Saturday, April 5, 2014

Your Town's Centerpiece

In 1976, the town I grew up in voted a large renovation of our middle school.  Although the updates were needed, looking back, it desecrated that old beautiful structure that served as a beacon not just of the education the town's kids were receiving, but of a centerpiece that town could be proud.  The original front entrance led you into a grand staircase that would lead you down to the basement in order to enter the gym or the auditorium (two separate rooms), or upstairs to the first or second floor.  Today, the only evidence left of that entrance is the decorative stone molding round the entrance.  The entrance itself was sealed shut with coats of concrete (at least it has been painted over since I attended there with a scene of how the doorways & staircase once looked.)  The stone walkway that began with large outdoor stone steps leading to the front doors have long since been removed and grown over with grass (they remained while I was there, but I guess people realized how silly it looked to have them leading to a now non-existent entrance).  The only thing that remains are the landing in front of the doors.  Where the grand staircase was that welcomed legions of students into the school now stands bathrooms for the first and second floor.  The gym and the auditorium have been combined into one room, a large gymnatorium (or auditnasium take your pick).  No longer is there theater styled seating or acoustics for musical performance nor is the floor a nice wooden one to play basketball on (it is a rubberized surface, because I failed to mention, it is also the cafeteria.)

Take a look at old schools, ones built before the 1970's.  Look at the craftsmanship on the outside, the decorative stone work on the outside.  In some schools, famous quotes about the value of an education are chiseled into plaques on the side of the building.  And I'm not just talking in wealthy towns.  Walking into a building with detail accents and a large staircase I believe represented the wonder, awe, and beauty of the endeavor that students which about to partake.  It symbolized the importance their parents and town placed in their education.  The town in which I grew up in was and is a blue collar community, yet even when these old structures went up, the town's were willing to pay for an aesthetic beauty that I believe demonstrated the value they placed on the education their children were receiving.

Today's schools structures look more like office buildings.  The "grandiose" has been replaced with the "practical".  Instead of quality craftsmanship, work goes to the lowest bidder who then use inferior material and methods to make a profit on the low price they proposed.  In the long run the repairs that need to be made may equal the cost in making it durable in the first place.

At one time it seems that the school building represented all the hopes and dreams a community had for their youth and they were designed to look that way.  Today they look like they exist to produce a product.

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