Opinion: Save Eldredge School

by | Aug 2, 2022

By Glenn H. King

Every town has some buildings of which it is proud. East Greenwich has many of them such as the Varnum House, the Kentish Guard Armory and the Kent County Courthouse (now the Town Hall). One of the town’s icons is in trouble. It’s the James H. Eldredge School, located on First Avenue. A school building proposal under consideration would have Eldredge no longer used as a school. There has been some talk of tearing it down and replacing it with a new building for the town. 

The school was named for Dr. James H. Eldredge to honor him for his civic activities. The school was built in 1929 and has 16 classrooms and a large gymnasium. In the past 95 years of providing education for the town’s youth, the school has touched the lives of over 3,000 students who attended the school taking classes from K to 8. One student went on to become a two-term governor of Rhode Island – Donald Carcieri. 

If a survey/poll was taken of the former students and asked what should become of the school, I believe they all would say in a very loud voice, “Save the School.” To renovate the school is the best choice. The renovation would provide office space for many civic, historical and preservation organizations. The cost of the renovation should not be a big problem for the town taxpayers since East Greenwich has the honor of being the wealthiest town in Rhode Island. Save the school for the future. 

Glenn H. King is a member of the Eldredge Class of 1943, among many other things. 

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22 Comments

  1. Justin Cahir

    Mr. King – I encourage you to join others in the community who have similar concerns to attend the school board planning subcommittee meetings and voice your opinion. There is still plenty of time to change things and your voice matters! The next meeting is Wed. August 10th at 10:30am at Cole Middle School, or can be accessed via Zoom.

    Reply
  2. Donna fogarty

    Mr. King,
    I agree! The school is a beautiful and iconic building set on a prime piece of “green space” in a Town that has become a sprawl of concrete.
    The school should be renovated and kept “Green” for the residents of East Greenwich and Rhode Island. Renovation should be the discussion.
    Donna Fogarty

    Reply
    • Donna

      Thank you Micheline. My thoughts exactly.

      Reply
  3. Heather

    I too vote to save the school. But not for office space or other organizations, but to keep it a school for kids to attend. Yes it will cost more money to bring it up to date and renovate, but it is worth it. It is one of EGs most walkable schools for the community and I do not understand taking that away. Keep it a school and start updating it appropriately.

    Reply
  4. Micheline Nilsen

    One of the ways to approach this matter is to determine if the building makes an architectural contribution to the community. Are there other buildings of similar vintage and fabric in the community, or is it unique, and therefore worth being preserved? How many other brick pre-Depression era structures remain in East Greenwich, are they comparable in size and stature? Is Eldredge the oldest extant school building in the township? If Harvard can upgrade its Colonial Era structures to modern classroom standards, there is no reason why this community cannot do likewise.
    It is easier, and more profitable for developers to raze and re-build but retrofitting an older structure can be done sustainably and efficiently, preserving the original character and meeting current educational needs.

    Reply
  5. Heather

    You said it perfectly. 100% agree!

    Reply
  6. bruce

    SAVE IT! AS A SCHOOL!

    Reply
  7. Alyson Powell

    Mr. King,

    I could not agree with you more. So, as chair of the school building committee, let me assure you – and the rest of the community- that the committee has no plans to demolish Eldredge, and I personally would not support or recommend any plan that considered the destruction of such a beautiful and historic building! The building committee has had many discussions about the future of Eldredge, and we will continue to work closely with architects, educators, RIDE, town administration, and the community to determine the role the building will play in the proposed facilities Master Plan. To that end, I encourage you, and any other interested community member, to join us in our discussions about the future of school buildings in East Greenwich. Our next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 10, at 10:30am. Interested community members may attend in-person in the Cole conference room, or via the zoom link provided on the posted agenda. -Alyson Powell,

    Reply
    • Elizabeth

      But how much bigger will the building be? How much of the field paved over for parking or more buildings? How modern and tacky will the “master plan” be. I was born and raised in East Greenwich. I haven’t lived in RI since 87. When I came back to R.I. for family visits in other towns, I used to drive around EG and remember. No more. Last time I did, about 8 years ago, it broke my heart. You can’t walk down Main Street. The whole town is one big condo complex and restaurant wasteland. It’s incredibly ugly, sterile and styrofoam. Can you even get an Awful Awful anymore?
      People who want to live in Newport or Narraganset should **go live** in Newport or Narragansett and leave lovely Colonial towns alone.

      Reply
      • bgwarburton

        I couldn’t disagree with you more regarding our town – of course you can walk down Main st and we do! There are great shops & restaurants as well as offices and apartments. It is beautiful here! You can’t blame the town for Newport Creamery shutting most of its locations down:) BUT, you can find amazing coffees at one of our local coffee shops, great ice cream, etc etc.

        Reply
    • Marge

      Why the Building Committee meets at 10:30 AM on a weekday? Elder residents like myself also retired can make the time but most folks in town, parents/residents, both usually work to afford to live un this community! Why is something so important held at this inconvenient time? Also why is NEVER mentioned who is actually on this “Building Committee”?

      Reply
  8. Harry

    I went there in the ’90s. Fond memories. Would feel bad for the kids on the Hill that would need to bus to go to school. Walking thru that nice neighborhood to this building was great. Tearing this building down is a very bad idea. Save the building.

    Reply
  9. Jacob Pray

    I’m all for saving the building, but it is certainly not viable as a school building. The way teachers teach and students learn has changed greatly over the years and our community has outgrown Eldredge, both literally and figuratively. Renovating an almost 100-year-old school to fit today’s needs is not financially viable. Renovating the building for another use is extremely expensive, and would be funded 100 percent through us, the taxpayers, with no state funding. The conjecture that we are “the wealthiest community in R.I.” is going to hurt more very soon as we attempt to be compliant with our affordable housing numbers, and are forced to amend our schools and infrastructure accordingly – which is something we are required to do and cannot elect to do. We’ve already received $900k less in state education funding this coming year, and I’m sure the hits will keep coming.

    Reply
  10. M Ellis Flanders

    My 82 year old father and his siblings went to East Greenwich High School there as did his siblings. I went to elementary as my siblings did and my granddaughters have as well. The town and historic district is and has already lost so much history. It sickens me. My vote by proxy from NH… KEEP James H Eldredge School standing. Many more generations came enjoy it in some way without tearing another part of EG history down.

    Reply
  11. Kevin Dyer

    Our father attended Eldredge in the 1930s and my sister and I attended it in the ’60s. No building in the Town has more shared personal and public historical meaning. Let it stand as it is, as a school.

    Reply
  12. Mike

    I am also a former Eldredge student with a lot of fond memories. However, the building has served its purpose. Holding on to the past here is unnecessary. Do whatever is most expedient for the town. Keep the fields accessible to the community and keep or destroy the build g as is fiscally prudent. Don’t let the past hijack the Towns future.

    Reply
  13. RAY RICCIO

    It appears the writing is already on the wall.

    “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’ “
    John Whittier

    Reply
  14. bgwarburton

    I’ll try to attend the meeting as I’d like to see the data in terms of what renovating the school would cost vs finding another use for it. I’d love to see it stay a school for our neighborhood kids but I’m also open to ideas for getting our kids the best education while not burdening our taxpayers any more than needed.

    Reply
  15. Bill Burley

    I went there, my sisters went there, as well as everyone we grew up with. I can remember Mrs Freeborn walking me down the hill to meet my mother in kindergarten. I remember when Dr Holder gave the lead to Dr Gallo, and staying outside for all 3 recesses. The amount of entire families that can tie themselves to that school is to numerous to count. The memories, can’t be forgotten.
    This school is a staple of EG. Everyone is far to quick these days to demo and build. Recondition and renovate. It’s the only option.

    Reply
  16. leftyrite

    Hey. All best wishes. If the elected officials of East Greenwich actually listen to their constituents, and if those constituents
    are actually organized enough, powerful enough, and vigilant enough, I wish them well in their endeavor.
    The school that I attended and at which I taught, East Providence High School, was a revolutionary building when it was dedicated in 1952. The Journal touted it as such and made a big deal of it. Its design was reminiscent of, if not similar to, the Bauhaus designs that so heavily influenced progressive Europe from 1925 to 1933. The cost? An astronomical four and a half million. That huge figure made it essential that Yankee Republicans and ethnic Democrats unite.
    That building’s replacement was voted upon, designed, and simultaneously built, largely within the four years of the Trump administration.
    The cost? One hundred and eighty million. Funded by bonds, the niceties of which the average Townie probably does not understand. Was 2009 so long ago?

    Reply
  17. Dan Lake

    Repurpose that wonderfully located and venerable building to serve the needs of the community. Look to those long-standing organizations that serve the community such as the Cindy Wood Garden Club, the EG Historical Society, the EG Art Club, and other not/for/profit organizations that don’t own their own physical “place” in our town. Create a Community Center that provides services to ALL ages, much like the Swift Center which is targeted to serve only one age group.

    Expand the charge of our fine Recreation program.

    Bring us together. Seek support from all funding sources and local benefactors.

    Energize the community beyond thinking “school” and think Gathering Place!

    Reply

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