April 14, 2006
An old originally black elementary school in Nelson County is now home to some of it's former students. The school has been redesigned into an apartment community.
"My understanding is that this [apartment] was the Principal's office and that's appropriate since I spent most of my grade school career sitting in the principal’s office," explained resident Uriel Levi.
Levi just moved into his apartment in what used to be the Ryan school. The idea to turn the originally black school into an affordable housing community came up about seven years ago.
"People have good memories of it and so I think that they're probably pleased that it's being turned into something productive and useful for the county," said Levi.
The school was built in Nelson County back in the forties. It later became one of the first schools in the country to become integrated. After it closed, community members decided the 50,000 square foot building had too much potential to be destroyed.
Stuart Kessler helped design the classrooms into 31 apartments. Taking reporters on a tour of the place, he explained the building. "Off to the left and right, these were mostly classrooms. [This hall] was a corridor that went down into the classrooms."
In all, the bill came out to three-million dollars which was paid for by various agencies. Kessler says it was a perfect way to preserve history and at the same time help folks like Levi back on their feet.
"We have people living here now who went to school here, so it has been very well supported all the way along," said Kessler.
Designers add they’re hoping to turn the school's old auditorium into a community center that everyone can enjoy.