For years, health and safety violations plagued the red and white schoolhouse in downtown New Castle dubbed by many locals “Rosie’s building.”
Located at 151 W. Main Street, the 37,000 square foot-plus property that dates back to 1910 was converted from a schoolhouse to an apartment building by longtime New Castle teacher and resident Rosie Ferrin.
“Back in the ’90s she took individual classrooms and turned each individual classroom into an apartment,” David Reynolds, New Castle town administrator, said. “There were probably six or seven classrooms that she legally, at the time, converted into apartments.”
However, in April, the town’s municipal court ordered all of the building’s occupants out after Ferrin failed to remedy several building code violations.
“That building is heated by one of the oldest coal fired furnaces in the state and they ran into trouble with that heating source,” Reynolds said. “Folks had to rely on electrical baseboard heat, opening their oven doors and things like that.”
Ferrin died in June at the age of 74 while the building was still uninhabitable.
Relatives of Ferrin have since inherited her estate and continue to work with a local contractor and the town to get the building’s interior and exterior cleaned up.
“Rosie’s family now has management of the building,” Reynolds said. “We’ve seen the outside of it is cleaned up and they have taken a few dumpster loads out from the inside.”
In addition to bringing the building back up to code, Reynolds said the town was working with the contractor to track down titles of abandoned vehicles left on the property.
“It was a mix of stuff that had been abandoned throughout the years,” Reynolds said. “It’s taken a couple of months now to get those vehicles, old buses, old trailers and things like that removed from the property.”
What ultimately will become of the vacant building remains in question.
For now, Reynolds said that Ferrin’s family wanted to resolve lingering electrical and plumbing issues ahead of the winter season.
“For at least the wintertime their plan is to get it cleaned up and make it safe,” Reynolds said. “Come springtime they are trying to develop plans of what they want to do with it. …I think they are trying to pick and feel through what the community’s needs are for a building like that and what the costs are going to be for renovations.”
Reynolds said that the town’s parks department, area churches and volunteers would decorate the building’s exterior for the holiday season.
Additionally, when asked if the town had interest in purchasing the property, Reynolds replied no, or at least not at this time.
“I think it is too early to understand what that would even look like,” Reynolds said. “The estate, the local reps and the town have all sort of been working together to create a better environment there,” Reynolds said.
The building’s location allows for commercial or residential development. However, the property must remain unoccupied until it passes a building inspection.
“The possibilities are pretty endless,” Bruce Leland, New Castle town councilor, said. “The family will probably consult with local residents, council, the town’s staff and Main Street businesses to get a good sense of how they should prepare the building.”