|Randy Marsh, founder and president of the Hall Civic Association, poses with the sign in front of the building. |
Photo credit: Emily Metheny
Sometimes when you see something you like and it means a lot to you, you try to save it. Well, Randy Marsh, the founder and president of the Hall Civic Association, did just that.
Marsh has been working to save the 1911 Hall School building outside of Monrovia, a structure on the National Registry of Historic Places.
“I wanted to save the old building,” said Marsh said. “You know, you can't restore [and] save everything, but this is one building we thought we could save.”
Marsh formed the association in 2004, but did not gain control of the building until 2010. Before that, the building was on a 99 year lease from the Monroe Greg School District. The utilities began to cost too much and put too much an economically burden on the schools. After years of planning and different superintendents, the association received the building.
In 2014, Randy Marsh received the Servaas Memorial Award from Indiana Landmarks in the individual category (there are also "youth-serving" and "non-profit" categories). This award was granted to Marsh as he has proven to be an "unstoppable force for preservation in Morgan County and the human super glue who cements relationships" (Indiana Landmarks, Prestigious preservation prizes go to three Indiana winners, 09/17/2014).
Income to save the school
To help restore the building, the association hosts a variety of fundraisers because that is the only income the organization receives. One of the most popular and largest fundraisers is the Hall’s Haunted Halls, which happens every October. The main building is transformed into a haunted house with something scary for everyone. The Haunted Halls are open four weekends in October starting on the 9th. Doors open at 7 pm and close at 11.
Seth Morin and Laura Olivo visited the haunted halls on opening weekend. They said they enjoyed the attraction and admitted they screamed and jumped some.
"I thought it was very creepy," Morin said. "Definitely creepy."
Another popular fundraiser is the dinner theater that has been a staple until this past year. Marsh said the theater will be making a come back this March and was put on hold for the 2015 season. The last theater, in the theme of Hee Haw, raised over $5,000, and all the money went to the preservation of the building. The theme for the 2016 theater is a variety show that pulls from classic sitcoms like I Love Lucy. Part of those proceeds will go toward the Ryan Fritsche Scholarship, a fund for Morgan County residents, because Marsh wanted to help recognize veterans.
A new event this year was a wrestling match with local athletes in July. Not only did the attendees enjoy the event, the wrestlers did too. A cage match is currently in the planning process. In the past, Precious Penny Thrift Shop was a fundraiser that operated out of the school. Patrons donated items to raise additional funds for the upkeep of the building.
The Hall Civic Association has been a recipient of several grants, including grants from the Community Foundation of Morgan County. One such grant allowed Boy Scout Troop 224 to make the move to the building by helping repair heating and air conditioning units. Other grants have helped repair windows on the old building and cover the costs of some programming expenses.
|The newer part of the Hall Civic school building is now used by the Puzzle Pieces Child Care Center. The gym and kitchen can be rented out by the public. Photo credit: Emily Metheny|
Currently, Troop 224 of the Boy Scouts have come to call the Hall Civic classrooms home. Additionally, the newer addition to the building houses the Puzzle Pieces Child Care Center. Marsh says the child care center uses about 23,000 square feet.
"If they can pay the utilities which can be [as much as] $4,000 a month during the winter, we are happy," Marsh said. " We don't want [the building] to sit empty."
Marsh wants the building to be used by the community. He said people can rent out the gym in the more modern area of the building for events.
“We want them to feel comfortable coming in and using the facility,” Marsh said. “We like to see them use the facility, the grounds, and just be there for the community.”
One interesting thing the association also does for the community is utilize the local prison work program. Marsh said he has used the program for five years now, because they are skilled laborers. The workers have helped with the haunted house, waxing the floors, coating the roof and more.
"We don't have that kind of labor," Marsh said. "It's a lot of work, and they are willing to do it. It gets them back into the community."
Because the prison work program has grown in popularity, it can take as long as a year to get on the work rotation calendar, but Marsh said it's worth it.
"It's a great program. I can't say enough about it," Marsh said.
Want to help the Hall Civic Association do more?
Donations can be made to the preservation of the school through the Hall Civic Society's website, and more information the community foundation's grants program can be found here.