Back to School – Chalkboards, Lockers and Old Pioneer Middle School

The Seattle Field Crew Goes Back to School in Steilacoom

Notes from the Field – by Ryan DeSales

Just when we thought our summer-school days were behind us, it was back-to-school for the Seattle RE Store’s field crew this July.  Fortunately, as we salvaged the Old Pioneer Middle School located in historic Steilacoom, we didn’t have to memorize the periodic table or state capitals this time around (quick, what’s the capital of North Dakota?). Instead, we got to remove cast iron radiators, slate chalkboards, and yes, rows and rows of shiny gym lockers (P.S., it’s Bismarck).

Students haven’t walked the halls of Old Pioneer since 2008 when it was replaced by the new Pioneer Middle School in DuPont, but the Seattle field crew got an all-access salvage pass. Although the historic school no longer holds classes, it is slated to get a new lease on life as the Steilacoom School District’s administrative center. The RE Store was proud to be part of this transition by salvaging reusable materials before renovations begin. It’s always nice to be the first into a historic structure such as this one, rather than the last out of it.

We started our adventure by removing the steam radiators from the school’s original two story brick classroom building, which was built in 1918. Despite forgetting our trusty monkey wrench, we were able to disconnect the rusty pipes using a pair of Channellocks and a pry bar as a lever—our old science and shop teachers would be proud. After loading a ton of radiators, quite literally, onto the truck, we moved on to slate chalkboards. For those of you that have never had the pleasure of removing a real slate chalkboard, we highly recommend it as a character building exercise. If you have enough character, but need a cool slate counter top, please visit the Seattle RE Store. For some inspiration, check out this great blog post with examples of chalk board reuse from House Appeal.

Alas, there were only so many chalkboards to carry, so we decided to relive gym class by removing some lockers. The gym facility was added in 1952, along with some pretty awesome metallic green, wrinkle-finish lockers. In case you were wondering, that locker room smell never quite goes away. After freeing up many a stubborn locker and finding a considerable amount of spare change, it was time to clean up by pulling some trough sinks and a mop sink as well.

All told, the field crew removed five truck loads worth of materials from Old Pioneer, including: mahogany bookshelves, dry erase boards, work tables, lockers, illuminated fire escape signs, and even a pottery wheel. While we love to save history by salvaging it, this was one job where we were happy to leave things mostly intact.

And that was what we did over our summer.

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