PTA rallies to rescue door arch

August 20, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

Essex residents have been fighting for a new elementary school for years. Now, they want to save a piece of the 70-year-old building they want to replace. Specifically, they want to rescue the arch that surrounds the front doors facing Mace Avenue.

When the new school is built and the old school demolished, the two-story limestone entrance would stand by itself about where it is now. That is, if the Essex Elementary School PTA can rally the community to contribute $20,000 for the project.

"It's a real nice thing to tie the past into the new," said Essex PTA President Carol Jones. "It's been there so long, it's part of the history of Essex."

Ms. Jones said that her mother, aunts, cousins and children attended the school, although she did not.

Saving the arch is sort of a committee idea. As Essex Principal James Wilgamott explained, it began when school officials and community members met with the architect to see what parts of the existing school were salvageable. The architect built the arch into his plans, putting it in his renderings in front of the new building.

But it wasn't included in the construction budget. "We either had forget it or raise the money," said Carole Lorden, co-chairwoman of the fund-raising committee and PTA treasurer.

"We want to maintain it as a monument to the old building," said Randy Smith, the school system's project manager for the new school, which is scheduled to be finished in 1996. It will be built 50 feet behind the existing school, where there are now athletic fields.

When the school is demolished, the arch would be taken apart, cleaned and reassembled. Around it would be a small park, Mr. Smith said.

So, the PTA has more than a year to raise the money to save the arch. Mr. Wilgamott has suggested that everyone who attended Essex donate $1. The current students will try to collect 1 million pennies in the largest fund-raiser the PTA has undertaken in recent memory, said Ms. Jones.

The PTA hopes to pave the walkway between the arch and the new school with bricks bearing the names of its $25 contributors. In the school lobby, the PTA also hopes to erect "trees" of silver ($50) and gold ($100) leaves inscribed with donors' names, Ms. Jones said.

The PTA worked diligently to get the county to renovate or replace Essex Elementary, built in 1925 and suffering for years from old age and poor upkeep. In the spring of 1993, a committee decided a new school could be built for almost the same amount of money it would have cost to improve the old one.

With a capacity of 384, the school long has been overcrowded. It had 481 students last year and will open with more than 500 youngsters in September, said Mr. Wilgamott.

The new Essex school will have a capacity of about 500.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the PTA project, can contact Carol Jones or Carole Lorden at the school, (410) 887-0117, or send donations to the Essex Elementary PTA at Essex Elementary School, 100 Mace Ave., Baltimore 21221.

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