Dome spared doom of demolition

June 9th, 2015 9:32 pm

First Posted: 3/31/2014

DALLAS TWP. — It took the better part of the Monday afternoon with some concern that the whole thing could crumble from the effort, but the cupola atop the old Dallas Township High School was separated, lifted and lowered to the ground in one piece.

The building itself is doomed. Raised in the 1920s, it has served different grades at different times but will be torn down in the next two days at a cost to Dallas School District of about $80,000, Building and Grounds Director Mark Kraynak said. Hazard abatement, mostly involving asbestos and lead paint, already cost the district about $90,000, he added.

Saving the cupola, on the other hand: Priceless, as in there was no cost to the district, which is likely the only way it would have been spared. “The lowest price we got for taking it down was $5,000,” Kraynak said, too high in cash-strapped times.

Enter Dallas Township Supervisor Elizabeth Martin, who spent a year in the school herself and figured a piece ought to be saved. She got Lane’s Crane Service to do the work on the cheap, with help from the Kunkle Fire Company and other local emergency service groups.

By 1 p.m. Monday they had already carved a hole through the flat peak of the roof and partially severed the web of woodwork connecting eight stout beams from the octagonal structure into rafters below the roof line. The crane stretched up, cables and straps were hooked, some of that early spring snow on the roof was shoveled, and the cupola rose slowly. The eight beams were cut shorter once exposed, and the whole thing lowered to the ground.

Kraynak estimated the cupola stood close to 20 feet tall and may weigh 2 tons or more. He said it had been used to hide a large air intake system installed behind the eight wooden-louvred panels.

And though the building might house fond memories for the thousands who passed through its doors until closure in 1984, Kraynak said the district had brought in experts who said “it has no historical significance.”

“This was a cookie-cutter building at the time,” Kraynak said, void of any of the architectural flourishes.

Kraynak said he had attended the school himself for two years in the early 1970s and “I can’t even remember the cafeteria.”

He and others helping oversee the removal conceded that, while the cupola had been built to last, it was clearly weathered from the decades, and could fail to survive the stress. As it approached the ground, a smattering of applause rose from a small group, though the wear was obvious in rusted metal roofing and siding, missing wood molding and paint flaking away.

Dallas Superintendent Frank Galicki said plans call for the cupola to be restored by tech-education teacher Mark Golden and his students and set up on a concrete pad near the newly built high school — which replaced the school that helped replace this one — as a commemoration to help unite “the old and the new.”