The Larimer School is located in the Larimer neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is named for William Larimer, Jr., who opened the first Conestoga wagon business in the area. He later moved west and founded Denver, Colorado and Larimer City, Nebraska.2
Larimer School, designed by Ulysses J. Lincoln Peoples,2 was constructed in 1896 in the Classicized Richardson Romanesque architectural style 1 at a cost of $80,000.5 Peoples, a native of Allegheny City, received his degree from the University of Illinois and apprenticed with D.H. Burnham’s firm during the run up to the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
The two-story school featured an elaborate double-door entry with a rounded stone arch transom facing Larimer Avenue and a triple-arched entry along Winslow Avenue.2 The interior boasted wide central hallways, terrazzo flooring, and Tennessee marble wainscoting on the walls.
A complimentary addition with 85/132 classrooms, also designed by Peoples, was built in 1904-January 1905 2 6 at a cost of $100,000.5 There were issues with the new building, in that it was not built to the original plans and specifications. The school board refused to accept the building from the contractors until $10,000 in alterations were completed at the construction company’s expense.7 The addition joined to the original building with an elaborate connector featuring a 125-feet-high campanile with a school bell at the top 6 and a terra-cotta surround entry with figures in relief. A 12-feet by 16-feet, six paneled stained glass window, depicting a scene of Romans wearing togas of scarlet, orchid, chartreuse, and blue, was installed on a second-floor balcony.13 The stained glass was most likely crafted by Rudy Brothers Glass STudio in East Liberty.
On February 18, 1930, the school board approved a $121,500 contract to construct an auditorium and two playrooms.8 The school board on July 22 approved of $53,000 in changes to the addition, mostly centered around remodeling of the existing buildings,9 and on September 23, George M. Rowland was chosen as the architect for the addition.10
The two-story addition, with a 3454/4002 seat auditorium, opened in the fall of 1931.11 Its design was a departure from previous iterations with a streamlined Art Deco architectural style.2 The auditorium was more expressive than the original school buildings, with black marble wainscoting and an aluminum acoustical tile ceiling with a geometric arrangement.
In December 1936, C.L. Wooldridge, building superintendent, requested $2,000 from the school board to install concrete floors in the campanile.12 The tower was built with wooden floors and was considered structurally unsound. The superintendent remarked that the tower was a drain on public funds, requiring approximately $600 a year to have the brick tower pointed. It had also become a sharpshooting target by neighborhood children. The campanile was ultimately removed in 1958.2
Decline and Closure
Facing declining enrollments and fiscal austerity, Larimer School was closed in June 1980.3 The stained glass window, installed in 1904, was removed shortly after and sold for $12,000.14 In February 1982, the city requested sealed bids for the sale of the school but found no takers.16 The school board held its first public auction of a school building on December 14, 1982.4 15
The complex was sold to Ann Swartz, a former teacher at Larimer who had opened to reuse the building as a community center and senior housing.17 The plans never came to fruition due to funding issues and Swartz died in 1996, leaving the project in limbo.
Another plan, by Ora Lee Carroll of East Liberty Concerned Citizens, envisioned the school becoming a senior living facility and offices for supportive services, but funding for the proposed $8 million project never materialized.19
In November 2010, A Second Chance, Inc., a foster care agency, purchased the building from the estate of Swartz for $50,000 with plans to rehabilitate the building and relocate its operations and 125 employees from East Liberty to the former school.17 The proposal received the backing of East Liberty Development Corporation and the East Liberty Concerned Citizens Corporation. Renovation costs were pegged at $6 million. While A Second Chance hired an architect and made initial repairs to the roof, no work on the rehabilitation of the school began due to a lack of funding.19
In 2005, Larimer School was sold to local developer Emmett Miles of the non-profit Fishers of Men.19 Miles had planned on using federal dollars to complete asbestos abatement in the building but was unable to secure financing.
Local developer Keith B. Key, proposed to renovate the Larimer School into 36 senior housing apartments and ground-floor community service space at a cost of $14 million.18 19 Miles’ Fishers of Men, was listed as a partner. Together, the duo is seeking $1,008,115 in low-income tax credits 20 and state historic tax credits to finance the redevelopment.19 KBK Enterprises was selected as the developer for the project.18
In mid-2015, a phase two environmental assessment was completed by KBK that found less asbestos than originally anticipated.19