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Original York Institute faces demolition or restoration

Original York Institute faces demolition or restoration

By: AP

JAMESTOWN (AP) — The high school founded by World War I hero Alvin C. York is falling apart and supporters have only until today to try to stop its demolition.
The original building of the York Institute in Jamestown has been closed for more than 20 years, but a recent engineering report concluded that it is on the verge of collapse.
That prompted the state to set up a 50-foot perimeter around it, which includes a portion of the school’s newer buildings. The safety precaution has displaced about 500 of the school’s 700 students and blocked a portion of the school’s main drive.
Michael Birdwell, a member of the nonprofit Sergeant York Foundation, hopes to see the building restored. He says it would cost $3.6 million to tear it down and $3.7 million to restore it. He also said the foundation has a possible source of private funding for the restoration.
The group has until today to petition the state to restore the building.
“It’s the most historical high school in the state of Tennessee, and they’re going to tear it down,” Birdwell said. “If we truly believe in what Alvin C. York did, we should restore the building. It seems to me that would be in everybody’s best interest.”
According to the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, York founded the school after returning from the war with the idea of providing the children of rural Fentress County with a good education — something that had not been available to him when he was a child. The original building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
But school superintendent Phil Brannon said the old building is a hindrance. He would like to see it come down to make way for new facilities.
“I’ve had several people tell me there’s not a significant difference (in cost) between restoring it or tearing it down,” Brannon said. “But the state is telling me that the building has to be landlocked — I can’t expand, and I’m in desperate need of a new cafeteria and kitchen. I’m in desperate need of some additional classrooms, and I don’t have any direction to go. It’s sitting there in the way.”
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Information from: Cookeville Herald-Citizen, www.herald-citizen.com
Published in The Messenger 1.17.08

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