Cumberland Times-News

May 7, 2013

Midland school’s days are numbered

Community agrees that it’s time to tear down old building

Scott proietti
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — MIDLAND — A public hearing was held Monday at the Midland Town Hall primarily to review an application for the demolition of the old Midland School building, which the town proposed to submit to the state by a May 31 deadline.

At the end of the town meeting, a unanimous decision was made to try to obtain funding from the Maryland Community Development Block Grant Program and begin the demolition of the old school.

The old Midland School, located at 15010 Paradise St., was constructed in two separate parts beginning in 1899. The addition was completed in 1923. The school has been closed since the mid 1970s.

The building was originally comprised of a two-story, five-bay wide, brick structure and was built during a time when nearly half of the county’s schools were log structures.

James Thrasher, a coal stripper who lived in Midland, leased the old Midland School from the county in 1975 and opened a carriage museum to showcase his collection to the community.

The museum remained in the old school building until Thrasher died in 1987. It was reopened at the Depot Center in Frostburg in 1991.

Current Midland Mayor Richard Blair said that after the museum closed, the town used the auditorium of the school as a utility building until a new utility building was constructed.

The school, then completely empty, started to rapidly deteriorate, Blair said, and an “asset really turned into a liability.”

Former mayor and current Town Administrator Craig Alexander said the school was “one of the centers of the community” during its time in operation and that he has many fond memories of the students and teachers during his time at the school in the 1960s.

But Alexander and the community of Midland agreed that it was time to take action and begin the demolition of his old elementary school.

The school has been in a worsening condition for quite some time, Alexander said.  He cited problems with asbestos throughout the building, lead paint on the walls and an infestation of pigeons.

Alexander said the community definitely made the right decision to try to obtain funding from the block grant program and begin demolishing the school because “the town has no resources to maintain the school, no one pays attention to it, bricks are falling off of the building, and it’s just a dangerous hazard where someone is going to get hurt.”

Blair said the building was approved by an architectural firm in Hagerstown to be demolished and he hopes this study, along with many letters from concerned citizens, will allow the small town to get enough state funding to tear down the old building.

He said the town probably won’t hear anything officially until June or July and it could take over a year to officially begin the demolition.

If the project is approved for state funding, all hazardous chemicals must be removed from the building before a bid package is put out to hire contractors to officially demolish the school.

At the hearing, residents also expressed their opinions on community development and housing needs on top of reviewing the application to demolish the old school building.

Citizens were informed of the Maryland Community Development Block Grant, which is a federally sponsored program designed to assist local government with matters relating to neighborhood and housing revitalization, economic development and community facilities and services.