75-year-old Brainerd school faces demolition as residents urge city leaders to act

  • Article by: CURT BROWN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 21, 2014 - 5:04 PM

Ac­tiv­ists want city lead­ers to buy the De­pres­sion-era school build­ing for $1. Dem­o­li­tion may cost as much as $225,000.

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Whit­ti­er School, which op­ened in 1939 in north Brainerd, faces pos­si­ble dem­o­li­tion. A group of neighbors is try­ing to save it.

With its cream-col­ored bricks, clas­sic wood­en gym and state­ly Works Progress Administration ar­chi­tec­ture, the Whit­ti­er School on the north side of Brainerd was the talk of the town when it op­ened in the au­tumn of 1939.

Now the state­ly-but-small va­cant school build­ing ap­pears des­tined for dem­o­li­tion un­less a last-ditch ef­fort from neigh­bor­hood ac­tiv­ists can save it.

“It’s sol­id, won­der­ful and still very valu­able and could eas­i­ly be repurposed for an­oth­er use,” said Kath­leen Ma­lo­ney Hermerding, a nurse who sent all six of her chil­dren to the school be­fore it shut­tered in 2008.

She’s a­mong a vo­cal group of north-side neighbors try­ing to persuade the Brainerd school board to hold off on wreck­ing the 75-year-old school. A chart­er school, Discovery Woods Mon­tes­so­ri, has ex­press­ed in­ter­est but can’t own the build­ing out­right.

Neighbors would like city lead­ers to buy it for $1 and lease to the Mon­tes­so­ri school. School-board of­fi­cials will re­visit the dem­o­li­tion is­sue Wednes­day, ac­cord­ing to Steve Lund, the dis­trict’s busi­ness di­rec­tor.

He said the three-sto­ry school in­cludes only eight class­rooms, has no el­e­va­tor for dis­a­bled stu­dents and needs asbestos a­bate­ment. Dem­o­li­tion bids came in rang­ing from $160,000 to $225,000.

Whit­ti­er was one of four new schools built in Brainerd to re­place a quar­tet of ag­ing 1893 school build­ings dur­ing the De­pres­sion when the gov­ern­ment was try­ing to put peo­ple back to work.

Curt Brown • 612-673-4767

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