More than 2,700 tour Fort Wayne’s closed Elmhurst High School before pre-demolition work begins

A combined total of more than 2,700 people visited the former Elmhurst High School last Friday and Saturday for alumni and staff tours before the process begins to demolish the school. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)

A combined total of more than 2,700 people visited the former Elmhurst High School last Friday and Saturday for alumni and staff tours before the process begins to demolish the school. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)

The Elmhurst High School alumni and staff tours last Friday and Saturday were a “great success,” with a combined total of more than 2,700 people coming out for a last walk through the school before demolition, said Mike Dawes, plant manager for Hanson Aggregates Midwest’s Ardmore Quarry, which is adjacent to the school and which bought the property this summer.

Hanson Aggregates now focuses on next steps involving the school, 3829 Sand Point Road, Dawes said:

• Environmental remediation work — removal of hazardous materials, such as asbestos — will begin soon and likely will take two to four months, Dawes said. Hanson has a general idea of what hazardous materials exist in the building, but they won’t know for sure until the licensed remediation contractor gets in there and starts getting behind walls, he said.

• Once environmental remediation is complete, crews will start demolition and salvage, working from the interior to the exterior of the building, Dawes said.

• Demolition of the school building exterior may not start until spring, he said.

Hanson looked at whether it could use portions of the school for its own use, but decided that wasn’t a viable option, Dawes said.

• Details haven’t been worked out, but Hanson hopes it will be possible to make exterior bricks from the school available for Elmhurst alumni and former staff who want to save them as mementos, he said.

Fort Wayne Community Schools closed Elmhurst in June 2010 because of major budget cuts and the condition of the building, the original portion of which dates to 1929. The school district put the school property, parking lot and a farm field west of the parking lot up for sale early this year, and sold it to Hanson in August.

FWCS retains ownership of the South Transportation Center south of the Elmhurst grounds as well as the school’s athletic fields north of the school building.

THE ALUMNI TOURS

When Hanson announced it had purchased the property, the company said it would work to allow alumni and staff to walk through the school one more time.

That opportunity came 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with tours limited to the newer portion of the main floor of the school.

Despite cold weather and the building being without heat, 348 alumni who graduated in 1969 or earlier, as well as their immediate family, and former Elmhurst teachers and staff, walked through Friday, said Alex Cornwell, one of the volunteer organizers of the event. On Saturday, 2,388 alumni who graduated in 1970 or later and their immediate families came through, for a combined total of 2,736 people, Cornwell said.

From about 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, visitors often waited an hour to take their tour, said Cornwell, who also is publisher of the Waynedale News, which serves the Elmhurst area.

A food truck on site Saturday, which was selling a remake of the Elmhurst cafeteria’s famous sticky buns, sold out of 1,000 pre-made sticky buns within two hours, he said.

More than 65 alumni and former school staff volunteered to help with the tours, cleaning up the school to make a tour path and serving as tour guides and check-in staff, Cornwell said.

“I think they really appreciated the opportunity and really wanted to make that a great event for fellow alumni,” he said.

Liability waivers people had to sign before walking through the building also included a request for their email address, which event organizers hope to use to reactivate the Elmhurst High School Alumni Association, Cornwell said.

Alumni also could write some of their memories on sheets of paper in the main gym, where people could gather to chat after taking their tour. One of the event organizers hopes to use the memories to create a book on Elmhurst, Cornwell said.

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