Monday, March 1, 2010

Photo of the Day: Educational Decay

Maggie and I were out on a walking adventure this morning and passed by an old school. It's confusing to look at. The windows are dotted with various construction paper cut-outs. Flowers of different colors adorn one bank of windows, various umbrellas decorate another. The swings on the playground catch the wind and move back and forth. At second glance things seem a little out of place. A fence surrounds the school, windows are broken, and trash is strewn about the silent playground.

I was curious about the silent school.

A quick search online and I got some of the facts. The Varnum School was built in the Greek Revival style. First constructed in 1857, a minor addition added in 1886, and a major addition in 1896 that was in the Classical Revival. The school was named for Major General Joseph Varnum of Draut who fought in the American Revolution and later served in both the Massachusetts and the U.S Legislature. Congress where he served as Speaker of the House. The school was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. It was abandoned by the city of Lowell in 2008 because of budget cuts.

It's sad to see the school sit empty. I'm not particularly sad that the building no longer serves as a school (though it would be nice to see the building providing some sort of purpose for the community that surrounds it). Budgets sometimes need to be cut and school districts need to make difficult decisions. I'm sad that this little piece of history got silenced when the last school bell rang, and the last child walked out the door for their long anticipated summer vacation.

The building is slowing becoming a forgotten place that blends in with the background of urban blight. It reminded me this morning of one of the reasons why I am so interested in stories. Our histories are important: they connect us together to a common shared community. Every time part of the story is lost, we lose a little bit of that shared connection.

While finding what little I could about the school I had to smile: the new ways we are building community are slowly finding ways to collect and maintain this history of places such as the Varnum School. The school has it's own
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