Monday, December 15, 2014

A College Campus in Norristown!

Now that I have your attention, I'll start at the beginning. Yesterday I went to the Norristown Preservation Society's Christmas party (see? You join organizations in N-town and you get the fringe benefit of being invited to parties). They held it at the old Hancock School, which is now the Montgomery County Opportunities Industrialization Center at Arch and Basin Sts.

The building is owned by the OIC's Denise Ashe. Her son Shae (who most of you know as the genius behind The Norristown Project) was nice enough to give us a tour. It was built in 1896 and opened as Norristown's first public school in 1897. In the 1960s, the new Hancock was built, but the old school was almost immediately repurposed as the OIC--sort of a technical (or trade) school before the first tech school opened in the county. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the building was restored, even the  windows, in the 1890s style. It's beautiful inside, with the original beadboard and wood moldings and hardwood floors. The structure is on the National Register of Historic Places. It houses not only the OIC but a before and afterschool day care on the first floor.

But the exciting news is that the OIC is now starting to restore the classrooms in the basement for themselves because a section of their rooms on the 2nd floor will become Cabrini College's Norristown Campus.

The OIC's interior
I've noticed Cabrini getting more involved with our community--groups have come up to work on the Schuylkill River Trail and do other service projects. And I've met Cabrini interns working with N-town businesses. But this is the first I'd heard of an actual campus in town. Great news.

It also proves that our beautiful old buildings don't have to be demolished. They can be repurposed and continue to serve the community--usually for less money and you get a good solid brick building in the process. And we don't have to give up Norristown's classic architectural character.

We'll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of another school this week--Roosevelt School at Markley and Sterigere. It opened in 1914 and was named after Theodore Roosevelt, who'd been president from 1901-1909. I attended Roosevelt from kindergarten to 6th grade, so I'm a bit biased toward the school. I've heard ideas floated in the last year or two about knocking down Roosevelt. I think the OIC is a prime example of why knocking down our old buildings is a BAD idea. Even if we stop using Roosevelt as a public school, who's to say Cabrini won't be looking for extra classroom space in a few years, or that another college might not want to also open a campus here?

This Thursday from 5:45-7 pm, you can take a tour of Roosevelt and celebrate its anniversary, but you must RSVP by calling 610-275-9720 or emailing no later than TODAY.

1 comment:

  1. It's an absolutely gorgeous building which has been put to a wonderful use.