“As a student of historic preservation I have no intention of demolishing the school, and instead opting on a course of adaptive reuse…” - Ray Milora

PALMYRA TWP. (Pike) - An agreement of sale for the historic Paupack School on Route 507 has been approved by Palmyra Township.

Ray Milora, who has restored several old cottages in the Lake Wallenpaupack area, states that he intends to preserve the school and repurpose it for two or three “artist’s lofts” available for either short or long term rental.

His bid of $100,000 was the soul bid received by the Township, and was opened at the supervisors’ meeting, October 3rd. Milora sent a written proposal for his intentions with the property, as was required by the supervisors, provided a 10% down payment and met the minimum bid.

Having looked for buyer or an appropriate party to make use of the long closed school building for  many years, the supervisors unanimously approved the purchase bid.

At first, Solicitor Anthony Waldron advised that the bid could be accepted, but on the condition that approval of the sale was given by the Wallenpaupack Area School Board, which is a condition placed in the deed when the Township accepted the mortgage in 2004.

Administrator Jo-Ann Rose noted, however, that the township had only one more payment of $5,000, to make. The original cost was $100,000, at a rate of $5,000 a year without any interest charged.

In that case, Waldron stated that the township would not need the District’s OK, but he would check that (Waldron is also the school district’s solicitor).

The deed restriction also required that the former school could not be torn down, within a period of 10 years from purchase.

Chairman Tom Simons said that there should be ample sewage capacity.
Supervisors Ken Coutts made the motion to accept the bid; Supervisor Eric Ehrhardt offered the second, and Simons also voted in favor.

Adaptive reuse

Milora saved and restored several homes in the area, including the former residences of George, Harold and Art Gumble.
He said in his letter that he and his team include local craftsmen, contractors and small business owners that worked on these residences. “I intend to bring the same resources, drive and passion to this effort,” he wrote.

Milora, who was unable to attend the meeting due to be away on a business trip, further stated in the letter, “As a student of historic preservation I have no intention of demolishing the school, and instead opting on a course of adaptive reuse…”
Since making Art Gumble’s bungalow and Harold Gumble’s cottage available for rent, Milora said he had hosted over 400 guests, most of them first time visitors to the region. His concept will be the same for the school, he said, except that the former school offers a setting and amenities not available elsewhere in that area. He added that what the school offers is “highly sought after from artists, writers and musicians from New York, Philadelphia and surrounding cities.”

His stated plan is to first restore the exterior and ensure that all local codes are met. Milora plans to be personally involved with much of the renovations. While in a position to self-finance, he said that he may leverage part of the costs.

He also said he hopes to share the school’s history and legacy with his guests.
“I feel strong that my proposal, track record and approach will restore and repurpose the school for an asset to the community, ensuring its long term preservation and viability…,” he wrote.

Milora has a vacation home in Palmyra Township, and owns two other houses on Route 507, all in a row and next to the school property.

Background

Palmyra Consolidated School opened in 1925, bringing together pupils from several township schools which were closing at that time. The school was built in response to the hydroelectric project that would Lake Wallenpaupack in 1926, flooding the valley and requiring the closing of certain one-room schools.

The school was remodeled in 1938 and 1958, and continued as an elementary school (1st-8th grades) until it was closed in 1988. It has been empty since then.

The township bought the school from the Wallenpaupack Area School District in 2001. Wallenpaupack Historical Society has taken an active interest in finding an appropriate use for the building.

The facility is registered as a historic building with the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission.
The school came with a stipulation that it would be used for a not-for-profit organization or government function. There have been several interested parties through the years. There was discussion by the Pike County Public Library at one point to open a library branch at Paupack. The County looked at it for a magisterial district court. A community center was also proposed, back in 2010.  

The Township replaced the roof and replaced the septic system. Palmyra also put in a parking lot when the library use was being anticipated. Township workers have maintained the grounds.