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Old schools find new lives as apartments

January 04, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Most people in Waynesboro who were around in the middle of this century remember when the North Street School was indeed a school.

The same is true of the Snider Avenue School.

North Street was built in 1892 and Snider Avenue a couple of years later. Both were built of brick in the style of the period, two story and stately with large, closed classrooms separated by wide hallways.

The School Board closed both schools in the mid-1970s when Fairview Avenue Elementary School opened. Students from North Street and Snider Avenue schools were shifted to the new building.

The old buildings sat empty for a couple of years until they were bought at auction by J.A. Abbott III, a local businessman, in 1977.

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Abbott set to work converting the Snider Avenue building into a 12-unit apartment building, with each apartment taking up an entire classroom.

"I thought it would make a good project," Abbott said. "The size of the classrooms and the fact that they are so well soundproofed make them perfect for apartments."

Each apartment has two bedrooms and two baths.

Abbott said local history adds to the building's charm. "My wife went to school there. Some of the tenants did too," he said. "There's something nice about saying, 'I was in Mrs. so-and-so's class and now I'm living in it.'"

Abbott converted the first floor of the North Street Building into a senior center and rented it to the county. The second floor stayed vacant. The senior center left the old school in 1995 when it moved to a new activities center on South Potomac Street.

Abbott has since sold the North Street School building to Paul Hasty and James Ray, partners in a project to convert it into a 13-unit apartment building. Hasty and Ray also are building a 61-unit self-storage building in the old school parking lot.

Hasty, 36, said he will start renting storage units by the end of February. The partners hope to generate income from the storage units to use in renovating the school building. Hasty wouldn't say how much he and Ray expect to spend.

"It will be an expensive undertaking," he said.

According to Douglas Pyle, Waynesboro's building inspector, the partners have obtained all permits needed so far, a process that Hasty called "arduous."

"We thought it would be nice to save this old building, save some local history and help the community," Hasty said.

Nine of the apartments will have two bedrooms, two will have one bedroom and there will be a large three-bedroom unit in the basement. The apartments will probably rent for $400 to $550 a month, Hasty said.

He said he hopes to incorporate as much of the old school - windows, high ceilings and slate blackboards - as possible in the renovation, he said.

The building's original hard red maple floors will be refinished rather than covered with carpeting. The partners have been taking suggestions from neighbors of the building and former students.

Work could begin this year, Hasty said. The first floor will be finished first, followed by the second, then the basement. The final job will be to convert the attic into office space.

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