The Larimer School, named for William Larimer, Jr., who opened the first Conestoga wagon business in the area, is a former school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Larimer later moved west and founded Denver, Colorado, and Larimer City, Nebraska.
The Larimer School was designed by Ulysses J. Lincoln Peoples, 2 and was constructed in 1896 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, designed in the Classicized Richardson Romanesque style, 1 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 floors, and Tennessee marble wainscoting on the walls.
A complimentary addition, also designed by Peoples, was opened in January 1905 2 6 at a cost of $100,000. 5 It featured an elaborate connector with a 125-foot-high campanile with a school bell at the top, 6 and a terra-cotta surround entry with figures in the relief. A 12-foot by 16-foot, six-paneled stained glass window, crafted by the Rudy Brothers Glass Studio in East Liberty, depicting a scene of Romans wearing togas of scarlet, orchid, chartreuse, and blue, was installed on a second-floor balcony. 13 But it was found that the addition was not built to the original plans and specifications, and 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 school board approved a $121,500 contract to construct an auditorium and two gymnasiums on February 18, 1930, 8 and George M. Rowland was chosen as the architect for the addition on September 23. 10 The two-story addition, finished in the fall of 1931, 11 was designed in the contrasted with the earlier iterations of Larimer and featured a streamlined Art Deco style. 2 Black marble wainscoting and an aluminum acoustical tile ceiling with geometric arrangements were used in the 345 4 / 400-seat 2
C.L. Wooldridge, the building superintendent, requested $2,000 from the school board to install concrete floors in the campanile in December 1936. 12 The tower was built with wooden floors and was structurally unsound. The superintendent remarked that the tower was a drain on public funds, and required $600 per year to have the brick tower repointed. The campanile was ultimately removed in 1958. 2
Facing declining enrollments and fiscal austerity, Larimer School was closed in June 1980. 3 The stained glass windows in the school were removed shortly after and sold for $12,000. 14 The city requested sealed bids for the sale of the school but found no takers in February 1982, 16 and decided to hold a public auction of the building and its contents on December 14. 4 15
The school was sold to Ann Swartz, a former teacher at Larimer who wanted to repurpose the complex as a community center and for senior housing. 17 The plans never came to fruition over funding. Swartz died in 1996, curtailing any work on the project. 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 idea 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 relocate its operations and 125 employees from East Liberty to the former school. 17 The $6 million proposal received the backing of East Liberty Development Corporation and the East Liberty Concerned Citizens Corporation. 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
The derelict school was then sold to Emmett Miles of the not-fot-profit Fishers of Men and Keith B. Key in 2005, who had planned on renovating into 36 senior housing units and community service space. 18 19 The partners sought $1 million in low-income tax credits 20 and state historic tax credits to assist in the financial aspects of the $14 million development. 19 KBK Enterprises, the selected developer for the project, 18 completed a two-phase environmental assessment on the buildings in mid-2015. 19 The renovation project became stalled over a lack of financing and the property was sold to the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in 2016. 23
In November 2018, St. Louis-based developer McCormack Baron Salazar and the housing authority’s non-profit arm, Allies & Ross Management and Development Corp., announced that the Larimer School would be renovated into 35 apartments, with the construction of seven townhomes across Winslow Street complimenting the development. 21 22 23 In July 2019, the developers received state historic tax credits to assist in the financial package, and in June 2020, the URA voted to increase construction lending by $517,261 and the architect’s contract by $23,000 on the conversion of the school’s auditorium and gymnasium into developable space. 21 The vote brought the budget for the conversation of the gymnasium to just over $3 million.