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