Friday, October 14, 2016


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William B. Ittner
There is a growing movement to preserve what is now the Greenville Junior High School that is fueled by the many generations of Greenville graduates who have attended this school.

There are also many misconceptions about preserving this building that were fostered during the passing of the bond issue that funded the new K-8 school building. Though funds for demolition were included as part of the bond package, demolition was never made essential. Repurposing the building is a more viable option than destruction, as the building is one of the most soundly built structures in Darke County as recent inspections have shown. It is also fireproof.

Though the Board of Education has recently opened up bids for the demolition, that does not mean this has to be done. It is so large and so well built that estimates for demolition are well beyond 1.5 million at this time.

The State of Ohio is one of many sources for funds for the preservation of historic properties. This building is certainly one of the most historic, as it is a work of architectural art as well. Several developers have expressed much interest in repurposing the building for housing (especially senior housing). Because of the location––and in real estate, location is king––it is a great place for senior living and a community center as well. Being able to live next to the Carnegie Library, Memorial Hall and dwell within a short walking distance of the downtown shopping and restaurants is a huge asset. The building will be 100-years-old in a few years. It’s hallways sparkle, the hardwood floors are immaculate, the marble staircase and Frank Lloyd Wright styled rails are as beautiful as they ever were.
Among other innovations, there is an ground-to-roof atrium in the center of the school that was designed to let natural light and ventilation all the rooms.

This is a bit of the spectacular pedigree of the building:

William Butts Ittner (September 4, 1864 – 1936) was the architect for the old Greenville High school. He is credited with the design of over 430 schools nationwide and has over 35 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. He was described as the most influential man in school architecture in the United States.

The school is less than 2 blocks from where Wayne in 1795 and Harrison in 1814 held their seminal Treaties, that shaped our Country’s, State’s and local histories, destinies and unfolding future.
The school board approached Andrew Carnegie in 1901 for his help in building a library in Greenville. He gave them $25,000 and Henry St. Clair gave another $6,100 and it opened in 1903. When Henry St. Clair died in 1908 he left the school board, $100,000 to build the Memorial Hall. His widow, Ella gave another nearly $40,000 and it opened in 1912. The 1868 West School Building was moved in 1910 to allow the Memorial Hall to be built in the center of the block.

After World War, I in 1921, Greenville was in need of a new school. The school board contacted Mr. William B. Ittner of St. Louis, the nation’s premier school architect. Mr. Ittner was easily the most the most influential man in school architecture in the United States.

A $390,000 school levy was passed in Nov. of 1921 and Mr. Ittner designed a unique landmark building that was to serve it's two historical companions as community symbols of pride.

"Ittner revolutionized school design and his buildings provide ties to an era of high educational standards. Ittner's intelligence, sophistication, intuition, training, and civitas translated high standards into a physical form of grace and rationality. Ittner considered light a building material, not an afterthought. He regarded ventilation as part of the infrastructure of learning. School grounds were carefully, artfully, landscaped. Buildings became the central features of parks for learning. As important as it was to provide emotionally nourishing, and visually stimulating places for children, Ittner believed that the public school must also be an intellectual and physical refuge for adults. It should serve to make intellectual growth a vital part of life. 'From early childhood into old age. Complete living,' he called it.

"Education today is a continuous process with the public school serving all ages," Ittner wrote in Architectural Forum in August, 1922. Ittner regarded his buildings as greenhouses for the intellectual and physical well-being of their constituents. He declared "The complete school environment should be a model for health. To accomplish this desired goal, sanitation, cleanliness, perfect lighting, airiness, and cheerfulness must, of necessity, constitute the eternal, unwritten laws of successful school planning.” -Wikipedia

The fact that the building need not be sacrificed on the altar of expediency is just beginning to be known. A meeting was held at the Carnegie Library on October 7th, 2016. The architects who inspected the building spoke to an audience that included Greenville’s mayor and several members of the school board about plans for converting the property to senior living facility with room for a community center as well, if desired.

Replacement costs for this building are estimated to be around 32 million dollars would it be rebuilt from the ground up in today’s market. Renovation costs for senior living are estimated between 6 and 7.5 million for completion.

Video of about half the meeting is now on You Tube on three parts, beginning with

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