Miller School smokestack to come down as time capsule sought
As Greencastle's old Miller School moves toward future use as senior housing, its past continues to pique interest.
Not only did Milestone Ventures, the Indianapolis developers undertaking the Miller Asbury renovation project, recently invite neighbors in for a walk down memory lane/open house, but now they want to hear from the school's former students and teachers.
Milestone plans to convert Miller -- last used for classes in 1980 -- into 30 senior living units in a project that has received requisite approvals from the Greencastle City Council, Board of Zoning Appeals and Board of Public Works and Safety.
As those former classrooms are being renovated into living units, Milestone officials want to honor the former educators who last taught within those historic rooms.
Chuck Heintzelman, one of the Milestone Ventures principals, has drawings of the main and lower levels of the school to share with anyone who can remember the last teacher to conduct classes in each of the rooms.
"We want to put a little placard on the wall," he said, indicating it would list what the schoolroom was used for and who last taught there.
"We're trying to preserve as much of the historical integrity of the old school as possible," Heintzelman added.
Plans for the Miller Asbury apartment project include 12 one-bedroom units and 18 two-bedroom units for persons age 55 and up or 62 and up. The plan would not only renovate the old school building but also add a completely new two-story wing (with matching brick) off the southeast side of the structure.
A 12-month construction timeline is expected with the project being completed in October 2015.
Meanwhile, asbestos abatement is under way at the 522 E. Anderson St. structure with demolition of the added-on back buildings (unused essentially since Area 30 Career Center occupied a portion of the site) expected late next month. Asbestos is not expected to be a huge issue since its presence is mainly confined to the floor tile area, Heintzelman said.
Meanwhile, he said, "everybody asks about the smokestack."
The towering brick structure, which stands at the southeast corner of the building -- or the "Boys" side of the old school (boys once used the east entrance to the building, while girls entered from the west) -- is apparently not long for this world.
"The plan is to demolish the smokestack," Heintzelman said, explaining that engineers are "concerned about the structural integrity of the stack."
No timetable has been announced for demolition of the smokestack.
The developer admitted that while everybody but Raymond seems to love the smokestack -- which these days only serves to attract a bevy of bats nightly -- his favorite part of the building is the boiler room just inside that southeast corner.
The two large metal fire doors used to close off the boiler room for all those years will be removed, Heintzelman said, and used decoratively inside the remodeled unit that once housed the school's heat plant.
During the recent neighborhood open house, visitors had a chance to "find some treasures" left behind within the old school, the developer said, noting that "one little boy asked excitedly, 'Can I have this key?'"
Still to be unlocked, however, is the mystery of the missing Miller School time capsule.
City Council member and local historian Jinsie Bingham has said former Miller School students recall a ceremony where the time capsule was buried.
Greencastle Fire Chief Bill Newgent, who attended Miller School among its last group of students, reportedly told Heintzelman he believes the time capsule was buried in the courtyard of the school site.
Heintzelman, whose firm has completed a similar renovation of the old Paoli High School, said a time capsule was discovered there and used as part of a dedication ceremony. He would "like to mimic that effort" at Miller School.
Meanwhile, Milestone Ventures and the City of Greencastle are expected to close on the sale of the property as early as this week.
To this point, Milestone Ventures has been paying the insurance and utilities costs as well as mowing the grass to keep up appearances at the property and be a good neighbor.
And those neighbors are reportedly grateful.
"The neighborhood is fully supportive" of the project, longtime Anderson Street resident Bob Sedlack offered recently.
Back in October, the City Council unanimously approved a $250,000 purchase price, a figure reportedly well above the appraised value (average of two appraisals) on the building and nearly three-acre parcel of real estate adjacent to Robe-Ann Park.
Milestone Ventures has received funding approval from the Indiana Housing Community Development Authority (IHCDA), which has allowed a $6 million loan, on a two-year payback, for the Miller Asbury apartment development. The project was previously awarded $681,399 in tax credits.