By Lee Weyhrich
The Old Rock School was the primary focus of the Pinson City Council meeting Thursday. Up for discussion was the possibility the council might purchase the property from Solid Rock Church, located on Center Point Road in Pinson. Thursday’s hearing was primarily to gauge the community’s interest in the undertaking.
“I think it goes without saying that we are considering (the purchase of the property),” Mayor Hoyt Sanders said. “It will be an expense, and that is why we wanted to discuss it openly with the people.”
Solid Rock Churchis asking $1.2 million for Old Rock School and nearby Triangle Park.
According to Solid Rock Church Pastor Larry Ragland, his church will soon outgrow the historic school. His congregation is in negotiations with the owners of New Covenant Fellowship Church to purchase their now vacant building on Pinson Valley Parkway. The sale of the Old Rock School property would be contingent on the outcome of that negotiation.
“We’ve made an offer on the property,” Ragland said. “We have heard rumors that there is one other entity interested in the property, but they are not a church. We already made an offer on the property several months ago. I feel like we have a pretty good chance. I’ve talked to many people that built (New Covenant Fellowship Church). They laid in scripture under the carpet throughout that building, and they dedicated the building that it would always remain a church.”
Councilmen Robbie Roberts and John Churchwell visited Solid Rock two weeks ago to see if the city might be interested in purchasing the property. Churchwell said the building is still in good condition, despite the years of neglect before Solid Rock began making repairs.
“After we looked at it, we decided to see what the people thought about it,” Churchwell said.
The original structure of the school was hand-lain by the community, and Churchwell described the support structure as “substantial.” According to Eric Sorenson, a Pinson resident and historical society member, the Old Rock School is registered with the Alabama Historical Society as a historic structure. Sorenson said that at the time it was listed, the structure did not meet the requirements of federal registration. If the building were to meet those requirements now, it would qualify for federal aid to restore the building. This would help offset the expense of purchasing the property.
A requirement of the original school deed is that it and Triangle Park never be separated. The property totals almost eight acres. The fear for many is that if someone besides the city were to acquire the property, the school would likely be demolished.
“In 1999, my husband and I got involved in the historical society,” Pinson resident Lillian Sorenson said. “We wanted the Rock School to be preserved
. When we entered the school the first time, it was pristine. Later, the county ripped out the toilets and radiators. We were adamant we would not lose this school back then. Later, vandals tore up the computers and threw plates around the lunchroom. It breaks my heart to think (anyone) would ever tear it down.”
Palmerdale Homesteads Community Center President Barry Wilson has faced similar issues with the old Palmerdale School. The current community center was long neglected before being salvaged. The council recently took an active role in the preservation and improvement of that building. Wilson believes it would be a tragedy if the city did not preserve this structure in the same way.
Sanders said the idea of destroying the building has never been a consideration. It has always been the city’s plan to refurbish the building for civic and municipal use. Councilman Joe Cochran expanded on Sanders’ statement.
“We believe in the history of this community,” Cochran said. “When the city owns something, it belongs to the people.”