1950s prototype school building facing demolition



July 6, 2015

EUREKA SPRINGS — In a city famous for its Victorian architecture, the proposed demolition of an institutional-looking 1951 building has provoked preservationists, but there’s been little public outcry to save it. The building served as Eureka Springs High School until January 2013, when students began attending a new school that was built on Lake Lucerne Road. The one-story, 24,096-square-foot old high school building on U.S. 62 has remained vacant since then. Considered by many to be an eyesore, the building was designed by a Fayetteville architect and served as the prototype for more than 50 schools that were built in 20 states and Canada. Last month, the Eureka Springs Historic District Commission approved tearing down the old high school to make way for an outdoor events center. Dee Bright, chairman of the commission, said school administrators let the building decay so they could get permission to demolish it. Bright cast the deciding vote to allow the demolition after touring the building for the first time in two years and deciding it would cost too much money to restore it. “They had turned off the power,” Bright said. “They weren’t keeping it up. I was so appalled at the damage when I walked in that door. I wanted it saved, from the historic perspective. It could be saved, but it would take lots of money.” Bright said the roof leaked, and school administrators didn’t put up tarps to keep the rain out. “They didn’t even try,” she said. David Kellogg, former superintendent of the Eureka Springs School District, disagreed with most of what Bright said. “Anytime there was a leak, we patched the leak,” Kellogg said. “It’s hard to tarp a large building like that.” Kellogg noted it would have been expensive to heat and air-condition the empty building. He said the school district was already paying $30,000 a year for utilities, insurance, maintenance and repair of the building. Kellogg was superintendent in Eureka Springs until Tuesday. He left to take a job as assistant superintendent in Prairie Grove. In Eureka Springs’ historic district, architecturally intact buildings that are more than 50 years old are considered to be “contributing” to the district. Demolition of any building in the district must be approved by the city’s Historic District Commission. The entire city was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and was relisted in 2005 as nationally significant. The old high school is within the historic district. The demolition permit is good for one year.

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