, you can join us in giving a historic school a new life. Whether your plans, like ours, are for an office building, or you're thinking senior living, apartments/condos, a community center, or another use, we have three schools listed this week that can help you make your dream a reality.
The oldest of the three, dating from 1847, is the Liberty Street School in Warren, RI. It's the oldest high school building in the state, is located in a National Register Historic District, and is within walking distance of both the waterfront and Main Street. The other two schools date from the 1920s. One, the French Broad School in Alexander, NC, offers 13,000 square feet of available residential, studio, or corporate campus space just eight miles from Ashville, while the other - the Red Brick School House in Clarendon, TX - boasts similar square footage along with four acres of land for additional building (or perhaps an orchard or vineyard, as the listing also suggests).
If owning and restoring a school seems, perhaps, a bit more than you're feeling up to, don't worry - there are plenty of other listings on the site, one of which may be the historic home of your dreams. So, don't forget to take a look for offerings in your area before you head out on open house visits this weekend. Happy house hunting!
Sarah Heffern is the content manager for PreservationNation.org. She thinks her high school would make really cool condos, but given that it's the town's only public secondary school, she expects that's unlikely to come to pass.