WARREN – The nearly 100-year-old facade of Warren G. Harding High School needs a safety facelift.
It will be up to the Warren Board of Education to decide on funding for the porch and staircase restoration now – or wait until later when it could cost significantly more, according to John Lacy, director of business operations for the school district.
At risk is the only remaining part of the old Harding Building, erected in 1925 and first occupied in 1926. The facade was saved from demolition in 2008 when the new high school was built behind it. Inside there is a shell, which is no longer used, although the original conservation goals were much more ambitious.
The three-story facade was the entrance to the original school’s main office.
Lacy last week presented school board members with a series of photographs showing the deterioration of the porch, stairs and columns.
The stone blocks move away from each other and are the main room in the building, he said. Some areas received rain and snow between them during the freeze and thaw cycles and separate.
“Some stones literally collapse” Lacy said. “There has been constant deterioration. “
Lacy pointed out that the main structure is strong and secure. Only the porch and the stairs are wearing out.
Miller-Yount Paving Inc. was commissioned six months ago to assess the condition of the facade.
The building is a historic monument, so there is an interest in maintaining it as it was originally constructed, according to Lacy.
On the land surrounding the facade are portions of every demolished Warren school building from this period of district reconstruction. These include cornerstones and nameplates from the facade of schools as well as decorations and images, including gargoyles, arches and time capsules.
“Some of the most beautiful pieces have pictures on them” Lacy said.
“There have been older alumni of the city’s schools, residents and even recent graduates who have been seen visiting the facade,” Lacy said.
The district replaced 13 old school buildings with five new facilities in the early 2000s, at a time when the state was providing funds to modernize or replace school buildings in Ohio. With these funds, Warren Schools opened four K-8 schools and one high school.
At the time, the Ohio School Facilities Board approved that schools in the town of Warren receive 80% of the funding needed for new buildings through public funds. The rest was to be paid for with dollars collected locally.
Some projects, notably the preservation of the part of the old Harding, had to be paid for with local funds.
Lynn Gibson, a former school board member and a major proponent of preserving the facade, said at the time it was important to save part of Harding because it was a building so beautiful architecture.
She served on the school board from 1989 to 2005. She moved to Warren in 1971.
“I haven’t been to Warren Schools, but I think every community has architectural structures worth saving,” Gibson said. “It was one of them.”
Several years ago, the Harding Facade was placed on a list of the 28 Best High Schools in Ohio, according to an online site called Aceable. It was ranked # 15 out of 28 high school websites reviewed.
“Fortunately, the contractors kept the neo-Greek facade of the old facility, a design unique among high schools in the state” noted the writer.
Aceable is an online driver training course.
Warren voters approved a levy that provided $ 1 million for upkeep and upkeep of the facade.
There is still $ 700,000 in the Historic Respect fund, according to Lacy.
“The options are to do the restoration of the porch and the stairs fairly quickly; delay work for several years and potentially have to pay higher prices for repairs, or reduce the amount of work required by eliminating the porch and simply placing new stairs at the door, ” Lacy said. “Removing the porch may be more economical, but it will eliminate the historic character of the facade.
“To do whatever is necessary for the restoration in a relatively short time will probably cost over a million dollars. Lacy said. “It could cost a lot more to wait. “
If approved by the board of directors, it will be the first major investment the district must make to maintain the remaining portion of old Harding.
Board chair Patricia Limperos said the district has, over the years, put in bandages to maintain the facade.
“For the moment, it’s a question of security” said Limperos. “We don’t want anyone to be hurt.”
Limperos believes the board will ultimately approve funding for the restoration of the front porch and stairs.