AHW Preservation Toolkit
The More than Mortar Community Toolkit is designed to provide community leaders and concerned citizens with the information and tools they need to take action in preserving Wyoming’s historic schools. These schools can continue to be used as schools or repurposed for new uses such as community centers, offices, museums, or residential living.
Plans for these buildings often develop behind closed doors, requiring citizens to ask questions and persist in obtaining answers from their civic leaders and school district officials. Too many of Wyoming’s historic schools have been lost, many without adequate public participation or notice. Forming a group of like-minded citizens and taking proactive measures before decisions are made will greatly increase odds that your historic school will escape the wrecking ball.
The Alliance for Historic Wyoming (AHW) is ready to assist in the effort to preserve your historic school building by providing the community and state connections needed to make your voice heard. Listed below are some recommended steps you can take to ensure your school has a place in the future of your community.
1. Contact the Alliance for Historic Wyoming for assistance with research and outreach efforts.
AHW will help you draft a Communication Plan Template. This document will help you organize all of the background information on the school (date of construction, architect, history, significance) and can be used to determine key dates for implementation of a campaign to save your historic school building.
2. Build a collaborative alliance.
It is important to talk to school district officials, local historical societies or clubs and interested parties early in the effort to save a school. Find out what the school district plans to do with the vacant or soon-to-be-vacant building. Are there plans for an alternative use or demolition? Create a committee and divide up the work. Encourage committee members to talk to their friends and contacts. If you have a city or county Historic Preservation Board, Certified Local Government and/or local historical society, that is a good place to start.
3. Familiarize yourself with the benefits of preserving historic school buildings.
Equip yourself with knowledge on the benefits of preserving an historic school building. This document includes points on why historic schools matter, the economics of renovating versus building new, sustainability benefits and links to other resources. These points can also be used for letter writing and other communications. Talking Points: Preserving Old Buildings
4. Contact key decision makers.
Ask what actions they propose to ensure that the school building is preserved and continues to be used in the community.
5. Learn about Historic Architecture Assistance Fund grants.
Have a historic property that needs work but don't know where to start? The Historic Architecture Assistance Fund could be right for you.
6. Collect or take photos.
Document the features of the school, and send your best photos to AHW. You can also collect photos of students in the classrooms or on the school grounds to highlight how the school was used and for memories. We will post them on the More than Mortar website with designated pages on your historic school building.
7. Collect stories
Testimonials from people who know and love a building are most effective toward convincing local officials and the public that a school should be preserved. Gather the treasured stories from current or former students, teachers, parents and grandparents, whether in writing or orally. Send these stories to AHW (via our website or by mail) to help promote your historic school on the More than Mortar website. Use these oral history accounts in a newsletter, flyer, and/or letters to the editor.
8. Write and talk to neighbors.
Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper on the importance of your school to the community and your preservation campaign: Sample Letter to the Editor. Also, ask for an opportunity to talk on local radio shows.
9. Nominate to the National Register of Historic Places.
If your school or building is more than 50 years old, it may be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, the official list of buildings and sites important in American history and culture. Please make an initial contact with the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office to start the nomination process. It is also a good idea to contact your local historic society or county affiliate (CLG, etc.), if active in your area.
10. Natrona County School District Case Study.
The renovation and reuse of Natrona County High School (NCHS) can serve as a model for other historic schools in Wyoming. It is also a model in collaborative process with NCHS parents, alumni, officials, outside experts, and members of the public building consensus for the renovation of this historic school building.