Civic

Lowe's Brings Back Schools in Time for Back-to-School

Posted on: August 24th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

As students are preparing to go back to school, Lowe’s and the National Trust are doing the same.  Today, they announced nearly $500,000 in grants has been awarded for the preservation and rehabilitation of ten historic schools across the country.

The rehabilitated historic schools will serve central roles in their communities as educational centers, cultural and community centers, and more.   For example, the Park Addition School in Cheyenne, WY, will serve as a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

Lincoln Creek Day School, Fort Hall, ID

The Lincoln Creek Day School was built as part of a “New Deal” for Native Americans on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho.

These buildings are important pieces of history in their communities and in America. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his first “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Booker T. Washington High School in Rocky Mount, NC.

The Lincoln Creek Day School was built as part of a “New Deal” for Native Americans on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in ID and will continue its rehabilitation project that began with a grant from the National Trust Preservation Fund made possible by the Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation.

Previous years of funding have focused on Rosenwald Schools, and eight were awarded grants earlier this year.  Today, Lowe’s and the National Trust are taking their support nationwide to make a difference in as many communities as possible.

Visit our website to learn more about all ten historic school grant recipients and the Rosenwald School grant recipients.

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.

National Trust Mountains/Plains Office to Green 125-Year-Old School

Posted on: August 24th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Jim Lindberg 

From Left to Right: Ed Nichols, President of History Colorado; Barb Pahl, National Trust Mountains/Plains Regional Director; Stephanie Meeks, National Trust President; John Hickenlooper, Mayor of Denver; and Steve Turner, Director of the State Historical Fund

Last week, National Trust for Historic Preservation President Stephanie Meeks announced that the National Trust will accept the donation of an 1885 school building in Denver’s historic Capitol Hill neighborhood. The Emerson School, a designated Denver landmark also known as the Frank B. McGlone Center, will become the new headquarters for the National Trust's Mountains/Plains Office and two of our preservation partners in Colorado: Historic Denver, Inc. and Colorado Preservation, Inc.  

Over the coming months, the Mountains/Plains Office will undertake a $2.3 million rehabilitation of the school, with a particular focus on making the building a model for how older structures can meet – or exceed – the highest standards for energy efficiency and environmental design. It will also be a model for environmental stewardship of National Trust-owned properties. 

Stephanie Meeks shared this vision at a press conference held last Thursday, August 19, at the school. Regional Director Barb Pahl joined Stephanie to make the announcement, along with Denver Mayor (and Democratic gubernatorial nominee) John Hickenlooper, State Representative Pat Steadman, Denver Councilwoman Jeanne Robb, History Colorado President Ed Nichols, and State Historical Fund Director Steve Turner. 

From a stage in the second floor lecture hall at the Emerson School, Stephanie thanked the board of directors of Capitol Hill Senior Resources, Inc. for their generous donation of the school to the National Trust. In addition, she announced that a former Capitol Hill Senior Resources board member, Joan Garrett, donated a $1.5 million endowment to the National Trust to provide for the long-term maintenance of the school. 

The press conference concluded with a big boost for the rehabilitation plan, when History Colorado President Ed Nichols presented Stephanie and the National Trust with a certificate announcing a $500,000 grant to the project from the State Historical Fund. This was one of just two grants awarded to Colorado projects through a special State Historical Fund initiative to demonstrate the connections between historic preservation and sustainability. 

Please stay tuned to PresevationNation.org for additional information about the Emerson School and its upcoming green rehabilitation. Also, click here to learn more about the National Trust’s efforts to retain community-centered schools. 

Jim Lindberg is the director of preservation initiatives for the National Trust's Mountains/Plains Office.

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.

Schools: Reflecting on Recent Environmental Lessons Learned

Posted on: August 10th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Renee Kuhlman       

Things that very quickly ruin my morning – stories about kids forced to trade quality walking/biking time for long bus commutes to new sprawl campuses.

Each and every morning, I kick off the day by reading through a slew of newspaper stories and blog posts chronicling school closures, rehabilitations, and funding issues. To be honest, it's a labor of love that comes with the territory of being the "schools guru" for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Center for State and Local Policy. Then, after much scanning, surfing, and clicking, I send out the most interesting stories to a growing list of folks who are interested in community-centered schools.    

Some of the stories I come across make me glad to have gotten out bed, like this one from the Charleston Daily Mail, where Superintendent George Krelis spoke in glowing terms about the recent renovations to the 1917 Triadelphia Middle School in Wheeling, WV. "There was never a discussion of demolishing the building. It’s in tremendous condition. Structurally, it’s a beautiful facility.”      

Ahhh, I live for sound bites like that.      

Sometimes, however, I get frustrated seeing the same stories over and over again. Take this example from KITV.com in Honolulu, where one of four K-6 elementary schools located on the island of Molokai might be closed for claimed efficiency reasons. Efficient?!? If the school is closed, the students who currently walk to the 1937 Maunaloa School will not only have to ride a bus, but will lose the many benefits offered by smaller schools. According to Maunaloa Elementary School Principal Joe Yamamoto, “the school is really like a second home to them...they are always around the school.” I must ask (though I can probably answer myself): Has a full cost study been done measuring the health, transportation, and community costs of the decision?      

That’s why I was so excited to hear presentations last Thursday by Patrice Frey and Elaine Clegg to the organizations that are receiving funding and technical assistance through the Helping Johnny Walk to School: Sustaining Communities through Smart Policy project. I thought the lessons we learned that day might be helpful to you.      

Lesson #1 – Explain How We’re Avoiding Negative Environment Impacts by Using Older Schools      

According to Patrice Frey, the deputy director of the sustainability program at the National Trust, there are several environmental reasons for keeping older school buildings in use. When people think of carbon dioxide emissions and buildings, they typically think of emissions that come from the operation of buildings. In the eyes of many, buildings produce so much carbon through use of electricity and natural gas that it’s better to rip them down and start over. Not so fast!  Turns out that the construction process itself produces lots of carbon. For example, researchers have found it takes 35-50 years for a new, energy-efficient home to recover the carbon expended in construction. I’m no mathematician, but even I can extrapolate what that means in terms of school construction.   

Lesson #2 – Life Cycle Analysis...Coming Soon      

The National Trust is sponsoring research on life-cycle assessments, and one of the scenarios we'll be running is the use of an existing school building vs. demolishing it and building new. For those like me who are unfamiliar with what exactly life-cycle assessment means, check out this easy-to-understand description. Due out this winter, the new research will be a boon in the effort to protect community-centered schools.      

Lesson #3 – Guess Again – Older Buildings Aren’t Necessary Energy Hogs      

Older buildings, including schools, are not “energy hogs." The Department of Energy has found that the “energy use per square foot” for older, commercial buildings (which Patrice Frey believes would be same basic typology as an older school) is less for buildings constructed before 1920 than any other era of construction up until year 2000. Why is this, you might ask? No need to look further than the thick masonry walls, high ceilings, and operable windows in your local school.      

Lesson #4 – Putting It In Writing Makes A World of Difference      

Taking the recommendations from a variety of sources, including the recently published Helping Johnny Walk to School publication, Elaine Clegg with Smart Growth Idaho has given presentations across her state about smart growth, safer routes to school, school siting, and complete streets. On the school siting issue, the workshops are designed to encourage collaborative planning between school districts, land-use, transportation, and planning agencies so that school site decisions incorporate a full cost comparison, including transportation, health, and community costs. These workshops encourage an agreement to be signed by agencies and any non-governmental organizations (YMCA, youth organizations, etc.) involved to overcome the question of who has authority to make decisions. Clegg also suggests that such agreements always include a process so that the public’s opinions can be incorporated.      

All in all, these four lessons prove that the old saying is wrong; you can teach an old dog some new tricks. Please let us know if they make a difference in your community.      

Renee Kuhlman directs the Helping Johnny Walk to School: Sustaining Communities through Smart Policyproject and enjoys learning something new every day. If you are interested in her daily of school clippings, please contact her directly at renee_kuhlman@nthp.org.

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.

1924 Bank Starts New Life as a School

Posted on: July 27th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Renee Kuhlman   

Architect John Greer of Witsell Evans Rasco renovated the 49,693-square-foot historic bank building into a 21st century educational space that includes a chemistry lab, physics lab, art room, media center (library), and a multi-purpose room/cafeteria. Photo: Witsell Evans Rasco Architects I Planners

This month, the Little Rock branch of the Federal Reserve Bank reopened – not to service bank customers, but students. The e-Stem High Public Charter School started its semester last Monday in two newly-renovated buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  

But that’s nothing new for this innovative school. Two years ago, they chose a former newspaper building as their first campus. The downtown school quickly had a waiting list of over 1,000 students, which was far more than they could accommodate.  

Southern Bancorp CDC, which has provided renovation assistance and financing to other public schools, bought the old Federal Reserve Bank in 2009 and is now leasing the building to e-Stem Public Charter Schools. Despite mechanical and plumbing obstacles, the building’s proximity, historic finishes, and ability to be renovated to fit current educational needs made it a perfect fit for e-Stem's expansion.  

Originally constructed by Thompson & Harding Architects over a period of nine months at a cost of $217,000, the bank building was located next to the Gem Theater. After burning in 1929, the rebuilt three-story concrete framed and brick structure became known as the Gem building. The Federal Reserve purchased the Gem Building in 1959, moving in their old records and creating a secure entrance for loading and unloading currency.  

Architect John Greer of Witsell Evans Rasco renovated the 49,693-square-foot building into a 21st century educational space that includes a chemistry lab, physics lab, art room, media center (library), and a multi-purpose room/cafeteria. The building also offers a wireless network and classrooms equipped with four computer workstations and built-in audiovisual systems. In addition to installing new mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, historic materials such as plaster ornamentation, marble floors, and column wainscoting have been restored. Windows that were once bricked-in now offer natural lighting in each classroom throughout the day.  

Greer says that the school plans to take advantage of the historic architecture. “It’s just a great building for the kids. It’s got a lot of architectural details for them to enjoy and the school plans to take advantage of that by offering classes in architecture and photography.”  

To utilize these historic buildings, unique solutions had to be found. Because there’s no gym within the new building, the school is partnering with a local college to use their gymnasium. And while there is not enough room for a prep kitchen, students will enjoy their locally-catered lunches in a cafeteria that doubles as a multi-purpose room.  

The location couldn’t be better for working parents, as it’s located in downtown Little Rock. The students will be able to take advantage of the central library (just three blocks away) and the nearby Robinson Music Center Auditorium. It’s a true community-centered school.  

According to Greer, one of the biggest challenges was creatively incorporating new technology and systems while keeping the historic ceilings exposed. Because many of the modifications made over the past few years had to be torn out, the asbestos abatement was easier than originally anticipated. Another problem was configuring the classrooms. Typical spacing between supporting columns isn’t as conducive to classrooms as a building designed specifically for educational purposes, but the school was flexible and able to change their program to fit the sizes of the rooms in some cases.  

During the dedication ceremony, President of Southern Bancorp CDC John French said, “We hope that it contributes to the success of the high school students who will study here and furthers the redevelopment of downtown Little Rock and the Main Street area.”  

Approximately 375 students in the 9th, 10th, and 11th grades will occupy the buildings for the 2010-11 school year. Next year, the charter school will add the 12th grade, bringing the total combined enrollment up to 500 students.  

Hopefully, the creativity that went into renovating the space will inspire the students at e-Stem Public Charter School to be equally creative during their school career – and beyond.  

Check out this video covering eStem's opening. >>  

  

Renee Kuhlman directs the Helping Johnny Walk to School: Sustaining Communities through Smart Policy project for the Center for State and Local Policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.

Reflections on Modernizing and Expanding a Historic School

Posted on: July 12th, 2010 by Guest Writer

 

DC's School Without Walls (Photo: Joseph Romeo)

Written by Sean O’Donnell

Now that summer has arrived in earnest, Washington, DC’s School Without Walls Senior High School (“Walls”) has become unusually quiet. This 440-student public school just enjoyed its first year back at its newly-modernized and expanded campus, giving me a chance to reflect on how well this learning community has settled back into its home.

The renewed facilities – a combination of a 19th century school house and a 21st century addition – have had a dramatic impact on learning. Test scores and applications to enroll in the school have both risen dramatically. The fourteen juniors who enrolled in the first full year of the Early College Program are taking dual credit courses at the neighboring George Washington University toward an associate’s degree.

In a roundtable conducted by the American Architectural Foundation, teachers remarked that the building greatly enhanced communication among the faculty. New distance learning technologies have further enhanced collaboration with students attending schools in Ghana and Nigeria, and the facilities have enhanced the sense of pride among the Walls community.

Senior Malika Morris expressed this newfound sense of pride in The GW Hatchet by saying: “I remember freshman year when people would ask me what school I went to… and they’d say ‘What school is that?’ But now I say ‘I go the School Without Walls’ and they’re like ‘Oh, the new school in GW.’ And that’s my school! So it feels good.”

Sadly, the school existed for nearly 40 years in a building that endured a long history of deferred maintenance and functional obsolescence. The three-story, twelve-classroom design of the 1882 Grant School Building – now occupied by Walls – was based on then-Superintendent of Schools J. Ormond Wilson’s research into European and American school design.

Although begun as a model 19th century schoolhouse, the building was considered outdated by the 1940s because it lacked any assembly space. During a visit to the school, Eleanor Roosevelt decried the building’s poor condition. Various ad hoc modifications occurred over the following decades, but by 2000, the building was in terrible disrepair. Its condition was best illustrated by a student video that, while at times humorous, showed the deplorable condition of their learning environment: extensive water damage, falling plaster, lack of power, crumbling window sashes, general inaccessibility, and lack of space.

While the students spent the last year taking advantage of the resources of their modernized campus, this renovation and expansion project received a number of prestigious awards, including Learning by Design’s 2010 Grand Prize for Excellence in Educational Facility Design and the 2010 AIA Committee on Architecture for Education Educational Facility Design Awards Program Citation. Just a week ago, the school building became certified by the United States Green Building Council as LEED for Schools Gold. For me, the success of Walls – educationally and architecturally – proves a larger point: Historic buildings can thrive as 21st century schools.

Walls provides tangible evidence that if you can look past the daily experience of the current problems beleaguering many of our older school buildings and truly assess their potential, many are capable of meeting contemporary educational needs with the proper investment. And when considered within a broader context of educational and societal goals, they may even exceed the performance of a new “green field” school.

Click here for more information on Walls and the process that enabled several other older schools to adapt to contemporary needs.

Sean O’Donnell, AIA, LEED AP, is a principal with Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.