Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2012 Preservation Award Winners
Wilber School • Sharon

Wilber School • Sharon

Adaptive Reuse, Rehabilitation & Restoration

The Wilber School was designed in the Colonial Revival style by Boston architects Monks & Johnson and built in 1922. Ralph Harrington Doane and Edward S. Holland designed a 1929 addition in the Georgian Revival style with ornate details, including arched windows, fruit ornaments, cast-stone swags, and a wood balcony with a balustrade. The Wilber School is by far the largest and most imposing example of the Colonial Revival style in Sharon. Closed in the early 1980s, the building sat vacant for over a quarter of a century, with its windows boarded up, its façade overgrown with vegetation, and rot and water steadily destroying it. The school was nearly demolished a number of times, but ultimately the town decided it needed to preserve this important building. After several redevelopment plans proved unsuccessful, Beacon Communities and Frontier Enterprises took on an adaptive reuse project for the building using state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.

The rehabilitation of the school included restoration, or replacement in-kind, of all exterior ornamentation and detailing, including the balcony and its balustrade. Masonry was repointed, and historically appropriate windows were installed. Restored or rebuilt interior features include: double French doors, trophy cases, and architectural details in the 1929 addition's entry hall; original chalkboards, which were incorporated into apartments; and trim, which was replaced in-kind as necessary. The original dimensions of all corridors were preserved. Original classroom doors and lockers were removed, stripped of lead paint, and reinstalled in their original places, preserving the look and feel of the hallways. A new addition was designed to complement the existing historic building without replicating or overpowering it. The LEED Gold, EPA-certified Energy Star rehabilitation project provides mixed-income housing and has restored the building as a valuable community resource.

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