Demolition of historic barn delayed
SCHUYLKILL TWP. >> A historic barn in Schuylkill Township will avoid the wrecking ball for at least another year, thanks to a new agreement reached between the township and the Phoenixville Area School Board.
The school board unanimously approved a 15-month continuance with Schuylkill Township for continued use of a barn on the site of the former Meadow Brook Golf Club. The continuance allows the school board to work through the details of the barn’s future as it decides whether’s its worth it to save the structure. The
Schuylkill Township Board of Supervisors already approved the continuance at its last meeting but needed the school board’s approval too.
“Schuylkill Township wanted us to vote on this as quickly as possible,” said board President Dan Cushing. “So that’s what’s bringing this as new business as opposed to waiting until next week. I don’t think it changes the outcome but they did request it specifically and I think it’s appropriate for us to honor that municipality’s request.”
The barn dates back to the Civil War and is part of a larger farmstead on the Meadow Brook property built before the Revolutionary War. The district purchased the property two years ago in order to further its plans to build the incoming Phoenixville Early Learning Center and Manavon Elementary School, currently estimated to cost $71 million. Last month, members of the Schuylkill Township Historical Commission lobbied for its preservation after district representatives asked for a permit to demolish the building. The school board then agreed to hold off on that request and installed a fence around the structure.
At a recent school board meeting, board member Kevin Pattinson announced the district has obtained insurance for the barn and must now decide what steps will be taken regarding the building’s future. To do this, the building and grounds committee will assemble a taskforce composed of school board and community members, to serve in an advisory role.
The school board will need to make several decisions about the barn starting with how to renovate the space. If it were to renovate the structure to serve as office space, estimates show such work would cost approximately $1.2 million, Pattinson said. If it decided to turn it into a classroom, it would cost approximately $1.8 million.
The Schuylkill Township Historical Commission hired its own contractor to estimate the cost of simply renovating the building so it’s structurally safe, and found the price tag would be approximately $600,000. That figure does not include the cost of remediating contaminated soil left over from old engine oil, Pattinson said.
If the board decides to move forward with restoring the historic building, it must first determine what to do with that soil, he said.
“There’s no way they can move any equipment in there to do the digging,” he said. “I believe it has to be done by hand. There’s simply not enough space to do any excavating.”
If the board were to choose to simply demolish the barn, it would only have to cover over the soil. By demolishing the barn, the district would spend approximately $52,000, according to Stan Johnson, executive director of operations. However, by selling off the building’s timber and leaving the stone on site, it could save approximately $10,000.
The board would also have to decide what it would do with the barn after renovation. One suggestion included leasing it to a nonprofit organization. The district would have to determine the legality of such a move first, Pattinson said.
Another suggestion would be for the board to consider the farm house and the barn linked and purchase them both.
“What is the district willing to spend for both of these buildings?” Pattinson said. “We will have to discuss how far are we willing to go as a board in saving these two historic buildings?”