Pressure Mounts to Save School
Bulldozers are also coming for two historic buildings on the West Broad School campus. The historic preservation specialist consulting on the project recently resigned, saying that the main architects and Clarke County School District officials had sidelined her.
CCSD is planning on turning the segregation-era school for Black children into an early learning center. Two 1950s buildings facing Broad Street and Campbell Lane are slated to be torn down to make way for new classrooms, while at least the facade, if not the interior, of the original 1938 building on Minor Street will be restored.
However, some preservationists say the Campbell Lane building can be saved and should be saved, because it’s one of the few surviving examples of school architecture from the “equalization era,” when Southern school districts tried to stave off integration by building new facilities for Black students under the “separate but equal” doctrine.
Although she had been described as having the “lead” role on the Minor Street building, Barbara Black—an architect who specializes in historic preservation whose firm BKB Arch had been hired by the primary architectural firm Lindsay Pope Brayfield—said she had no role in either the Minor Street design or the decision to tear down the Campbell Lane building. Black said in a written statement that she was merely paid hourly to attend public meetings.
“I don’t believe a BKB Arch ‘lead’ role in drawing production, or even a consulting role will have any impact on the preservation approach and execution of the Minor Street Building Rehabilitation,” Black wrote. “The approach has been defined by CCSD, and demolition of the two historic buildings and the Minor Street interior is scheduled in the very near future. BKB Arch’s peripheral [role] as it has loosely evolved has not, and likely will not, have any impact on the approach to the rehabilitation.”
CCSD is pushing to finish the project by March. However, it’s unclear whether that deadline was self-imposed or a condition of a federal grant.
“The aggressive schedule seemed to indicate that LPB could use BKB Arch’s help with the production of the Minor Street drawings, and we were willing to help, but there was no definition of responsibilities and no agreement,” according to Black.
The local preservation group Historic Athens also circulated a letter to CCSD last week from Joe Smith, a preservation architect with the Athens firm Arcollab who has toured the campus. In it, Smith said the Campbell Lane building was well built, is in good condition, and can be brought up to code and reused. Rehabbing the building could even save money because it won’t require a new foundation, walls, windows or doors, Smith said.
“CCSD’s goals for the campus do not contravene a larger preservation goal for the Minor and Campbell Street buildings,” Smith wrote. “I believe both goals to be achievable. I hope that you will further explore the opportunities provided by the rehabilitation of this terrific building.”
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