The Preservation League of New York State was discouraged by the demolition of the former school building on Central Avenue, which had stood for over 90 years. While the story of demolition of historic structures is all too familiar, the continued resistance to recognizing the value that buildings have to our communities is most disappointing. The Jan. 6 Spotlight article “Demolition of Old Central Avenue School/ Community Center is Underway,” did not so much as mention the historic importance of this building when reporting its demolition.
The site on which this school sat has a long history of education. The now demolished 1926 school replaced a former four-room schoolhouse from the early 20th century, which had itself replaced a one-room 19th-century schoolhouse — read more about the history of this building. On Nov. 10, 2020, the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation determined the former Colonie school, district 20 building to be eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places on the basis of being associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns in our history and embodying the distinctive characteristics of type, period or method of construction.
As our shared social and cultural history continues to be so important in our daily lives, we hope municipalities will view preservation as a tool that improves the quality of life in our communities. We need to look more carefully at adaptive reuse of historic buildings and acknowledge the wide range of benefits of reuse versus demolition, including: retention of quality building materials, historic and architectural character, continuity with the existing streetscape and historic connection to the neighborhood, sustainability, and incentives for rehabilitation.
If we do not take the time to recognize our history today, tomorrow it may be lost.
Jay A. DiLorenzo
Preservation League of New York State