Renovated school still resembles history, alumni take walk down memory lane

Posted at 9:40 PM, Feb 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-10 22:24:23-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Community members with connections to the former Fairview Elementary School came out on Tuesday night, to see all the renovations done since the school closed.

Kids haven't roamed the halls since 2010, and Feyen Zylstra bought the building and made extensive renovations, but still managed to keep some of the school's history.

The old Fairview Elementary is rich with history, some items weren't even discovered until the new owner cleared out the school's basement.

For Dorothy Oastryk, these are more than just photos. They're memories of her decades long career teaching at the former Fairview Elementary.

On the outside, the building still resembles that of a typical elementary school. After transforming the school into the offices of Feyen Zylstra, the electrical services firm decided to incorporate the school's history into their new modern design.

"We've got plaques, we've got sweatshirts, we've got bricks. Almost anything you can think of Fairview, so it's been really exciting to see," said E.B. Clousing with Feyen Zylstra.

Dorothy helped spearhead the collection, documenting her own images during her 44 year career.

"Every month was something that was special, so I took pictures of it," said Dorothy.

As a former student, Gladys Vaness,89, is taking a trip down memory lane, even mentioning she might have a few old photos stored away at home.

"If you find those pictures, bring them along for the collection," said Dorothy to Gladys.

Feyen Zylstra said that when they were remodeling the building, they wanted to reuse anything of historic value in the school, like making tables out of the old gym floor.

"Mr. Spalding sent three groups of lumber back because it wasn't perfect. We had to have a perfect floor for our basketball teams," said Dorothy.

Another hidden gem from the school's past is once again posted on the wall. A plaque listing all the former students and staff who served in World War II, a gem hidden in the basement for decades. It was once covered in mold, and is now fully repaired.

"We are really proud of our employees for stepping up to take the challenge to redo it. It was really hard to figure out how it was going to be rebuild, and then they did it and carried it out," said Clousing.

Preserving history and keeping memories alive, Dorothy said decades of photos and collecting other historic items was all worth it when enjoyed by others.

"With children, I've had three generations. They can come back and show their children. See that was me," said Dorothy.