Friday, August 04, 2006

Historic designation possible for Chandler High School Old Main

[Source: Doug Carroll, Arizona Republic] -- A longtime effort to place Chandler High School on the National Register of Historic Places finally seems to be gaining traction. Old Main, the original building when the school opened 84 years ago, might receive such a designation within a year, said Terry Williams, the school's principal. "What a beautiful thing it would be," Williams said. "It would really preserve that building. The old Mesa High kind of looked like it, but it burned down. This school has been a hub of things in Chandler. It's always been a landmark."

Kevin Weight, a Chandler resident with experience in historic preservation, has been retained by the city to prepare Old Main's nomination for the National Register. Weight said the nomination should be completed by the end of September. A lengthy review process then will begin, starting at the state level. The National Park Service would have the final say, possibly sometime next year.

Old Main is believed to be the oldest high school building in Arizona still used for education. A $30 million renovation and expansion of the Chandler High campus, at Arizona Avenue and Chandler Blvd., was completed in 2005 and included a new career and technical education center, an Olympic-quality swimming pool and upgraded athletic facilities. The city's centennial in 2012 has been a factor in the National Register push. "It's one of the premier historic buildings in Chandler," Weight said. "This has been on the radar screen for a long time."

Over the past 20 years, Williams said, the effort "always seemed to hit a snag and then disappear." He said the process has turned up artifacts such as a $5 application, signed in 1916, to join what later would become the Arizona Interscholastic Association. Until 1998, Chandler High was the only public high school in the Chandler Unified S.D., which now has three and will open a fourth in 2007. The school is proud of its heritage, even putting "officially old school" on its marquee to welcome back students last week. Those willing to donate artifacts or memorabilia from the school for placement in the Chandler Historical Museum are asked to call Williams or Athletic Director Dave Shapiro at 480-812-7700.