City Plans to Demolish Mabel Memorial Schoolhouse in July

By: Carly Stephenson Email
By: Carly Stephenson Email

HARRISONBURG, Va. -- The Mabel Memorial Schoolhouse in Harrisonburg, which was turned into a a private home and then a rental property, could now be demolished.

It's part of an effort by the city to expand Lucy Drive off of Reservoir Street.

Supporters of the schoolhouse said it should be preserved.

It was used as a one room schoolhouse by the community and James Madison University after being built in 1908.

From pictures, a history professor at Eastern Mennonite University said there may have been African American children attending school with white children in the early 1900s.

Wayne Foley's family owned the schoolhouse in the 1940s, then sold the house and bought it back in the 1960s.

"I was born here in 1944 and my family bought the property, probably about 1940," said Foley.

Foley's family converted the old schoolhouse into a home building around the original interior to preserve it.

"Back then you know, it wasn't but about 25 to 30 cars that would come across this road in a days' time," said Foley.

"[I] used to come out here and play on the steps, wait for the mailman," said Foley.

Harrisonburg's Assistant Director of Public Works Drew Williams said the city bought the property in April to expand Lucy Drive.

"Demolish the house after July 1st. We understand there is some interest from the previous property owners that they would like to relocate the house so we're trying to work with them to accomodate their schedule," said Williams.

The road will be built after they tear the house down.

"The road would have to be constructed literally through the middle of the main portion of the house."

The city worked with the National Register of Historical places to research the schoolhouse.

"The Department of Historic Resources in Virginia has not indicated that it is listed on the national register or is eligible to be listed on the national register," said Foley.

But others, including Senator Tim Kaine and Former Mayor Rodney Eagle, have written letters in support of an official historic marker.

"We as people you know, we seem like we have to tear down all the old buildings, get rid of them and as time goes on, everything will be forgotton," said Foley.

Demolition can take anywhere from four to six weeks.

There's an asbestos assessment that has to be done and the previous owner March Warner said they have already scheduled an asbestos removal this week.

The current tenants were asked to move out no later than May 5 of this year, according to them.

Williams said they asked them to be out by the end of June.

Wilma Foley said they are waiting to hear back on a VDHR marker application.

They will know if they have the marker before the end of May.


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