Thursday, October 5, 2006
preservation in Byhalia
By BARRY BURLESON
Byhalia Mayor Scooter Dempsey watched the front portion of the old Byhalia High School facility, added in the late ’60s or early ’70s, crumble Monday morning.
It marks the first phase of restoring the original structure, constructed in 1921. Two wings, to the north and south, were added in 1951. This part of the restoration project is funded by a Small Municipalities Grant from the state.
The town is applying for additional funds from the Department of Archives and History, up to $875,000.
“The board (of aldermen) voted at our last meeting to make this (the old school building) a landmark,” Dempsey said. “It could not be one with this ’70s addition on the front. It had to come off.
“The original building and the two wings, Archives and History accepts those.”
The plan is for town hall offices, now located in a renovated facility behind the old school, to move into the historic structure.
“We also want the restored auditorium to eventually bring arts back to the community,” Dempsey said. “This project will bring pride to our community.”
There will be two “fronts” to the building, the original front on Highway 309 and one in the back, too, leading upstairs.
The south wing, which once housed the school cafeteria, will be used as a community center that will seat approximately 200 and include a small prep kitchen.
“We’re saving a historic building that means a lot to this community,” Dempsey said, “and it’s going back to its original form. This is a great day.”
The long-range hopes, he said, are for Northwest Community College to occupy the entire building where town hall is now located. Northwest already utilizes a portion of the building for classes.
“As the population here continues to grow, we believe it is a very good possibility,” Dempsey said.
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