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'The building can't continue to stand': Coultrap demolition begins in Geneva

GENEVA –  After the first stage of demolition began Monday at the former Coultrap school, Glorianne Campbell went over and peeked through the construction fence.

Campbell and her husband, Colin, had been staunch opponents of Geneva School District 304’s decision to raze the 90-year-old building at 1113 Peyton St., lobbying officials at meetings and speaking out in favor of preservation.

But now, Campbell said, the focus is coming up with a plan to memorialize the building and the educator for whom it was named – Harry Coultrap, the district’s first superintendent.

“The building can’t continue to stand and I have to accept that,” Glorianne Campbell said. “We will have something so people in the future will know Coultrap. I’m just sad. The quality of the materials that went into that building are exquisite, and they don’t build things like that any more.”

Alpine Demolition Services of Batavia began the demolition process Monday, beginning work inside the building to get it ready for razing. Officials said in a week or two, giant claws attached to excavators will take chunks of the building out until it is completely gone. Demolition is expected to be completed before the start of the 2013-14 school year.

“When it actually starts to happen, maybe I don’t want to watch,” Campbell said. “I’ll see when the time comes.”

• • •

When the original Coultrap building opened as Geneva High School in 1923, it had a principal, nine teachers, one secretary, two or three telephones and room for 300 students, according to a history of the school.

Coultrap was dedicated as a junior high in 1958, became a middle school in 1968 and was converted to an elementary school in 1994 before being closed in 2009 so its students could attend the new Williamsburg Elementary School.

The Superintendent’s Facility Task Force recommended the building be demolished and school officials affirmed that, saying the building was too expensive to keep or maintain. 

Renovation and repair estimates were $2.3 million to $4.3 million and it cost almost $70,000 a year just to keep it open. If the district wanted to bring the school back up to standards as an attendance center, it would cost $16 million, officials said.

The school’s problems were many: A leaking roof that wicks water through the brick itself and caused ceiling tiles to fall, mold to grow, plaster to dissolve and rust to thrive on doorways. Other problems included failing wiring and window leaks.

The school board in April approved awarded a $140,200 bid to have the asbestos removed and approved a contract with Alpine for $545,900 for the demolition.

• • •

School Board President Mark Grosso said the district is not only working toward creating a proper memorial for Coultrap, but also will rededicate its administration center at 227 Fourth St. as the Coultrap Educational Services Center in honor of Harry Coultrap.

“It’s sad to see the building be razed, but we are going to use some parts of the facility for the memorial. That is our plan,” Grosso said. “Everyone is sad to see the old facility go.”

Grosso said he took Paul Coultrap, Harry’s grandson, on a tour of the administration building.

Paul Coultrap would be among those invited for the rededication ceremony to be held sometime this summer before the new school year starts, Grosso said.

“We brought him out to see the portrait of Harry at Fourth Street,” Grosso said. “He was very enthused about it being renamed.”

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