LOWELL | A protective fence will go up Wednesday around the Old Grade School property on East Main Street, signaling the beginning of the end for the historical brick structure now owned by the town.
Tom Trulley of the Lowell Building Department said asbestos abatement is slated to begin Monday, with demolition beginning Jan. 8.
ChemChek of Hebron was the winning bidder for the demolition at a cost of $177,000. An expected $175,000 will be funneled through Lake County from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to pay for the project.
Americo Engineering of Valparaiso will handle removing asbestos from piping as well as the removal of an underground tank, which will require archaeological oversight. The asbestos will go to the Newton County Landfill.
Members of the Three Creeks Historical Association worked closely with the town through the Section 106 review required by the IDNR. Certain historically significant pieces of the building will be given the association for preservation.
Trulley said 30 foundation bricks will be transformed into stone benches by members of Colfax Masonic Lodge 378 in Lowell.
In 2011, the Masons removed the cornerstone from the former Lowell Middle School for historical preservation.
Artifacts to be received by the association include three leaded glass windows and the school's nameplate.
While the historic structure once on the "10 Most Endangered List" of Indiana Landmarks sits on a hilltop adjacent to Lowell Town Hall at 525 E. Main St. now, Trulley said the ground will be leveled and the rise removed because the soil will be used to fill the underground tank space.
After it was no longer used as a school, the building found new life as an antiques center. A Boston couple's attempt to convert the structure to a folk art center was quelled by neighboring property owners a number of years ago.
More recently, the building was owned by Maria Bodor of Illinois. It fell into disrepair and was determined to be a danger to the community by the Lowell Unsafe Building Authority.
Seven years ago, following complaints from neighbors, the Lowell Police Department entered the building to find a great number of dogs and cats, both alive and dead, their feces and urine, and evidence that the animals had begun to feed on each other.