The former Gabe Meyer School’s front entrance will be preserved through an ongoing fundraising effort.
“We have raised enough money and materials in kind to save it,” Ken Parsons III said Thursday. “We have more than enough money for Phase One, which is stabilization of the facade.”
“We intend to display a historical plaque commemorating Gabe Meyer the person” at the site, Parsons said.
Pine Bluff native Paul Perdue established the nonprofit Pine Bluff Preservation Society with a goal of collecting $25,000 to preserve the facade of the brick structure at the corner of 23rd Avenue and Linden Street. As of Thursday afternoon, Parsons and Perdue said the nonprofit had received between $12,000 and $15,000 in cash. And they expected to receive a donation of steel worth at least $5,000.
The Pine Bluff School District entered into an agreement with the Department of Corrections, by which DOC inmates are performing the demolition of the building except for the facade, DOC spokeswoman Shea Wilson said. Regional maintenance inmates are doing the work under the supervision of correctional officers, Wilson said. Assistant Director of Construction and Maintenance Leon Starks is overseeing these types of projects, she said.
“Plans are being made through the city’s engineering department to preserve the front of building, to stabilize it and make it safe,” Wilson said via email Thursday. “The talks went well; everyone is in agreement about how the project is going. We look forward to seeing the preserved facade and assisting with the cleanup.”
Perdue said that the society is still raising money to do beautification (Phase 2) and eventually remove existing asphalt and concrete, adding soil and transforming that land into a garden.
“It is looking good,” Perdue said. “The people at the prison are enthusiastic about it. We have their word that they will stop at a certain place.”
“With any building that is being torn down, you can save the facade of the historic structures,” Perdue said. “If there is another Baby Boom in the future, it could be a future school building.”
Seth Wynne, Pine Bluff School District’s director of maintenance, met with Starks, other DOC officials and Parsons on Thursday to discuss the preservation effort. He said he is pleased that plans are coming to fruition.
“I commend Mr. Perdue and Mr. Parsons for stepping up to preserve the facade,” Wynne said. “I am pleased that they care about the history of Pine Bluff.”
“Everyone is on the same page,” Wynne said. “The DOC knows where to stop demolishing. It is working out well for all sides.”
Parsons and Purdue thanked Wynne, Starks and other DOC wardens and community members for donating money.
People wishing to donate to the Pine Bluff Preservation Society have four options to do so. Visit a Simmons Bank branch. Log onto www.gofundme.com/9i2tkf to use a credit card. Call Simmons Bank at 1-866-246-2400, and specify the Pine Bluff Preservation Society/Gabe Meyer Fund. Or write a check payable to The Pine Bluff Preservation Society/Save Gabe Meyer, and mail it to Simmons Bank Teller Deposit Services P.O. Box 7009 Pine Bluff, AR 71611-7009.