Historic Neighborhood Schools
by Katharine Logan
In May 2001, the National Trust for Historic Preservation celebrated Preservation Week with a theme of "restore, renew, rediscover your historic neighborhood schools."
This year's event brought national attention to the danger of abandoning older schools: this practice means not only the destruction of some of our built heritage but also the loss of an important social anchor in established neighborhoods.
A child's walk to school — past friends, neighbors, and familiar merchants — creates a lasting memory. It fosters a sense of place in children, and gives them a feeling of belonging in that place.
Old neighborhood schools, with their distinctive architecture and prominent location in the neighborhood, communicate a message that children are an integral part of the community and that their education is a core community value.
Schools at Risk
But today fewer than one in eight students walks or bikes to school; and historic neighborhood schools are on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of the United States's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Increasingly, children are bused to huge, anonymous campuses on the outskirts of town.
"Schools historically have been at the heart of American communities," says National Trust President Richard Moe. "When the school anchors a neighborhood, both the students and residents benefit."
First prize-winning poster came from Northside Elementary School (1939), which was nearly closed when the city of Brookville, Pennsylvania wanted to build a new school outside of town.
Image: Brookville Area School District
A poster created by the students of Edison Elementary School (1926), in Eugene, Oregon, won second prize. Located near the center of town, Edison provides a focus for community activity.
Image: Edison Elementary School
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