Then and Now: Paris School House/City Hall

April 25, 2019

By Robin Gregg

“What is historic, and worth saving, varies with the beholder, but some definition is urgent. Simply put, ‘historic’ means ‘old and worth the trouble.’ It applies to a building that is part of our community’s tangible past. And to a degree that may surprise cynics, old buildings can offer opportunities for a community’s future,” read Jack Neely’s article at Metro Pulse and shared with Monroe County Appeal from Paris, Missouri’s own Marjorie Rehkow.

What is now the home of the Paris City Hall, Driver’s License Bureau, Historical Society, and many other tenant offices was once the Paris High School which is located at 112 South Main Street in Paris, MO.

The first Paris High School was built in 1870 and torn down to be rebuilt in 1907 according to the Monroe County Appeal dated May 20, 1948 noted by H.J. Blanton.

Part of the original building you see standing today; the Construction process started on February 28, 1935.

The Paris High School dedication was given to the people of the School District of Paris and surrounding community who made that project possible on Thursday evening, April 2, 1936.

The floors in the corridors are terrazzo. Four colors of marble, Belgian black, yellow Verona, red Verona and Georgia white were used. The building total cost was $87,643.08.

The High School was composed of Home Economics, Commercial Department, Vocational Agriculture, General Science, Study Hall, Library, Mathematics, 50x78 foot Gymnasium and an Auditorium with seating capacity of 596.

Today, April 24, 2019, the City of Paris has already done what many consider the right things to do with these old buildings, adaptive reused of the space.

They took on the building to keep from having it shuttered or worse torn down years ago, but, it is to the point that the City needs to look at alternatives if we can not make the building feasible and safe for the City and other occupants of the building to stay.

While the challenges are many when renovating a school building, the opportunities can be widespread.

There are many possibilities for a building such as this. The acoustics in one of the few remaining gymnasium’s in Missouri is said to be the best acoustics around. With original seating, the basketball court, the beautiful lighting we could use this space for both recreation and entertainment. This is something that other cities have lost.

Imagine being able to take your children to the movie or going to a concert right here in Paris! Or attending a wedding, musical or poetry reading in this great space we have in place already!!

“Currently all the classrooms (spaces) except one are filled with tenants in the main part of the building. The remaining space could easily be filled with office space, learning space, or as an incubator for growing businesses in Paris. Other thoughts would be a culinary art learning center,” said Marjorie.

Reserve funds needs to be donated to go towards a new roof which would cost a non-profit organization a total of $55,000. The City doesn’t have the option to apply for a grant for the roof. If the City were to pay for it on their own, it would be twice as much. It would definitely be beneficial to turn the building into a community use building which would save thousands and add so much rewarding and useful space to use.

Old buildings have intrinsic value. Prewar buildings were also built by different standards. A century-old building might be a better long-term bet than its brand-new counterpart. When you tear down an old building, you never know what’s being destroyed. Beyond surviving demolition and revealing a treasure trove of details, the Daylight reminds us that even eyesores can be valuable for a community’s future. Old buildings are reminders of a city’s culture and complexity.

There is no doubt that some will say the building has outlived its usefulness and others will see opportunities. The one thing for sure is regret only goes one way. You leave no hope with a site is leveled. Once a piece of history is destroyed, it is lost forever.