Former Washington School gymnasium roof collapses after no use for years

Published 12:01 am Thursday, June 18, 2015

The roof on the gymnasium at the former Washington School on U.S. 61 recently collapsed after years of being unused. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

The roof on the gymnasium at the former Washington School on U.S. 61 recently collapsed after years of being unused. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — The roof at the former Washington School gymnasium, located at the corner of U.S. 61 and Jefferson College Street, apparently was no match for wind gusts Tuesday night, resulting in its collapse.

The roof on the building had been sagging and holes in the roof had been visible for months, neighbors say.

Larry Brown, a carpenter in the maintenance department of the Natchez-Adams School District, which owns the property, was out at the old school Wednesday afternoon, putting caution tape around the building.

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Brown said he went to the school in fifth and sixth grades.

“I played in the gym. We had some fun days in there,” he said. “Back in the day, it used to be hard to even get in because the floor was so clean and beautiful, they didn’t want people wearing the wrong shoes to mess it up. Now, it’s come in at your own risk.”

Steven Richardson, public relations coordinator for Natchez-Adams Schools, said the district has received quotes for the demolition of the structure, but no contract has been accepted yet.

“Thanks to Mother Nature, which helped in a way, we are still seeking quotes,” Richardson said.

He said the district would reach out to companies who had previously expressed an interest in the demolition job.

“We have no timeline, but are hoping to get a response from some of the companies we have talked to. When it will be demolished depends on their current workload. “We are looking forward to having it demolished as soon as someone is available who provides an acceptable quote,” Richardson said.

The school district had been using the building for storage. However, Richardson said nothing in the building had value.

“I think it was just old materials and stuff from way back, things that had been retired,” he said. “We are saddened by the destruction, but have no control over Mother Nature. We will move along accordingly.”

Robin Persons, branch director at Historic Jefferson College, works next door to the old Washington School.

“We’ve been watching it deteriorate. It came down in spectacular fashion,” Persons said.

While she did not see the actual collapse, she said, “Certainly over the last two months, we’ve seen holes in the roof, and it was developing a bow. I figured it would not be long.”

The school itself is a state historic landmark, Persons said, “but I don’t think that the gym is.”

She said she would be pleased when the structure comes down.

“It’s a big deal for us because we have a sign that says Historic Jefferson College. They see the sign, then they see this thing that looks just like a school, and it’s in terrible condition. It causes confusion,” Persons said.