HAZARD — In December, a fire at the Eblen Apartments put 40 people out of their homes. While the community rallied around those families, they also mourned the damage done to a Hazard landmark that once served as Hazard High School.
The building served as the high school until 1976. For those people that attended classes there, seeing it destroyed by fire was difficult for many of them to handle. Despite the fact that the building was no longer being used as a school, it was still serving the community as low-cost housing for several families.
Both Sydney Francis and Martha Quigley graduated from the old Hazard High School and both work at the nearby Bobby Davis Museum and Park. They said that the building holds both historical and personal significance for them. Francis said that regardless of the changes to the building over the years, it still felt like her school.
“I was sad about the fire because I was thinking that the rooms that I studied in, they were not there anymore,” said Francis.
According to Quigley, the classrooms and hallways were left relatively intact. The rooms in the school had been very large and were divided into apartments. Both women had been inside the building since it became apartments and said that some other areas were kept the same.
“We have gone in it for reunions,” Francis noted. “We went into the gym down stairs. It smelled the same way it had when we were in high school and had P.E. class in there.”
The building had the largest auditorium in Hazard at the time and was often used by all members of the community for events. For those in Hazard during the time the school was open, it had much a greater significance than just being a school.
The building sits on the top of a hill where it can be seen from most places in the city. The most prominent view is one often traveled by people coming into Hazard. Driving from the Town Mountain side of the Kentucky River, across the Bill Gorman Bridge, the school appears to almost float above Main Street.
Many people feared that this Hazard landmark would have to be torn down or left as a shell after the recent fire. However, the owners told WYMT-TV in Hazard back in January that they were planning to rebuild. Currently, the building is under construction and significant progress can be seen from the road.
Floor joists and ceiling beams are visible in the building that will once again become apartments. The owner of the building, Ishmail Camur, told the Herald that they are still working some things out with city officials, but that they are rebuilding.
For those who have been around the 90-year-old building, this is good news.
“It hasn’t been a school in such a long time, (but) it is just a very important building,” said Quigley.
According to WYMT, not all of the building will be renovated, but the parts that will should be open to renters in the fall.