After 40 years, Trimble tears down its abandoned schoolhouse

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TRIMBLE, Ohio (WOUB/Report for America) – For years, the first thing anyone saw driving into Trimble was the abandoned brick building on Route 13. Once the site of the Trimble School, it sat abandoned for over four decades.

A demolition team finally tore the building down Thursday morning following lengthy efforts by county officials and community members to work out funding and logistics for the project.

Ric Wasserman, Athens County treasurer and chair of the Athens County Land Bank, was one of the people spearheading the project.

“It’s just a big old eyesore,” he said. “The community has wanted it gone for years and years and years.”

Wasserman said the school was built in 1927 and operated until school districts in the area were consolidated in the mid-’60s. It then became a factory, which closed in the late ’70s.

Since then, the structure has sat abandoned across the turn onto Walnut Street.

“Blight is a real problem in communities,” Wasserman explained. “When you have blight in dilapidated buildings, you have illegal activity taking place in them, and it reduces the level of esteem that people have for the place they live.”

The breakthrough came last summer when the Ohio General Assembly allocated $500 million in statewide funding for building demolition and brownfield remediation. The Land Bank partnered with the Athens County Port Authority, the engineering firm Tetra Tech and community members to win a grant for the project.

“The purpose of the brownfield remediation program is to get a blighted property, a dilapidated property back to operational use and to generate some economic activity there,” Port Authority Executive Director Mollie Fitzgerald explained. “That ties directly into the Port Authority’s mission, which is to promote economic development and job creation throughout the county.

Wasserman said the building was not demolished earlier due to complications with asbestos contamination.

“There have, in the past, been companies that wanted to come in and do something with the site,” he said. “But when they found out how hard the demo would be because of the asbestos, they pulled out.”

During the demolition, the Tetra Tech crew wore protective Tyvek suits and face masks around the site to guard against asbestos. They continuously drenched the building with a water hose to prevent hazardous dust from spreading to neighboring properties and the crowd of onlookers.

The debris will later be trucked to a specialized landfill for disposal.

In all, Wasserman expects the demolition to continue for another four weeks.

“A lot of time is invested into loading all that spoil into trucks,” he said. “And there’s a basement and foundation, and all that stuff has to be destroyed and pulled out. And you don’t have gravity helping when you’re working underground, so there’s going to be a lot more time invested in that.”

Once the last of the building is gone, the site can be used to attract new business and be something of which the community can be proud.

Among the residents who gathered to watch and celebrate was Trimble Mayor Doug Davis. He attended the school as a child and was the one who originally brought the project to Wasserman’s attention.

“The teacher always said, one of these days I’d be the downfall of this school,” he said, to raucous applause and laughter.


Theo Peck-Suzuki is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. He covers Children and Poverty for WOUB Public Media.