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PHOTO BY NEIL ALEXANDER, COURTESY OF ROME OFFICE. Top of the class An extensive renovation brings the former McDonogh 30 schoolhouse back to life BY Davis Allen For decades, the former schoolhouse stood vacant in Mid-City, with boarded windows and a deteriorating brick facade providing a stark contrast to the building’s lively past. Likely designed by architect Wil- liam Freret and built in 1894 as the McDonogh 30 School, the site at 2228 Gravier St. had been abandoned for nearly 20 years and sustained damage from multiple hurricanes and a fire. But those years of blight and decay are just one chapter in the long history of McDonogh 30. Recently, this once-threatened building turned a new page, thanks to a $7 million rehabilitation by L+M De- velopment that transformed the site into “The Schoolhouse,” a 14-unit apartment building and commercial space. McDonogh 30’s original design gave the building a unique castle-like appearance, and vintage photo- graphs showed an eclectic mix of architectural styles popular during the late-19th century with Italianate, Romanesque, Eastlake and Neoclas- sical features. The building served as a public school until the 1930s, and later housed various governmental offices, another school and the stu- dios for the WYLD radio station. Over the years, many of its unique architectural elements had been removed or were severely deteriorated after decades of abandonment. A damaged roof caused interior water intrusion, and the site was threatened by increased development pressure from the construction of the new medical complex in Mid-City, as well as zoning that would have allowed for greater building height. “This was the building’s last opportunity to be restored,” said Gordon McLeod, principal of L+M Development. (Full disclosure: McLeod is vice president of the Preservation Resource Center’s Board of Direc- tors.) “Once I found the historic photographs, I got excited about what it could be and restoring the original exterior.” Many of McDonogh 30’s unique archi- tectural elements had been lost over the years, but architects used historic photographs as a guide to reconstruct the frieze, parapet, turrets and porch during the building’s recent rehabilitation. FEBRUARY 2020 PRCNO.org • PRESERVATION IN PRINT 29