Residents hope 1880-era school can graduate to a new life
In recent years, the academy, built in 1880, came under the scrutiny of the state fire marshal's office due to code issues and other safety concerns. Renovating the building — if that was even possible — to meet today's standards was cost prohibitive and the town's other elementary school also was plagued with similar problems, so the district decided to build a new school next door to Mascenic High School.
Last year, when the doors of Highbridge Hill Elementary School opened to students from New Ipswich and Greenville, the doors on Appleton Academy closed and the Mascenic School District put the 19,000-square-foot building on the market.
Marc Tieger of Tieger Realty in Jaffrey took the listing and had the building appraised. The price for the school and three acres of land came back at $129,000 and has since been reduced to $99,000.
“There are some challenges with the building, the first of which is finding a use for it,” said Tieger. Structurally, the building is sound, but because the septic system is linked in with Boynton Middle School, a new one must be installed. Though Tieger said there's no asbestos in the building, there is likely to be lead paint. None of those issues are deal breakers, but the property needs a buyer who has both the capital and the vision to give Appleton a new life.
Resident Marianne Graham can't stand to see the old school sitting empty, and has formed Friends of Appleton Academy to see if there's a need the building can fill.
“This building has been at the core of the community for a very long time,” said Graham. “And though the original building burned, there has always been a school on this spot.”
Thus far, a core group of 20 or so residents have been turning out for weekly meetings to talk about the future of the academy.
“We'd like to think about creating some kind of community space,” said Graham. “We don't have much of that in town.”
Room for senior citizens to gather, a place for recreation programs to take place, and space for all kinds of classes seems like a good fit for Appleton, but the trick is finding the resources to make that happen.
The group may seek grants, reach out to alumni of the school, or even go to the town with a proposal, but Graham said it's too early to speculate on where Friends of Appleton Academy are going to go with their ideas.
“Right now, the focus is on finding a use for the building,” she said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”
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Nancy Bean Foster may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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