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SAVE The John W. Chorley Elementary School | Paul Rudolph

March 18, 2010

John W. Chorley Elementary School is Paul Rudolph’s only building designed specifically to the scale of children.  It is an enclosed, internal landscape of open classrooms naturally lit by saw-tooth clerestory windows reminiscent of the many factory buildings dotting the nearby Hudson River.  The rooms at Chorley sweep into one another, each separated by operable walls, all overseen by teachers’ planning centers perched above each of four wings. Now, the school from 1969 is at risk of demolition as soon as 2011.

As read on the web Preservation Effort for the John W. Chorley Elementary School:

On December 18th, 2008 voters in the Middletown, NY Enlarged School District passed a referendum (428 for, 238 against) to acquire additional adjacent property to build a new elementary school.  At the last minute a provision was added to demolish John Chorley Elementary School and replace it with a parking lot, despite that the construction of the new school does not require Chorley’s demolition and without consideration of integrating the historic structure into the proposal or the possibility of Chorley’s adaptive reuse. Unless action is taken, John W. Chorley Elementary will be replaced as soon as the 2011-12 school year at an expected cost to the taxpayers of $63.5 million plus the cost of demolition.

Although built for 918 students and situated on a 27-acre site, discrete staggering of the instructional wings along a shifted spine connecting shared program spaces (art, music, guidance, physical education and administration) allow the students to maintain a domestic feel amidst the sprawling composition.

It was built with fluted concrete block and designed to reflect the limitless potential of its pupils, each classroom has its own door to the exterior and is open within the wing, allowing teachers the capacity to teach up to eight classes at once.

Sean Khorsandi wrote at his article about the preservation alert “a margin of 270 people set a process in motion to demolish a National Register-eligible building by the internationally recognized late modernist architect, Paul M. Rudolph. A prolific and successful designer in his prime, Mr. Rudolph saw no fewer than 271 of over 400 designs realized in his lifetime—a body of work that has been diminishing through neglect, property values, greed and obstinate politicians, resulting in the recent destruction of five buildings over the past four years.”

The Paul Rudolph Foundation is collecting signatures to promote the school’s preservation:

The Paul Rudolph Foundation is working with local members of the community and national preservation organizations to stop the demolition of Chorley Elementary, which has been found to be both State and National Register eligible. In addition to raising awareness about the building’s history, the Foundation has begun a petition to ask the Middletown school board to reconsider its plans.

The goal of the petition is to have 3,000 signatures – we urgently need your help to see that we can reach this goal!


If you want to learn more or sign up for your support, do it here.

A complete photo-set of the current state of the school can be visited here.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 24, 2010 10:33 am

    Excellent post.Thanks for sharing the great information with us.

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