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There is growing concern that the original Spearfish High School could be torn down when its use as a public school ends. Recently, possible zoning changes have been discussed at local Planning and Zoning meetings. If the structure is changed to commercial, it runs the risk of being demolished.

It would be very easy for non-residential developers to decide that restoration costs would be too costly and bulldozing for a new building more palatable. This cannot happen. Spearfish High School alumnus and the community of Spearfish cannot allow this to happen.

This historic structure needs to be zoned residential with some space allotted for community friendly events.

Old school buildings have been revamped all over the U.S. and converted for residential living. Such practical and creative reuse would give the building a new lease on life.

Picture this: A gorgeous brick 1920s era high school with all of its large, multi-paned windows and doors replaced. Spacious rooms are transformed into condos and apartments. The quaint auditorium is restored and useable for lectures, small concerts and seminars.

Think of the wonderful period gymnasium being used for residents' and public events. Use of the basement for meeting rooms, living areas and storage complete the overall plan.

Certainly the building would have to be brought up to code. The installation of elevators and the modernization of electricity and plumbing would be necessary. Perhaps there could be a solar conversion. Lots of possibilities abound. Luckily, there is plenty of parking space. The views overlooking Spearfish and west to Crow Peak would be big incentives for new residents. This once handsome edifice would stand majestic again.

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My feeling is that the existing former junior high and breezeway attached on the west side should be torn down. Though I am often a fan of mid-century structures, this one does not make the cut. It could be sacrificed for the better of the whole project.

State Street could be opened for the first time since 1962 with the area west of it reclaimed for green space and additional parking. To complete the look, the original rock retaining wall bordering the school's west lawn could be reconstructed. If saved, the high school would be a spectacular "legacy building" for the city of Spearfish. Not only would the school's alumni be proud, but a jewel of historic preservation would be a feather in Spearfish's cap.

Over the last 40 years or so, Spearfish has lost some gems to demolition, including the Lab School at BHSU and the administration and hangar buildings at the old Black Hills Airport.

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Several homes and structures have burned or been severely altered,like the Evans home ,and the turrets removal from Winona Cook Hall. While Deadwood continues to save more and more of its historic buildings, Spearfish loses its share, year after year. This is one chance for the community can rally around a structure where thousands of collective memories share in its history. It would not only be a beautiful building when restored, but a lasting memorial to all who earned their education in its storied walls.

Please call or email Jayna Watson, the director of Spearfish planning and zoning, and tell her and the commission that it is imperative this building be zoned residential and preserved for generations to come.

This Forum piece is written by Kevin Miller, a former Spearfish resident who lives in Fort Lauderdale, where he works as a personal concierge, artist and writer.

 

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