Group Eyes Old Hoxie School As Site For Cultural Center
By: Alex Scofield
A group of Bourne residents led by Allyson Bizer Knox of Sagamore plan to submit a request to the Town of Bourne tomorrow to maintain the century-old Ella F. Hoxie Elementary School building as a community arts and sciences center.
Last week Bourne selectmen approved, in concept, a proposal to turn the former Kempton F. Coady school site in Bourne Village into rental housing for seniors.
Hoxie has been vacant since it closed as a school following the 2008-09 school year. The two buildings, though six miles apart and different in appearance, are comparable in many ways. Bourne’s school system determined both had outlived their use as schools, and returned them to the town in the past few years. However, both buildings are cherished by many town residents, especially longtime Bourne families, of whom several generations attended the same school.
John L. MacDonald is a former Hoxie student, as was his grandmother. Now a member of the Bourne Historic Commission, Mr. McDonald said, “I’m a preservationist. …I don’t want it to see the wrecking ball.”
One of Elizabeth D. Henry’s first summer jobs was at a summer camp housed in the Hoxie School.
“I just love the building, and I think to preserve it would be such an awesome thing for the town,” said Ms. Henry, a Pocasset resident.
The Bourne Housing Authority considered renovating the Hoxie building into senior housing, but voted against doing so in January. Bourne selectmen are scheduled to vote on any proposals for use of the Hoxie property before the end of the month.
Ms. Knox refers to the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in Yarmouth as an example of how a vacant building can be transformed into a thriving center for arts, sciences, and other community activities. She believes that Hoxie’s facilities give it even more potential.
“There’s a stage at Hoxie, there’s a gym; there’s so much,” Ms. Knox said. Hoxie’s proximity to the Cape Cod Canal, Ms. Knox said, would make it ideal for marine education programs.
A half-dozen supporters of the project brainstormed on other potential uses of the Hoxie building at the Sagamore Fire Station on Tuesday night. Ideas ranged from continuing education classes to culinary lessons to family movie nights to after-school programs to summer camps to a teen center.
“Something like this would probably have to be membership-driven,” Ms. Knox said.
Ms. Knox anticipates the argument that such a facility would serve a redundant purpose, as that of the Bourne Veterans Memorial Community Center.
“We would complement the community [center], we wouldn’t compete with it,” Ms. Knox said.
Barbara A. Sabulis agreed, and said this was particularly true during the summer season.
“Sometimes it’s nice to have a more accessible location,” said Ms. Sabulis, a former Hoxie teacher who now teaches at Bournedale Elementary School. “It’s not going to stop us from using the community center… We’re all part of the same town.”
Last August, Bourne Building Inspector Roger M. LaPorte and George Tribou of the Bourne Sewer Department led selectmen and Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino on a tour of the Hoxie and Coady buildings.
On that tour, Mr. Guerino said that Hoxie was the better of the two buildings, by far. Mr. Tribou said the custodial staff helped keep Hoxie serviceable.
However, Mr. Laporte and Mr. Tribou also pointed to numerous structural flaws and safety hazards that will need to be addressed by anybody wishing to preserve the Hoxie building. There is inadequate handicapped accessibility to the building, and no sprinkler system inside. Hoxie’s front entrance, while sturdy and picturesque, is coated in lead paint, and the ceiling of a windowless basement room was completely covered with asbestos.
Ms. Knox acknowledges there is a formidable list of improvements necessary to get the Hoxie building up and running again.
“All the reasons the school moved out of it we have to address,” Ms. Knox said. “It’s not a reason to tear the building down.”
Mr. McDonald said that preservation groups have been able to secure millions of dollars in funding for comparable projects around Cape Cod.
“Funds are available to save our historic resources like this,” Mr. McDonald said.
Ms. Knox said she intends to submit a letter of intent to the town tomorrow, and hopes to formulate a proposal that will be advantageous to the town, and beneficial to the preservation of the Hoxie building.
“It is up to the town to determine if it’s worthy,” Mr. MacDonald said.
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