In North Central Philly, two public schools within a block of one another, both on the National Register of Historic Places, are set to close at the end of the school year: General John F. Reynolds Elementary school and Roberts Vaux High School. Much has been said about the negative impact of vacant schools upon the surrounding area, and the impact of two vacant schools in such a small area has the potential to be catastrophic.
Though both schools serve less than 400 students each, the buildings are large, block defining structures, and the impact of their vacancy will be profound. But their visual continuity points to an alternate possibility. Both schools were designed by the same architect (Irwin T. Catharine, who built numerous schools for the Philadelphia School District,) and boast a number of similar Art Deco details, like the carved terra cotta above the entrance to General John F. Reynolds Elementary, below:
Though finding appropriate reuse for school buildings can be difficult, there is an opportunity here to use both buildings in conjunction with one another, perhaps as anchors for an infusion of mixed-use activity, or perhaps as parts of one, larger school. If the power of both buildings can be harnessed creatively, and in conjunction, they could become a serious asset to the neighborhood.
· North Central: One Block, Two School Closures [Temple Neighborhoods]
· Why All Philly Schools Look the Same [Hidden City]