Olive Branch building now on endangered list

The Olive Branch High School building at 9710 W. National Road (US Route 40) near New Carlisle has been added to an Ohio most endangered historic sites list.

The high school is “in imminent danger from demolition by neglect,” according to Preservation Ohio’s list, which added Olive Branch in July.

But William Berry, chairman of the Olive Branch School Preservation Society, said that the building isn’t in any danger of being torn down because it’s being used as storage by the Tecumseh Local Schools board of education.

“That terminology (of “most endangered historic site”) does excite people when they look at it, ‘Oh, it’s going to be coming down,’ but that’s not really the case,” Berry said. “(Being added to Preservation Ohio’s list is) simply to bring it to the attention of Ohioans and maybe people throughout the nation because that list goes out, goes into magazines and other places.”

He said that any building over 100 years old, which the old Olive Branch School is, “could be subject to being an endangered species.”

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The school was built in 1908, designed by local architect Charles Insco Williams, and rebuilt in the same style after a 1913 fire. It functioned as a school until the early 1970s, when the district started using it as storage instead.

And the old Olive Branch School means a lot to the district because it was an old high school, said Tecumseh Superintendent Brad Martin.

“We do want to have it renovated someday because it’s one of the first school buildings in Clark County,” Martin said.

The building has survived because it’s been used for storage.

“If you leave a building sit empty for any period of time, you’re going to have great deterioration,” Berry said. “There has to be some activity in it. And fortunately, we have some activity in the Little Olive Branch building because of its use as a storage facility.”

Meanwhile, the Olive Branch School Preservation Society is trying to raise money to restore the school to how it was a century ago, Berry said.

The society is currently raising funds for phase 1 of the project — getting the asbestos out of the building. It has already raised about $6,000, but still needs a lot more.

“And that’s been very difficult because the economy has created some real problems for us, trying to raise those funds,” Berry said. “It’ll take big funds for us to bring the building back aesthetically as it might have been. That’s been a struggle.”

The society won’t be able to raise all the funds needed from the community alone, Berry said. “It’s probably going to have to receive some help from corporations, foundations, that kind of thing.”

Though it’s a storage building currently, Berry said the society wants to turn it into a museum of sorts and get artifacts from people in the community.

Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said the school is important to the community because it has a lot of alumni who have a lot of memories of the school.

“I’m glad it’s on the national record because it’s a very special building,” Detrick said. “It’s a very unique (example of ) architecture and it’s got a lot of history for the people in western Clark County.”

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