Toms Brook School, Virginia

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The interior of a typical classroom before the project began. Plants are growing on the wood floor, and plaster has fallen from the wall above a chalkboard. The building was in a fairly advanced state of deterioration.
The Toms Brook School, built between 1935 and 1936, is the largest building in the small Shenandoah Valley town of Toms Brook, Virginia. Designed in the Colonial-Revival style, it boasts a prominent projecting pediment supported by four white Tuscan columns. It is two-stories in height, constructed of red brick with the original six-over-six divided-lite widows still in working order. A circa 1960s cafeteria annex, buttressed by stone retaining walls, is situated behind the school as the grade rises precipitously.

The main school building has a unique floor plan: upon passing through the front doors, one enters directly into a large multi-purpose assembly room that once functioned as an auditorium and a gymnasium. It is double-height, with a modest stage surrounded by windows allowing light to flow from this space to internal corridors and classrooms beyond.
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Photos after rehabilitation. Top: A kitchen in one of the new apartmants. Middle: The auditorium-gym. Bottom: Exterior of the building.
Using low income housing tax credits, as well as state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits to subsidize construction, the school was converted into fourteen apartments charging low to moderate rents. Prior to this effort, the property, which had been abandoned for many years, was in extremely deteriorated condition. The roof was failing and damage from moisture entering the interior was so extensive, moss grew on rippled hardwood floor boards in numerous locations.

Remarkably, the completed interior restored many of the school’s character-defining features and finishes, which is a testament to the durability of its traditional building materials. Historic windows were retained; the auditorium/gymnasium was converted to a light-filled common room and community access space; primary stairs were repaired; and former classrooms - complete with chalk boards, built-in cabinetry, and coat closets retained in place - were changed to living quarters. Although the building was converted from institutional to residential use, its original function still reads clearly after its successful rehabilitation.