Deconstructing Marysville School: Preserving the past, for use in the future

Just why the building lit up in a blaze seldom seen in Portland – while classes were in session – still remains a mystery at this venerated Portland school. But, see the steps they’re taking to preserve the undamaged parts of it …

On the morning of November 10, 2009, before the devastating fire broke out, kids were in class, learning to tell time, read, and write in this classroom at Marysville K-8 School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
After interviewing at least 150 witnesses, and digging through a mountain of charred rubble looking for cause of the fire that shuttered Marysville K-8 School on November 10th, Portland Fire Bureau investigators remain mum about what started the disastrous fire while classes were in session.

> See our story about the Marysville School fire: CLICK HERE.

Over the last three months, winter weather hasn’t been kind to the exposed eastern end of the school.

Whether the school will be rebuilt or simply restored, the school will be reopened at the same location, Portland Public School officials say.

Shane Endicott, of Portland’s DeConstruction Services, says these classic wooden doors have only increased in value over the years.

And, when Marysville reopens, on its first school day – no schedule has yet been set – the building’s interior will have a look reminiscent of the original 1921 building.

“We have meticulously been taking out doors, molding, window frames, built ins, and other things, that were all installed in 1921,” explained Shane Endicott, the Executive Director and co-founder of Portland’s ReBuilding Center and DeConstruction Services.

Hallway floors covered with 1950s-era tile may have protected the pine flooring underneath.

Standing in the school’s gym, next to a stack of classroom doors still hung in their frames, Endicott pointed out the clear, vertical grain in the old-growth fir from which they were milled. “You couldn’t replace these for $2,000 today.”

Walking out into a part of the structure with only open sky above – its ceiling and roof burned away by the fire – Endicott tapped on undamaged wall studs. “We’ll salvage as much as this wood as we can,” he said.

“We are de-nailing it without damaging the wood,” Endicott pointed out. “Then, we’re wrapping the wood up and protecting it. In each classroom and hallway, we’re numbering and tagging each piece – they’ll all have a key number, and be indexed. This will help contractors figure out how they will reincorporate it when they rebuild it.”

All wall studs not charred or damaged in the fire will be removed, de-nailed, and stored for incorporation into the restored or rebuilt Marysville School.

His company has gained a lot of experience in deconstructing; Endicott said they’ve been in business since 1998. He reminded us that it was their company which deconstructed the old, rickety Westmoreland house bought by Shannon Quimby to replace with a new one – with almost everything from the old house recovered and incorporated in her new “REXProject (Reuse Everything eXperiment)” home. (CLICK HERE to read about it.)

“Portland Public Schools is being very thoughtful about this process, respecting the building’s history. This school means a lot to the community.”

Part demolition supervisor, part building archaeologist, Endicott told how he was personally affected by this project. “When I walked through doing my first assessment – and as I am here today – I got the feeling of how historically important this building is. I realize I realize that these doors were hung, those nails where hammered, that moulding was installed – in 1921. Every kid that’s gone to school here since 1921 has passed through, or walked by these doors.”

The stack of wall and window molding removed by DeConstruction Services, and here pointed out by Endicott, is growing, as the School District-ordered preservation project continues.

The trucks and loading equipment on-site, he pointed out, were there only to haul away the wood and building materials too burned or damaged to be reused.

“As a citizen of Portland – not just a contractor here – I can’t help but give the school and District’s commitment to sustainability a big ‘thumbs up’ – we’re reclaiming a bit of Southeast Portland’s history.”

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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