Chester Historical Society: ‘A community’s history is one of its greatest assets’

| 11 Jul 2023 | 02:13

    Since the terrible storm on Monday, July 3rd, there have been differing opinions expressed regarding the loss of the roof in the 1967 addition at the Maple Avenue School.

    Thankfully, most of the responses have been that the school must be saved.

    The fact is, at this time, no-one has any idea what should be done with the 1967 building now that the expense of a new or repair of the roof on this building is coming before the School District and the taxpayers of the district.

    The Chester Historical Society has great concern regarding the 1935 Public Works Administration-era school building on Maple Avenue. The PWA was a large-scale public works construction agency that spent Federal money “on contracts with private construction firms that did the actual work.”

    Like its “sister” building in Middletown (the Twin Towers Building) this is an important historical building, “eligible to be placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, lauded by architects and engineers as a solidly constructed example of early 20th Century Art Deco architecture.”

    The Village of Chester Comprehensive Plan, has, as one of its guiding principles, the recognition and preservation of Chester’s historical resources. We hope that the Village leaders and School Board will adhere to this plan of preservation.

    A community’s history is one of its greatest assets.

    In New York State and beyond there are hundreds of examples of repurposed school buildings and other historic and long-time buildings in communities.

    Perfect examples of this are the Otisville School has been repurposed to the Old School Community Center, Chester’s own Presbyterian Church manse was repurposed to a funeral home and is now a law office, The 1915 Erie Railroad Station is now the Historical Society Museum, in Warwick the Hamilton Avenue Elementary School was converted to a Community Center and in the late 1970s the old South Hill School Building was converted into apartments.

    Although the 1967 addition may have outlived its useful life, this is not the case with the original 1935 Maple Avenue School Building. The residents of the Chester School District, alumni, former and current staff, must be able to see this.

    The Chester Public Library did a study on the cost of repairing and bringing the building back to life. That study was done approximately one year ago, and the estimated money needed was based on the building going back to school use as an official school building, the requirements of which are much stricter than those needed to make the building suitable for use as a library and public gathering space for arts, community meeting and the like.

    Thus, these alternative uses may be considerably less costly.

    Let us all think positive thoughts as the School District contemplates what its next steps are.

    If there is a community group formed, you can be sure that The Chester Historical Society will ask to become part of that group.

    The Chester Historical Society