By Lee Weyhrich
The old Palmerdale School, and many of the homes in the Palmerdale area, began life as a project of the federal government. With the economy in shreds as a result of the Great Depression, then-President Franklin Roosevelt embarked on what he called the New Deal. These New Deal projects were designed to put people to work by creating federal building projects such as schools, homes, bridges and entire communities. For years, the old school building was vacant and withering, but early in the 21st century, that all began to change.
That is when the Palmerdale Homesteads Community Center project was started. The center took over the lease of the old school from the Jefferson County Board of Education. Its goal is to restore the center and make it something the community can be proud of.
“We formed the PHCC about 11 years ago because the BOE wasn’t doing anything with the building,” property manager Dorlin Terry said. “The grass was waist high, the windows were broken out, people had painted on the walls. It was a mess.”
A small group of volunteers did much of the work themselves. The center is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, and funds were usually tight. Progress on the repairs was slow early on. The city of Pinson stepped in to help four years ago. Terry’s big worry has been over the failing roof.
“I kept it afloat the last few years by getting a roofing company to patch the leaks, but about the time you get one patched you’d have another leak in that dad-blamed thing,” Terry said. “Then I’d put out all my buckets again until we could get those holes fixed.”
The city recently took over the responsibility of the lease. Two weeks ago, the Pinson City Council finalized plans to install a new roof that will closely resemble the building’s original roof in the 1930s.
The center has remodeled one room at a time to make them available for public use. Central heating and air have been installed throughout. The kitchen and a central meeting room have been completed and the gym has also been made usable, though center president Barry Wilson said a lot of smaller projects still need to be completed.
“We just finished one room and got it fixed up nice, and we’re working our way up the hallway, trying to restore all of it to its original condition,” Wilson said. “The major work is about over with. We have heating and air all over and we are getting a new roof
. All the windows need to be painted. We want to finish the roof before we do any more of the rooms. We can also use a new gym floor, but we can wait a couple of years on that.”
The center rents the building out for community events, birthdays, weddings, meetings, wrestling matches and concerts. Wrestling matches are held the first Saturday of every month. Community meetings are held the first Monday of the month. One Saturday a month the Mark Taylor Reunion Band gives a live concert.
“Last month we had over 100 people show up for wrestling,” Terry said. “United Methodist is fixing to have a big youth rally Jan. 16. (The center) is seeing a lot of use these days.”
The center runs a concession stand at these events to help pay for the building’s upkeep and repairs.
“It’s going to be a beautiful building,” Wilson said. “We could never have done it without the city’s help.”
For more information, visit www.palmerdale.org.