As the sun came up in Waynedale, an area historical building came down. It was Monday, May 14, 2018 when demolition began on the exterior of the Elmhurst High School building located on Ardmore Avenue.
Prior to demolition, the gas, water, electric were shut off and unwanted materials were removed which took over 4 months to clean up and secure according to the hired licensed remediation contractor. Then the demolition experts started to tear down the building from the inside out.
“On Monday, Lunz Excavating began tearing down the hall between the Language Hall and part of the Theatre. They were the first to go…” said Don Goss, retired theatre and fine arts teacher, as he reported the demise of the school. A long-time staff member of the school, Mr. Goss designed the theatre over 20 years ago.
The excavators took down the south side of the building first. They currently are using an excavator to do the work rather than a wrecking ball or blasting. They will continue tearing down, cutting through the courtyard, then they will work north on the building. The front of the building will be left standing for a while, as it will be at least 4 months, according to Lunz, before the entire building will be completely down. The foundation, which is built on a hydrogen sulfite pocket, will remain.
Reportedly, there will be no limestone recovery or excavation in close proximity of the school building area. The current plan is to cover the site with three feet of dirt once the building is down, and, seed it over making it a grassy area.
Reminiscing, Mr. Goss spoke of the Elmhurst Garden Club where his mother was an active member. “At the age of 10, I helped out with the entries for the Flower Show which was held inside the school. The school at the time was not a part of the Fort Wayne Community School system,” he said. One of his most memorable moments was when they decorated the stage in the old gym for the Flower Show. “We built it using small trees, rocks and a water basin. And a lot of flowers. It was beautiful!” Mr. Goss graduated from Elmhurst in 1949. Attended college and started teaching there in 1954. “My classes were always full,” he said. “I taught over 10,000 students over the years.”
There seemed to be a range of emotions radiating from the community and those connected to Elmhurst when they heard the news. “So sad. True, it’s just a building, but it’s always sad to see history disappear,” commented a graduate of Elmhurst. Others commented “Sad”, “Sickening,” and “We will always have our memories.” Another noted, “I would love a theatre seat since I spent most of my high school career in there.” While others mentioned that they would like a brick or just a piece-of the historic building as a keepsake.
According to Kris Lunz, representative of Lunz Excavating, bricks from the building will be set out and available to the public for free beginning Wednesday, May 23 in the north parking lot, off of Sandpoint Road. She suggests that those taking bricks to only take 2 to 3, so there is enough for everyone who would like one. Kris also commented that there is still Elmhurst memorabilia available to be purchased, “…like theatre seats, curtains, lockers, cabinets and light fixtures.” And for those interested in those items to join the ‘Recycle Elmhurst High Scool’ Facebook page that is managed by Lunz Excavating for more details.
The original construction of the Elmhurst School building dates back to 1929, and classes began there in 1931 during the Great Depression, in which it had been utilized as a school until June 2010. Since then, the school has been vacant for 8 years, after major budget cuts. Which at that time, the Fort Wayne Community School Board made the decision to close the school, citing high costs to repair and update the building.
In 2017, the decision was made to sell the property. A neighboring mining company, Hanson Aggregates, submitted the winning bid and purchased the building and adjoining property last year. In August of 2017, Hanson Aggregates promptly announced that building would need to come down due to deterioration of its interior. However, before the demolition, they did grant access for alumni groups and community organizations to organize an open house for alumni and former staff, and their families to tour and reminisce inside the building one last time.
“The Elmhurst School building, is coming down,” said Don Goss, “but what happened inside, those students, were made into some of the brightest, and most creative people.”