Old School House owner preps space for new tenant

The historic Old School House is in the middle of regaining some of its former beauty.

The iconic building—which was the first location of Claremont High School—is undergoing construction to restore the eastside library and study room to its original grandeur, according to property owner Harry Woo.

An addition built during the 1960s was demolished to make the old library and study area visible from the street.

“There are a lot of sculptures and carvings on the buildings that were all hiding before, behind additional buildings and walls,” Mr. Woo said. “We’re taking away all the outside stuff and making it visible to the street.”

The plan, according to the city, involves adding new exterior French doors in an arched entryway that’s already a part of the building, as well as replacing a large, decorative bay window.

“Some of the windows were covered up by this addition,” Director of Community Development Brian Desatnik said. “They’re sort of oval Spanish style windows that are going to be exposed now.”

The interior walls will be repainted as well, matching the colors used in the south and east portions of the Old School House, the city said. A parapet—or a low wall along the building’s roof edge—is also being added to match the building’s design.

Mr. Desatnik noted that while the project began two weeks ago. The plans for the site existed a decade before construction. Renovations to the Old School House have dated back to a specific plan that was drafted and approved by the city in December 2006. Mr. Desatnik said the specific plan called for the removal of the Casa de Salsa building, as well as an additional building in the back of the school house to free up more parking.

“That was just a long-term plan for the building to build it back to original form,” he said.

The project should be completed within 30-45 days, Mr. Woo said, and will feature all the original designs from the building that were obscured by the addition in the 1960s. It’s all in an effort to make the building more appealing to passing Claremonters.

“This is really the most beautiful part of the Old School House,” Mr. Woo said.

Part of the original features that will be given new life are a set of carvings that hearken back to the building’s early days as a place of learning. Three carvings are going to be preserved—one featuring a student studying, another in a musical production and another in a chemistry lab.

The space was occupied by Casa de Salsa for many years. With its closure in 2014, Mr. Woo is looking for a suitable tenant for the space. He said he has entertained offers from restaurants, but wants to complete the project before announcing any move-ins.

“I really do not finalize with anyone,  because I want to get it done so people know what they are dealing with instead of just imagining what it’s going to look like,” he said.

Later, he added that he would like to have a good tenant move in, “so we can have two birds in one hand—the opening of the restaurant and the historical restoration.”

—Matthew Bramlett



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