SIOUX CITY -- Using materials and techniques that dated to the first years of the 20th century, Hunt School was built and ultimately opened in the midtown area in 1906.
On Monday, crews with heavy machinery moved in and started the demolition of the aging elementary school, which closed in May after 113 years of housing Sioux City students.
"I love Hunt, so this is kind of difficult," said Josh Steinhoff, who was watching the action with two daughters, age 3 and 6, going on west across Jackson Street from them.
The workers started at the top and will work their way down the school to fully demolish it over the next day or so, then with excavators and front-end loaders will clear away all debris within four weeks, said Brian Fahrendholz, the Sioux City school district's director of operations and maintenance.
"History, any time it changes, it is always bittersweet," Fahrendholz said, standing just south of the school.
The school is being razed to make room for a new school with the same name. The new building is under construction, just south of the old one in the 1900 and 2000 blocks of Jackson and Nebraska streets. The current site will be used for part of the new L-shaped building and a teacher parking lot.
When Hunt opened in 1906, Theodore Roosevelt was president and the nation was still five states short of reaching 50. Over the subsequent 113 years, roughly 20,000 days of instruction took place in the architecturally distinctive school at 615 20th St.
Hunt School, named for Dr. Andrew Hunt, a physician and dentist who was also the first president of the Sioux City school board, was by far the oldest school in the public system. The oldest remaining district school is Sunnyside Elementary, which dates to 1957.
Steinhoff taught at Hunt for the last nine years, and with his wife picked out the house to live so close. He now is on a leave of absence, so Steinhoff has had the ability to see the clearing out of Hunt, first with playground equipment some weeks ago, and now with the building's departure.
"We love this community, this neighborhood," he said.
Steinhoff referenced how two houses owned by friends just northwest of the school were previously razed as part of the project of district officials buying up many homes to complete the area remodeling.
Fahrendholz said 100 linear feet of terra cotta, a distinctive ceramic masonry located at the top of the building and entrances, was saved. Additionally, a sandstone concrete section with the "Hunt" school lettering will be kept and incorporated into the new school.
The $20.5 million project is anticipated for completion in August 2022. Until it's ready, neighborhood elementary students will attend classes in the former Crescent Park Elementary School.
Fahrendholz said the goal is to handle the demolition work as unobtrusively as possible.
"We are working out best to be good neighbors," he said. "We appreciate everyone's patience through all this."
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