502 White Avenue
I’m not entirely sure why, but at some point in my life I decided I wanted to buy an old school building. Most people want a sports car or a boat, but I wanted an old school. I really never thought this desire would materialize into anything, since schools don’t really come up for sale very often and they certainly don’t go up for sale in the neighborhood you live in very often, so I had kind of written it off as an unrealistic dream.
It was really by chance that a neighbor happened to mention to me that the Alcoholics Anonymous club was looking for a new location to meet because their current place was in major disrepair. It is my understanding that a member of this club had acquired the school building and later donated it to the group so they would have a permanent place for meetings. Unfortunately, AA dues don’t cover the cost of a new roof, especially for an old school building where previously small leaks had grown so massive that the club actually had to shut off a portion of the building. When I went for a preliminary tour, there was a colony of mushrooms growing out of the floor and the original floorboards were warped and contorted. I was not deterred and decided to buy the poor little two room schoolhouse anyway.
This project was by far the most ambitious project I had ever taken on. We worked slowly and carefully. It involved installing all new mechanical systems: plumbing, electric, heating and a sprinkler system. Although daunting at times, we somehow managed to complete it over the course of a few years. Our first mission was to put on a new roof. Now for anyone who knows me, they are well aware of my aversion to the sun. I avoid it as much as possible to prevent sunburns – which for me only require a 10 minute exposure. But the bids we got on the roof were all around $28,000.00. Again, anyone who knows me would also know that I hate spending money unnecessarily, even more than I hate the sun. Therefore, my father and I decided we would do the rubber roof ourselves. Two months and 6 rolls of 50-foot rubber later we admitted that next time we should hire someone. It’s not that we did a bad job, it just wasn’t a job for 68-year-old college professor and a grad school drop out. Lesson learned. The rest of the project seemed easier after that.
The conversion of the school into apartments took place in 3 phases. First, we put on the roof and did interior demo. Second, we did interior framing and construction on the back 5 units. Third, I finished the front two units where the school office and restrooms were. The school remodel lasted for years because we tended to get distracted by other properties we acquired along the way that had quicker turnaround times. Unfortunately, my father’s lifespan didn’t cooperate with our construction schedule; he didn’t get to see the building completed. It continues to be my favorite project and probably one of thee coolest things I will ever construct in my lifetime. It will always be most meaningful to me because it was the last project we ever worked on together.