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Crumbling historic Academy Building in Walworth demolished
- Updated: April 12, 2014
For years, owners of the former Walworth Academy building, also the former Walworth High School, have had high hopes for resurrecting the structure. Chipping paint, a crumbling roof, and absestos abatement issues have caused these owners to back down from their dreams.
The building that now stands was the third incarnation of the school. According to Dorothy French from the Walworth Historical Society, the first Academy building was erected in 1841. The school was constructed of lake stone at a cost of $4,000 on Academy Street in Walworth. (Postal address was 3655 High Street, cornerv of Academy St).
The Academy was similar to a high school; entry requirement was a preliminary certificate, which was equivalent to an eighth grade education. Many of the Academy students boarded at the school or with families in town. Students who lived nearby walked, rode horseback, or drove a carriage – depending on the time of year and distance. Many students walked 5 or 6 miles one way to attend school.
In 1857 a larger building was needed and a three-story brick structure was erected to the east of the first Academy. The new “Walworth Academy and Wayne County Female Academy” cost about $8,000. The older building was then used as a boarding home and residence for the principal.
In 1877, the original Academy was sold to the Walworth Grange and used as a Grange Hall. The second floor was remodeled into meeting rooms and a few years later the first floor was made into a dining room and kitchen.
The Academy continued with little change until 1929, when voters in District No. 1 approved a bond issue of $80,000 for the purpose of erecting a new school building. On March 1, 1930, demolition of both buildings began to make way for the “Walworth High School” building.
When the Walworth High School opened on September 8, 1930, the enrollment was 182 students. The High School ceased in 1949 with their last graduating class.
The school continued, however, as an elementary school for grades K-6 for the next 30 years, from 1949 to 1979, when it was closed by the Board of Education and sold. Many local residents, families and teachers have fond memories of their days at the Walworth "Elementary" School.
The building at one point in the late 1980s was purchased by C.A.S.H. (Community Action in Self Help, Inc. - A housing advocacy group) to be used as apartments. The building began to fall into disarray, with asbestos and buckling walls. In about 2004, C.A.S.H. was out of the picture and the
Town of Walworth had been considering the now vacant building for use as a recreation center. That plan was defeated and eventually the building went to the County for back taxes. In 2004 or 2005, local businessman Bruce Carey bought the Academy Street Apartments (as it was then known) at a County tax auction for about $25,000 and after holding it for a few years, sold it at a profit to some Rochester businessmen.
Current owner, Alex Tamoutselis, approached the Walworth Planning board just last Spring (2013) with hopes of razing the building, keeping the lower floor and constructing a 39 unit 3-story apartment building on the site. Although the Planning Board agreed that tearing down the crumbling building would be a good move, no formal plan was brought back to them.
This week, after receiving word from his insurance company that the building was in such bad shape, they would be pulling their coverage, Tamoutselis began demolition of the building on Friday (4/11). By late afternoon the building was all but down. Plans to keep the lower level were scratched. Tamoutselis told the Times that he wasn’t sure now if he would sell the site or build on it.
Neighbors have long been nervous about the run down and vacant building and were out in force to watch the demolition on Friday.