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‘Every brick has a memory’: Hooker School building razed to make way for new library 

  • David Fill II holds his daughter, Cora Fill, 2, while watching the demolition of the Hooker School building in Hadley Thursday. David Fill attended the school for kindergarten through third grade. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Demolition of the Hooker School building in Hadley Thursday, September 5, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • David Fill II, his wife Brandi Fill and daughter, Cora Fill, 2, all watch the demolition of the Hooker School building in Hadley Thursday, September 5, 2019. David Fill attended the school for kindergarten through third grade. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Demolition workers tear down the Hooker School building in Hadley, Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • People watch as the Hooker School building in Hadley is demolished Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Demolition of the Hooker School building in Hadley Thursday, September 5, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Suzanne Waskiewicz of Hadley watches and takes pictures of the demolition of the Hooker School building in Hadley Thursday, September 5, 2019. She attended the school from kindergarten through third grade and said, "No matter how beautiful the next building is, we can't get this one back. Intellectually, I understand but emotionally it’s hard." STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Demolition of the Hooker School building in Hadley Thursday, September 5, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS



Staff Writer
Saturday, September 07, 2019

HADLEY — As the walls of the nearly 100-year-old Hooker School were torn apart Thursday morning, with glass breaking and bricks and a metal roof crashing to the ground, a handful of spectators came out to observe the demolition.

“It’s very exciting,” said 9-year-old Kevin Matuszko, who came to the Middle Street site with his mother and two younger siblings. “This is really cool.”

“I would like to be driving that,” Kevin added, pointing to the excavator digging into the building.

For others, though, the razing of the building named after Civil War Gen. Joseph Hooker was more sentimental because they were educated there when it was an elementary school. The school was razed to make way for a new $8 million town library.

“Watching them tear it down is sad,” said Elaine Goodhind of Sunderland, who attended class in the building from first through third grades.

Goodhind brought her 2-year-old grandson, Chasen, who she said got a thrill out of the demolition and kept saying “digger” as he watched the machinery.

Suzanne Waskiewicz of Hadley admitted to being emotional that the place where she was educated from kindergarten through third grade would be gone.

“This is the end of an era,” Waskiewicz said. Even though she said she had prepared for the goodbye, seeing the demolition in person, and recording it on her smartphone, still packed a wallop.

Make way for the library

In less than an hour, the original section of the 1921 building, last used as a school in spring 1996 and in recent years home to the Council on Aging and municipal departments, had been leveled by a three-person crew from Associated Building Wreckers of Springfield. Earlier in the week, the company removed the 1950 addition that doubled the size of the building, with new classrooms, a kitchen and cafeteria.

An excavator operator and two general laborers spraying water on the site, to keep debris and dust down, made short work of the project amid an occasional cloud of dust. A musty smell drifted from the property.

Karl Ferguson, a representatve of D.A. Sullivan & Sons Inc. of Northampton, which is serving as clerk of the works, said the demolition went well and without incident. It will take a few days to remove all the rubble and debris and get it ready for the foundation for the new town library that will be built on the site by Orlando Annulli & Sons Inc. A new senior center is already rising on another portion of the site.

Linda Hannum of Hadley previously documented the Hooker building when it closed as a school in 1996, photographing and videotaping children and teachers as they went to the final classes before moving to the Hadley Elementary School on River Drive. She returned Wednesday to further document the school building’s final day.

She described Hooker as a “quintessential” New England school building.

“Every brick has a memory for people,” Hannum said.

In fact, Ferguson said 200 to 300 bricks from the oldest part of the building will be preserved and given to the Edward Hopkins Education Foundation. The foundation will be selling them as a fundraiser.

Prior to the demolition, which had been delayed for several weeks by the removal of asbestos from the building, as well as a decorative window facing Middle Street and window lintels. Those lintels could be used in the landscaping and the stonework for the children’s garden at the new library.

Hadley also had an auction of items kept inside.

Jennifer Sanders James, the town’s assistant procurement officer and licensing coordinator, said desks and filing cabinets, even hooks that children hung their coats on, were sold.

“The town made an effort to get everything of value out of the building,” James said. “Hooker School was the attic for the town.”

David and Marie Korash watched the work, coming just a short distance from their home. Although the couple did not attend the school, David Korash remembers eating lunch in the cafeteria when he attended Hopkins Academy. Marie Korash described the demolition as “amazing.”

Select Board member David J. Fill II was accompanied by wife Brandi and their 2-year-old daughter, Cora. Even though she covered her ears as the excavator ripped into and tore out the windows, Fill said his daughter seemed to enjoy observing the removal of the building where he once attended classes.

Waskiewicz said she is saddened by the removal of the building, and that lessons can be drawn from it for other historic buildings in Hadley that are at risk and need investment, such as the former Russell School and the North Hadley Village Hall.

“Hopefully, the people in town will learn from it,” Waskiewicz said. “Even when the new building is here it won’t be the same.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.