Since pretty much nothing, so far, has gone the way the “Save Thacher” hopefuls wanted, this is an anxious scene at Independence and Quincy avenues in Kansas City’s Northeast area.
The 115-year-old school, as they knew it, is most thoroughly gone.
The thick-treaded machines left on the site late last week rested atop a matted plain of dirt and bricks.
“We feel we’ve done everything we could possibly have done,” said Manny Abarca, one of Save Thacher’s leaders.
They couldn’t keep the school. Nor could they keep the three ornate arches of its front door standing as a monument.
They pleaded for every concession they could muster even as steel-clawed excavators ripped into the building. But their grasp on history seemed to be coming undone as time ran out.
Kansas City Public Schools was eager to clear Thacher to expand the grounds of Northeast Middle School.
Renovated middle schools represent a key strategy in the district’s hopes to attract and keep more families. It wanted the demolition done before students returned in August.
And then there was the demolition contractor, bringing its resources to bear, burning man hours with any delay.
What’s done is done.
But all is not lost. Like Dr. Seuss’ Lorax, Abarca and the Thacher preservers may have been left with “seeds.”
Sections of the archways, the district assures them, were dismantled by hand, district spokeswoman Shannon Jaax said. The district can rebuild an arch as a monument and elegant entryway to planned sports fields.
More of the building’s limestone, not so elegantly dismantled, also has been saved and may be incorporated into scenic monuments elsewhere in the surrounding historic neighborhoods, or as a trail head in Indian Mound Park.
Those projects will be left for the preservationists to design and fund, but the district will include the cost of rebuilding the one arch in its sports field project, which is to be completed ahead of the 2016-2017 school year.
“I think it’s going to be a cool addition to the fields,” Jaax said.
The demolition also uncovered a time capsule that Save Thacher has requested the district give over to the Kansas City Museum in the Northeast neighborhood — a request Jaax said the district probably will grant.
After this long struggle, Abarca is of a mind that he’ll have to see it to believe it.
The group will keep after its preservation mission in the historic Northeast. The group’s full name is “Save Thacher, Save Our Schools,” because other history-filled buildings still stand as Thacher did.
“This always has and will always be about community empowerment,” Abarca said, “and accountability from those elected to represent us.”