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Alexandria Monroe Township Historical Society

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Orestes school for sale
BY JIM BAILEY, Staff Reporter

ORESTES For sale: One 26,000-square-foot building, with gymnasium and four baths, formerly used as schoolhouse. Fixer-upper on 8-acre lot. Best offer. Contact Alexandria Community School Corp.

The school corporation will begin taking bids Jan. 15 on the school, which was closed amid considerable opposition last summer. Its students were sent to Cunningham and Marie Thurston elementaries.

Were hoping it will be purchased by someone who will make it at least aesthetically acceptable to the community, said interim superintendent John McFarren.

The original two-story structure was built in 1923, with additions added later. The windows were replaced six years ago, and part of the roof was repaired in September.

School roofs require a lot of maintenance, McFarren pointed out.

After voting on March 17 to close the school at the end of the 2002-2003 school year the board had to decide whether to sell the property or demolish the old school building. According to McFarren, the decision to market the property gives the community a chance to keep part of its history intact.

Its been part of that community for years, and it has a lot of sentimental value, said McFarren.

Orestes School dates back to 1898, originally serving elementary through high school students. Monroe Township took over the school a year later and it became solely an elementary school. A tornado destroyed the school in 1922, and students were relocated to the lodge hall until the new building was completed in 1923.

The procedure for placing school property on sale is prescribed by state law, McFarren explained. It has to be advertised twice, leading to the Jan. 15 date to begin accepting bids. It will continue for 30 days. Bids may be submitted in writing on a form provided by the school board and available at the administrative office. A $2,000 deposit is required when the bid is submitted. All bids will be open for public inspection.

Man donates his research to Orestes
BY AVON WATERS, Staff Reporter
The bell of the Orestes Baptist Church can now be heard around the world.
And thanks to a man living half a world away in San Pablo City, Philippines, the history of Orestes is available to anyone with a computer. The church bell can be rung by accessing the site.
"I used to be able to hear that bell," said Beulah Prophet, 91, a member of the Orestes Historical Society. "On Sunday mornings they'd ring the bell and you'd hear it all summer long."
It's all part of a Web site that features pictures, stories, newspaper articles, oral histories and the sights of the small Madison County town.
"This is my contribution to what we started in the 1990s as the Orestes Historical Society," said David Dwiggins, the developer of the Web site and a founder of the historical society. "This isn't about me. I hope it makes others interested in Orestes history and they join the historical society."
Dwiggins left Orestes in September 2002 and moved to the Philippines after his retirement from Ameritech. But before he left, his hobby was collecting stories and history on Orestes from area newspapers. He interviewed people and had files of oral history on the town as well as copies of photographs.
"I started this Web site because I didn't want everyone to think I just dumped them," Dwiggins said about his leaving the area.

Former Orestes school might become new Red Gold offices
Red Gold has big plans for the former Orestes School.
The Orestes-based tomato product processing plant recently bought the former elementary school for $31,000. Alexandria-Monroe Community Schools board approved the sale at its March 1 meeting.
"We're thinking that would be a great place for a casino," Red Gold CEO Brian Reichart joked.
Actually, Reichart said, the 28,877-square-foot building, built in 1923, could be earmarked for new Red Gold corporate offices to accommodate about 120 administrative employees.
With the rate the company has grown in recent years, Reichart said, the Orestes building is running out of room. Some of its offices are temporary and parking is an issue.
"So we've got two different problems," Reichart said.
Orestes School was a good option because it's only three blocks from the plant and is in sound shape, both inside and out. The school closed last year.
"And with eight acres, we have plenty of room to expand," Reichart said.
"Because it was an option, I couldn't wait until I knew what we needed for an office," Reichart said.
Red Gold is exploring options for the building right now, but Reichart said it is likely the former school will get new heating and air-conditioning to replace radiators and window air units, plus landscaping and a sizable addition. Reichart said renovations alone could cost $2 million, although he didn't want to give any hard figures because no plans are certain yet.
Peggy Jackson, business manager of Alexandria Community Schools, said Red Gold put in a bid on Feb. 16. Red Gold has until March 30 to make its final payment. Jackson said the district hasn't decided what to do with the money from the school sale, but it will be discussed at the April 12 board meeting.
Alexandria interim superintendent John McFarren said the district was happy with the sale.
"We're pleased that a respected member of the business community purchased the property," McFarren said. "This will be a distinct advantage for our community."