By Jeff Schrock, Randolph, Tucker & Upshur County Reporter/Anchor
ELKINS – A building in Randolph County is seeing new life once again. Students once walked through its halls, and now it’s being renovated for another purpose.
First Ward School served the Elkins community for nearly 70 years. Now it’s going to serve the community once again as a place for senior housing.
“We’re nine months into pretty much a nine month construction schedule. We’re going to be leasing up June 1, and we’ve pretty much taken up a vacant building and restored it,” said Karen Jacobson, of Randolph County Housing Authority.
Using equity from both the historic preservation tax credit and low income housing tax credit programs, the former First Ward School is seeing new life. The three story building will include an elevator and feature 16 apartments with one and two bedrooms for people 55 and older.
“We have a growing senior population, our population 62 and older is going to grow by 60 percent in the next 15 years. So it’s going to be an increasing need just to make sure we have housing for all different sorts for all different people and their needs,” Jacobson said.
The former First Ward School along with a similar school in Third Ward was built between 1907 to 1910 because of a definite need from Elkins’ expansion. The school closed in 1976, and then served as storage warehouse.
Several exterior changes were made and it was in danger of demolition. Architectural Historian Robert Whetsell said he pleased to see a building seeing use again.
“They’ve restored the front portico, secured the roof and just done a wonderful job on renovations on the interior for senior housing that this is going to be eventually. Historically it was just an important building architecturally for the community, it’s just a wonderful project that’s going on here,” Whetsell said.