When I was younger, I often fantasized about being locked in school overnight. While I was never very gung ho about school during the day (you could often find me doodling away during math class), there was something oddly alluring about the idea of having the whole place to myself. I imagined strolling around deserted corridors, drawing murals on the chalkboards, climbing ropes in the gym and wreaking havoc in the auditorium. Sometimes this fantasy extended beyond the idea of being stuck in school to actually living there. School never particularly caught my fancy as a place of education, but as a place for living? By golly — it was palatial! I would sometimes express my living-in-school fantasy to friends, but nobody seemed to share my enthusiasm. “Why on earth would you want to spend any more time at school than you need to?”, they would ask. Still, the idea never really left my mind. Today, I still wonder what it would be like to buy an old, crumbling schoolhouse and turn it into an actual house. Luckily, in recent years, I haven’t had to imagine. Across the country, developers have been turning old elementary and high schools into apartments and even hotels. Here’s a quick roundup of some notable ones! — Max
The full post continues after the jump . . .
The Oak School Lofts, Buffalo
Built in 1915, the building at 362 Oak Street in downtown Buffalo, NY, housed Buffalo’s Alternative High School until 2004. After the school shut down, Rocco Termini, a visionary developer responsible for rejuvenating many of Buffalo’s forgotten spaces, took over the property and converted it into loft spaces. Although the lofts at the Oak School are luxurious (many feature gas fireplaces and plasma televisions), efforts were taken to preserve the look and feel of the building’s original purpose. Many of the classroom-converted apartments still have their original chalkboards, hardwood maple floors, ceiling molding and giant 5 x 10 windows. Additionally, the public spaces of the building have been lovingly renovated to their more or less original state. When one enters the building, one gets the sneaking sense that they are actually at school — original water fountains and bookshelves populate the halls, and frosted windowpanes on apartment doors still have their classroom numbers emblazoned on them. According to Jason Termini, Rocco’s son, the goal of repurposing such gems is to combat suburban sprawl and bring life back to the urban center. “You don’t throw out a person when they get old,” he says, “so why a building?”
Kennedy School Hotel, Portland
Like the Oak School Lofts in Buffalo, the Kennedy School in Portland opened its doors to students in 1915. Over the course of the 20th century, the school pulled double duty after hours, serving as a public meeting hall, polling place, blood donation center and weekend playground. Unfortunately, the school was forced to shut its doors in 1975 due to lowered enrollment and disrepair. Heartbroken, community activists petitioned to preserve the school and ultimately saved it. In 1997, McMenamins, a local hospitality group dedicated to repurposing old buildings, converted it into one of Portland’s most unique destinations. With 57 guest rooms (many with classroom features still intact), a couch-filled movie theater, its own brewery, soaking pool and charm to spare, the Kennedy School hotel is the perfect home away from home.
5736 NE 33rd Ave, Portland, OR. Above photos courtesy of Liz Devine and McMenamins.
Old St. Francis School Hotel, Bend, OR
Also owned by McMenamins, the Old St. Francis School Hotel was built in 1936 and was originally a Catholic schoolhouse. Today, the school’s classrooms have been converted into lodging spaces, and the hotel boasts dozens of unconventional amenities such as a pub, a bakery, a brewery, a movie theater and a majestic soaking pool with delightful arabesque features.
700 NW Bond St., Bend, OR. Above photos courtesy of Liz Devine and McMenamins.
While this post focuses on just three school-to-living-space conversions, there are dozens more where these came from. All over, it seems, developers are feeling the itch to go back to school and are turning once abandoned local treasures into rejuvenated homes. Here are a few more notable conversions:
- Fifth Avenue School Lofts, Pittsburgh, PA. Built in 1894.
- Grant School Lofts, Bellevue, PA. Built in 1903.
- The Davie School Inn, Anna, IL. Built in 1910.
- The Washington School House Hotel, Park City, UT. Built in 1889.
- 279 Sterling Place, Brooklyn, NY. Converted from the 1887 Public School 9.
- 205 Warren Street, Brooklyn, NY. Originally home to St. Paul’s Parish School.