Public Invited To Renovated Former Toms Brook School
Posted: January 12, 2013
TOMS BROOK — Former students at the Toms Brook School, many of whom still live in the area, will once again walk the building’s halls now that an extensive renovation project is finally complete.
On Sunday, an open house is scheduled to showcase the structure’s transformation from a dilapidated, abandoned structure to a housing development for low- to middle-income residents.
The gymnasium, now outfitted with furniture, will be available to rent for community events.
At one time, the almost 80-year-old school served students from first grade through their senior year. The school was closed for good in 1991, and had fallen into disrepair after years of neglect and vandalism.
A little more than a year ago, People Inc. and the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission partnered on the project with a plan to outfit the building with 14 apartments while leaving the historic integrity intact.
People Inc. is a nonprofit human services agency with a location in Woodstock. The regional commission is a planning organization based in Front Royal that coordinates community and land-use planning projects among other initiatives.
Classrooms were converted to apartments, leaving many of the original features such as the doors and chalkboards.
Shenandoah County Supervisor Dennis Morris, a lifelong Toms Brook resident, attended the school during fifth through seventh grades.
“I used to go into these cupboards all the time and get chalk and things out for the teachers,” Morris said as he opened a repainted wall cabinet in one of the apartments Friday.
The rooms, he said, will still be recognizable to former students as the classrooms they once knew.
Names can still be seen scratched into the glass of the original windowpanes lining the hall upstairs.
Thelma Strickler, whose husband was principal of the school for more than 15 years beginning in the 1960s, toured the restored building Friday.
She and her daughter, Leta Strickler, who attended the school, both served on the management committee for the renovation.
Though marveling at the improvement from just a few months ago, Thelma Strickler said the gymnasium floors still aren’t as clean as when the former school janitor, “Ms. Nell,” was in charge.
“[She] had them so you could see your face in them,” she said. “She better not catch you with [boots] on. One scuff and you were in trouble.”
Strickler said that although she was never officially employed at the school, between her children and her husband’s job, she spent a lot of time there over the years.
“I just wish your dad could be here to see this,” she said to her daughter.
At least 300 guests are expected to attend Sunday’s open house. Tyler Klein, project manager with the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, said he’s been fielding calls about the day from all over the state.
The open house will begin at 1 p.m. and tours will continue until 5. A short documentary film chronicling the history of the building also will be shown. The documentary can be viewed on YouTube by searching: “Toms Brook School.”
Artifacts and memorabilia from the school’s glory days brought by community members will be on display as well.
Contact Kaitlin Mayhew at 574-6290 or firstname.lastname@example.org