- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

GREENTOWN, Ind. (AP) - Derek Glass remembers his first time driving by the abandoned church and former schoolhouse he hopes to one day call home, its crumbling walls and disintegrating interior practically begging for help.

The structure, built in 1897 and located outside of Greentown near the Tipton County border, is one that’s attracted only the ire of nearby farmers since its owner left in the late 1970s - at least until county officials decided to tear it down.

That’s when Glass - recently graduated from Vincennes University with associate degrees in architecture and graphic design - stepped to the plate, convincing the Howard County Board of Commissioners on June 6 to give him one year to restore the property.

The building is classified by Indiana Landmarks one notch below the Seiberling Mansion as a historical property that hasn’t yet been registered, according to Glass, who hopes to eventually get the schoolhouse added to the Register of Historic Places in Indiana.

“When I saw it, it pretty much just jumped out at me, like, ‘Save me.’ I’ve always loved that area of architecture, and I’ve always wanted to save homes instead of being demolished,” he said.

“I can’t even express in words how happy I would be to save this and (turn it) into my own home. I know that every day I would walk into it and be thrilled that this would be something I did with my own hands and saved as part of history,” added Glass, noting the one-room schoolhouse once housed eight classes at a time according to historical reports.

The house now features a collapsed brick wall on its left side, white peeling doors falling off their hinges and blue tarp protecting a missing portion of roof above the rounded space Glass hopes to turn into a bathroom.

The floors of the building were also torn up and replaced with concrete by local farmers looking to store grain in the late 1970s.

Just the brick, window and roof work could cost Glass as much as $40,000, with additional costs coming when secondary construction efforts begin.

Currently, the building, with its fractured yellow walls and boarded windows, mirrors a number of houses being targeted by city and county officials through their blight elimination programs and focus on dangerous, uninhabited properties.

The city is expected to raze 146 properties this year, while the county recently awarded its first blight elimination program demolition bid.

Glass, however, was motivated to ensure his vision didn’t end in a pile of bricks, concrete and lumber. Instead, he hopes to someday be sleeping under a former church altar archway and lounging in an spacious area once reserved for area schoolchildren.

Even with the short one-year timeline established by the commissioners, Glass exudes a surprising sense of comfort. Such confidence can undoubtedly be attributed to an experienced partner - his father, Shawn Glass.

Inspiring his son’s passion for historic renovation, the elder Glass, an electrical engineer, has spent 22 years modernizing a former orphanage in Tipton County, which doubles as the family home as he moves from room to room replacing windows and rewiring the building.

Needless to say, the father-son duo began their renovation partnership in the home, with Derek Glass helping his dad on a litany of sometimes routine, yet always important, tasks.

According to Shawn Glass, the family’s home was acquired in 1929 by a woman determined to start an orphanage, only to eventually fall into disrepair until being discovered by his wife more than two decades ago.

Regardless of growing up in such a home, Shawn Glass was surprised when his son adopted the same passion.

“It means a lot, it’s nice to be able to work with your kids on projects,” he said. “Of course, I am able to hand down a lot of advice and experience and keep him from making the same mistakes I’ve made.

“I didn’t think any of the kids would do something like this after living through it. Even my other son is redoing a home on his own. They’ve all got it in them, but I didn’t think anyone would take on a building like that and try to renovate it. I’m glad to see somebody’s got the bug.”

Now, that shared experience is coming in handier than the Glass family may have ever expected, as Derek Glass, who officially purchased his property last week for $5,000, continues to dive into the rehabilitation of a structure that for decades has fought a losing battle with Father Time.

In relation to the challenge - a project most 20-somethings would laugh off as impossible - Derek Glass mimicked precisely the reasons introduced by his father for wanting to take on such a project, all of which promote the laborious task of historic preservation.

“It’s even beautiful in the condition it is now,” said Derek Glass, who said the modern changes he plans to make will be as minimalistic as possible. “I lived in a home built in the 1880s, and I just love the character (of the schoolhouse), pretty much just jumped out at me, the character and the architecture and maybe the love to go in this place again.”

“It’s just the older buildings, they’ve just got character,” explained Shawn Glass. “You want to update it to modern amenities, but you want to keep the character of the old house. It is hard to find that kind of character with the new homes they build today. It is nice to have something different.”

As for the chance to work with his father, Derek Glass — framing much of his sentimentality in what the building could do for local families — said the project is a chance to further strengthen an already powerful bond.

“It (is) a really big bonding time with me and my dad,” he said. “I think he is just as happy and thrilled, that I can see, that I purchased this. And I think he is thrilled to help me with it, even though we are not completely done with ours.

“I think it would bring back the historical part of the community, bring back memories of people that had stories of their parents or grandparents that went to this school, especially in this neighborhood,” he added later. “The stories that have gotten passed down, I would like to bring that back into existence so they can come by here and experience what their family experienced.”

Specifically, it’s that mindset that reminds Shawn Glass of one particular person.

“We were out there (Sunday), and we were talking about some of the layouts, and it is nice to sit back and think about his vision,” he said. “That was me 22 years ago. When it comes to that, I see a bit of myself in him.”

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Source: Kokomo Tribune, https://bit.ly/2956sRf

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com

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