John A. Finch Elementary School was placed on the Washington Heritage Register at a meeting of the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation in Spokane last week.
“We are really happy about that,” said Mark Anderson, Spokane Public Schools associate superintendant. “The next step is to get on the National Register of Historic Places, but that should be pretty close now.”
According to the nomination, Finch Elementary School was constructed in two phases: the central portion of the school facing Milton Street was constructed in 1923 and the west-trending wings were completed in 1946. Anderson said the ongoing renovation of the school takes into consideration that the old characteristics will be preserved.
“We have a really good working relationship with the city and county historic preservation office,” Anderson said, “and also with Spokane’s Historic Preservation Advocates.”
Finch Elementary School is empty this school year as it’s undergoing a $26.9 million renovation project which will get rid of the temporary classrooms, completely modernize the historical part of the school and construct new classroom wings that meet modern teaching and technology standards.
With the historic designation comes a tax credit, which Anderson said the school district will not benefit from.
“We are a public entity – we don’t get tax credits,” he said dryly.
Greg Brown, Spokane Public Schools director of planning and capital projects, said the district works to preserve its old buildings when possible.
“To us it’s about preserving the history of the schools,” Brown said.
Lewis and Clark and Rogers high schools are both on the National Register of Historic Places, and the school district is contemplating listing Hutton Elementary School, which was built in 1921 and is headed for renovation next. Franklin Elementary School is from 1909 and Adams Elementary was built in 1924, so there are plenty of candidates for historic listing.
Brown said the school district has to compromise a little during restorations to make sure the historic significance of the building is preserved, at the same time as it is being brought up-to-date.
“We toured the building with the people from the Landmarks Commission as we were getting ready to renovate it,” Brown said. “It works out great.”
If all goes as planned Spokane Public Schools will hear back about the national listing before Christmas.
“It’s pretty much a slam-dunk once you have the state listing,” Anderson said.