for some cosmetic sprucing up and a new playground designed for
kids in the intermediate, rather than primary, grades, David W.
Harlan School at Barrett and Jefferson Streets will look pretty
much like it has since it opened 70 years ago, according to John
Read, construction project manager for the Brandywine
the first of five school buildings slated for modernization in
the $96 million second round of the district's long-term
major capital improvements program. The Harlan work, including
planning and associated costs, is budgeted at $7.8 million.
Borrowing to finance the local share of the second phase was
approved by voters at a referendum in 2001; state taxpayers are
putting up 60%.
The state's budget crisis is likely
to result in stretching out not only the Brandywine program but
also construction and renovations in other public school
districts. Harlan, however, is not affected and, as Delaforum
recently reported, the Brandywine Board of Education has decided
to move ahead as planned with the next round, at Concord High
School during the 2003-04 academic year, while pushing back the
planning phase of projects at Forwood and Lombardy Elementary
Schools and Talley Middle School for at least a year.
Read said that the Harlan job is running about two weeks
ahead of schedule and is within budget. Whiting-Turner
Constructing Co., the general contractor, is scheduled to turn
the building back to Brandywine in June in plenty of time to
outfit the place to resume classes in September. Harlan is
housed in the nearby Burnett building this year.
Harlan project moved into the second half of its construction
timetable, officials with eyes on the calendar were able to
uncross their fingers. "The period when you discover
[unexpected] problems is behind us," Read said. "In
renovation work, you always run into little surprises. Things
went good and we didn't find any major ones."
not to say there were none, but the significant ones turned out
to be concentrated on the plus side of the ledger.
room on the second floor, for instance, was half of a large
classroom which had been divided years ago by the addition of a
new wall which split both a double-door entranceway and an
ornate wooden bench built into the wall under windows on the
opposite side of the room. When the wall was removed, it was
discovered that neither the woodwork which framed the doors nor
the part of the bench covered by the wall had been damaged.
Similarly, when carpeting was removed, most of the hard-pine
original flooring was found to be in pristine, near-mint
condition. In only one room had water damage occurred to the
extent that the floor was ruined. The plan now is to buff the
old lumber and leave most of it uncovered.
Harlan luck out? Hardly, Read said.
happened is that along the way nobody did anything stupid," he
be credited is Cantera Construction Co., which built the place.
Although 1932 and '33 marked the depth of the Great Depression,
the firm apparently did not cut corners. Building Harlan is said
to have been a dress rehearsal for constructing the Pierre S. du
Pont school building just up the street. Then a junior and
senior high school, P.S. was the intended signature piece for
Wilmington Public Schools.
is any doubt that they, indeed, don't build them like they used
to, look at Harlan's interior walls -- all bricks and plaster
and several inches thick.
legacy left by Cantera and those responsible for later
modifications at Harlan is paying dividends in this century.
building's distinctive appearance and the role it has played in
the history of what long-time residents still call the Ninth
Ward, Brandywine renovation planners realized from the beginning
that modernization had to be fitted into the traditional with
the match being as seamless as possible. "The faculty came up
with a long list of [features] they said we had better not
touch," Read said.
reuse reaches something of a pinnacle in the octagonal room at
the building's southwest corner. It started life as a 'mud room'
where kids who used to walk to school and play outdoors in
harmony with all kind of weather shed boots and raingear. A
library in its most recent incarnation, it will emerge from
renovation as a full-fledged media center.
originals could not be adapted, "we did our best to mimic the
old look," Read said. A skylight deemed unsafe to
preserve, for instance, has been replaced with recessed ceiling
lighting disguised as filtering through a skylight.
portrait of David Harlan is being refurbished and will be rehung
in the entrance foyer. Harlan was superintendent of Wilmington
schools during the last quarter of the 19th Century.
as it may, the purpose of modernization was not to restore a
relic but to produce a school which measures up to current
standards, Read explained.
reopens, the building will be up to modern standards in every
significant respect. "We meet all the [building] codes," he
said. It will be entirely handicapped-accessible. Air
conditioning has been installed looking to year-around use,
which most educators and others regard as inevitable.
heating and ventilation system will provide not only
individualized control, with thermostats in every room, but also
continuous replacement of stale air with fresh. The thermostats,
incidentally, will work during operating hours, he said, but a
computerized system will override them at night and over
weekends to assure energy-saving cutbacks in temperature.
Read noted that not only will its outward appearance
belie what has gone on inside the building but even Harlan
visitors, staff and students will see only a proverbial
iceberg-tip of the extensive renovations. "The greatest portion
of what is being done [involves] things that people will never
see, but everybody who comes in here will feel them," he said.
Delaforum photo tour to view Harlan renovations in process:
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