About a block from our house, a titanic home renovation project is underway. Actually, it’s a school-to-home renovation project. A wealthy Columbusite bought the St. Mary’s School building and is turning into a house. For months a construction crew has swarmed all over the building and grounds, and now that spring is here and the weather has improved the pace of the work seems to have intensified.
The notion of turning an old school into a house is a very intriguing one. I’ve never been in the St. Mary’s School building, but it reminds me of Rankin Elementary School in Akron, Ohio, the first school I ever went to. Like St. Mary’s, Rankin was a multi-story brick building, and inside there was a lot of polished wood floors and stairs, high ceilings, an auditorium, a cafeteria — and of course lots of classrooms, desks, and blackboards.
When your think about what a creative remodeler might do with such space, the mind reels. How much of the hardwood flooring do you keep and use? Do you retain the configuration of the rooms, or knock down walls? Of course, the heating system and the kitchen appliances would need to be replaced, and St. Mary’s School wouldn’t have had air conditioning — but the kitchen probably is big enough to . . . well, prepare a meal sufficient to feed an entire school of hungry kids. And the St. Mary’s School has the little flourishes that were always found in older building but almost never in their soulless modern successors, like the little turret room at the top of the school that would allow you to walk up and survey the rooftops of German Village like the captain on the bridge of his ship.
Of course, our curiosity about this remodeling project in our midst will probably never be satisfied. One day the work will end, the workers will leave, the barrier fence will come down, and the new owner will move in, and we’ll never know exactly what the St. Mary’s School has become. Still, it’s been fun speculating.