Old Hopkinton School Building from 1904

The former Ashaway School building, built in 1904, is set to be demolished, but a committee is working to see that valuable materials are salvaged first. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

HOPKINTON — Members of the 1904 School Building Subcommittee met this week to discuss the hiring of a company to salvage parts of the vacant school before it is demolished.

The subcommittee is chaired by Planning Board member Ronald Prellwitz. Other members present were former Town Council member Thomas Buck, who attended the old school, Department of Public Works employee Dave Caswell, Ashaway Elementary School teacher Clare Orburn and resident Kedrick Swain, who lives across the street from the school. 

Letters were sent to 14 salvage companies to determine their interest in bidding on the job, and three companies responded, asking for more detailed information about the school and the objects and materials that could be salvaged.

Members of the Hopkinton Town Council voted last June to raze the vacant  building, which is next to the current Ashaway school. The council also authorized the formation of a subcommittee to oversee the salvage of the building's more valuable components and the timing of the demolition itself. 

The council explored several uses for the building before deciding that it needed to come down. After it was determined that it would cost too much to rehabilitate the structure, which contains hazardous materials such as asbestos, the council discussed the idea of leasing it. But that option was also deemed impossible because of the extensive work that would be needed to make the building safe and marketable to prospective tenants.

Finally last April, teachers and parents renewed their call to have the building demolished and council members ultimately agreed. The group said they were concerned that the vacant building posed a fire and safety threat to students and teachers at the nearby school.

At the meeting on Wednesday, Buck explained that the challenge for the salvage and demolition operations will be the narrow time frame during which they can take place: during the summer when there are no children on the property.

“The whole thing’s got to be done between the end of June and the 1st of September,” he said. “Whether we can get it done for 2019 — we’re more likely to do it in 2020.”

Vacant for more than a decade, the large wooden school building contains valuable materials. Swain said the subcommittee would need to provide prospective bidders with more detailed information and photographs of the interior.

“Is there anything in the attic that could be used?” he asked. 

“The rafters and the beams,” Prellwitz said.

“Some of those things are chestnut,” Buck added.

Swain volunteered to go back into the school and take more detailed photographs. “We’ll give them dimensions and approximate location,” he said.

Buck asked Swain to take more detailed photographs of the building’s exterior, too.

“We should probably put in there some information about the school,” he said. “The number of classrooms, it’s two stories and an attic, and panoramic views going down the hallways.”

Swain said some of the potentially valuable components would be difficult to show in photographs. “Ornate cast iron radiators, slate chalkboards, I can look and find out the species of wood, but it should be hardwood trim,” he said.

Ornburn said she would send the more detailed information to the prospective bidders.

“Once I have the information about the dimensions and classrooms, then I’ll draft the letter,” she said. “I’ll send it to all of you and you can add in the photographs and share it back out to us, and then you’ll respond to the people via email.”

Prellwitz said he was pleased with the committee's progress. “Very happy. Everything’s coming together nicely,” he said. “Depending on which salvage company it is, the different articles that are in there, they can bid to purchase some of those and offset the cost of the demolition.”


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