Old Marquette School is historically significant clothes closet

Perhaps South Bend’s old Marquette School (1905 College Avenue) will have a brighter future now that its unique past has been recognized nationally.

“This school is architecturally significant and is worthy of being preserved,” said Catherine Hostetler, Executive Director of the St. Joseph County Historic Preservation Commission.

Back in 2007, plans to build a new Marquette School and demolish the old building made for quite the controversy.

That’s when local preservationists first fought back and spared Marquette from the wrecking ball.

Today, Marquette’s windows are boarded up and the building essentially serves as one big storage closet. The structure’s sole purpose is to house the school corporation’s theatrical costume collection at an estimated cost of some $75,000 per year.

Marquette’s recent addition to the National Register of Historic Places promises to bring new resources to the table and is designed to spark new interest in the building.

“And there’s a lot of people that want to save it, they have a lot of memories there, and you know, it does come with the incentive now that it’s on the National Register and recognized that there are grants and tax credits and federal tax credits available for redevelopment, if it goes into the commercial pretty much the way like they did with the Rushton,” said Hostetler.

While Hostetler admits that the building “probably should” be re-used as a school, she says that doesn’t have to be a public school. “There’s been legislation downstate that says if a building has been vacant and not used productively as a school it can be sold to a charter school or a for profit school and certainly there’s room in that building for a number of different uses.”

Both the new Marquette building and the old one are essentially on the same lot of land.

The two buildings are so close; some find it hard to imagine the old building being used for anything but education.

Marquette was built in the 1930’s through the WPA.

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