HAZARD — The building that once housed Hazard’s first public high school was sold this week, though the new owners will now be required to demolish the building that for the past few years has stood vacant and its condition worsened.
The Hazard Independent Board of Education voted to sell the deteriorating Broadway school and the property to the Housing Development Alliance in Hazard. And when the board put the school out for bid, they added the caveat that it must be torn down as it is not considered structurally sound enough to restore.
The Broadway school was built 100 years ago in 1912 and was the first building that the Hazard public school system used at the high school level. According to former Hazard Superintendent Fred Stidham, the school was built as a partnership between the city and county schools to be in compliance with a new Kentucky law at the time.
Prior to 1912, Perry County did not have any public high schools. Kentucky’s legislature passed a law requiring every county to have a high school, though attendance was not required. For several years that building housed the only high school in the county, though many grade schools and one-room schools were prevalent in both the city and county systems.
Thirteen years after the school was built on Broadway, officials with the city schools constructed a new high school on Baker Street, and the high school students moved into that building. The Broadway building was then used for a grade school and became known as the Lower Broadway Building. At the time the city schools were also using the old Hazard Baptist Institute for some elementary classes, but after the Roy G. Eversole School was completed on Broadway, the old school was no longer needed.
The building then found another use in expanding the education in Perry County by becoming home to Hazard Community College it is early days. The college remained there for many years before a new campus was approved on Highway 15.
After the college moved out, the school was turned into administrative offices for Hazard Independent Schools. The Kentucky Valley Education Cooperative also shared the building with the Hazard central office for many years until the school district moved to its current location on Main Street only a few years ago.
Stidham said that while he was superintendent and worked on Broadway, he had looked in to trying to preserve the building, but the amount of money it would take would be more than the district could afford.
“When I was superintendent I looked into having it restored as a historical site,” said Stidham. “There is money available to do that, but the school would have to match it.”
Since the central office moved, the building has sat empty, and the signs of age and deterioration can be seen on every surface. The roof has collapsed, windows are broken, floors are unsafe, and pigeons have begun roosting in the exposed rafters. Another contributing factor to the unsafe conditions of the building is that at the time it was built, it was constructed utilizing only locally sourced, untreated lumber.
“There is no steel in it, I don’t think,” Stidham said, “just poplar beams from the area, actually.”
After numerous complaints from neighbors about the condition of the building, the school district put it up for bid with the added responsibility of demolishing the building to the new owners.
The Housing Development Alliance was the only entity making a bid on the building. Their bid of only $1,000 was accepted at the school district’s board meeting on July 19. The Housing Development Alliance builds homes for low-income families and finds low-cost financing for them to be able to afford the properties. Along with this, they also help out local families with home repairs.
The school board members said that they will be sad to see the building demolished, but are happy it will no longer be a liability for the school or the community. They have also asked the Housing Development Alliance to save the Hazard High School stone sign from the building and several bricks to be turned into signs at the current Hazard High School.
In total, the property is around two acres and officials with the Housing Development Alliance have no particular plans for it. They are looking at ways to possibly honor the old building in whatever homes or buildings are to be located there.
While the news of the building’s sale comes as a shock to those who have memories and experiences there, Stidham said he understands the reasoning behind it.
“I hate to see it go and I think it is a landmark,” he said. “The conditions in that building have deteriorated (and) have made that impossible (to save).”