Glendale residents fight to stop demolition of historic former Eckstein School for Black children – The Cincinnati Enquirer

Some Glendale residents are outraged about a proposal to demolish a historic former school that served African American children for 43 years to make room for an assisted-living facility.

Audience members at a recent Glendale Village Council meeting said they were appalled that a community known for its preservation efforts would even consider allowing the Eckstein School at 42 Washington Ave. to be torn down – especially in this era of racial reckoning.

‘My mother could not go to school with the Caucasians’

“This is very emotional for me. When my mother could not go to school with the Caucasians, Eckstein School was where she was able to be educated,” Brenda Daniels of Washington Avenue said.

“We love that school. We want it preserved. Help us do it.”

Dianna Toran of Church Avenue said she collected 102 signatures on a petition to save the Eckstein School, which was built around an 1885 house and is now in the Glendale Historic District. The owner wants to raze the original schoolhouse but not a gymnasium added in front of it in 1928.

Children in kindergarten through eighth grade attended school there from 1915 to 1958. It has been vacant for years and is in some disrepair.

“When I solicited (neighbors’) signatures, everyone – both Black and white – already knew about the plan and eagerly signed,” Toran said.

“Some were angry because they had loved ones who attended the school and resented the thought of part of it being demolished or becoming a place that served only the few.”

The Glendale Planning and Historic Preservation Commission has recommended that village council grant a conditional-use permit allowing property owner Denny Dellinger to build a 16-bed assisted-living facility at the Eckstein School site.

Council will take up the matter at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 2, in town hall at 80 E. Sharon Ave.

Mayor Donald Lofty said council is required to base its decision on how an assisted-living facility would affect the neighborhood and traffic, as well as whether it is in keeping with Glendale’s master plan for land use and development.

If council grants Dellinger the permit, he said, the planning and historic preservation commission will decide after a public hearing if his plans for the Eckstein School building itself are appropriate.

Lofty said anyone who disagrees with the decision can appeal to council.

Resident Ron Visscher of Kingfisher Lane said that Glendale’s master plan names the Eckstein School as a key historical resource and promotes preservation of these kinds of landmarks.

The village’s historic-preservation guidelines contain federal standards and say, “a property shall be used for its historic purpose or be placed in a new use that requires minimal change to the defining characteristics of the building and its site and environment,” he said.

“The problem is that the proposed use, according to the applicant, requires demolition of this landmark, except for its gymnasium. This is not a minimal change.”

Dellinger, an architect in Over-the-Rhine, told the planning and historic preservation commission earlier this year that his proposal for an assisted-living facility would not be viable without the demolition of the 1885 building, minutes show.

He declined to comment for this story.

Other proposals for Eckstein School floated

Audience members encouraged village council at the recent meeting to take another look at past proposals they believe are better suited for the Eckstein School building.

Two of the proposals – turning it into a cultural arts center or a charter school – remain on the table, they said.

“To me, the question is really, is this about racism?” Kelly Bishop of Washington Avenue said.

“Do black lives matter? Do the lives of these people who went to this school matter? They should matter.”

Lofty told the residents that council is listening to them.

“Thank you for sharing your obvious passion and concern for this school,” he said.

“I can assure you that it has made an impression on everyone at this table, including me.”