The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 27, 2006


What is the condition of the Highland School?

The Carlisle School Committee (CSC) will discuss the future of the Highland School building at their February 1 meeting, and what they decide may be influenced by the costs needed to renovate it. The School Building Committee (SBC) has already voted that Highland is not viable for school use.

Built in 1908, Highland has roughly 6,900 square feet, four classrooms and two basement rooms. The building is located on the school campus next to the Brick and Robbins School buildings. The school stopped using Highland in the late 1980s, at least in part because it needed a new roof and the state would not aid communities with the cost of repairing wood-framed schools. Since 1992 the building has been leased for artists' studios to Emerson Umbrella of Concord, which repaired the roof.

Carrie Flood, operations manager of Emerson Umbrella, said they are trying to maintain the building in its current state, but are not planning any major repair projects until the question of the next lease is settled. The current lease will end September 16, 2007.

The building would require significant renovation before it could again house classrooms. Cost estimates mentioned by SBC members range from $1.5 to $2.5 million and would include handicapped access (an elevator), lead paint abatement, and upgrades for heating, electrical and plumbing systems.

Heat is uneven

For instance, a gas-fired furnace heats water that heats the rooms via old-style radiators. One of the artists who rents space in Highland, Phyllis Hughes, said temperatures can vary between 62°F and 70°F, with rooms on the north or farther from the heater being coldest. Emerson Umbrella spent about $16,000 on Highland's utility bills during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2005. Flood said about 85% of those costs were for heating.

Different types of renovations would be needed if the structure were converted, for example, to municipal offices or meeting space, private offices, affordable housing, or if the property were simply to continue being rented to the local artists who use it now.

A partial assessment of the Highland Building was conducted this past fall by the HMFH architects hired by the SBC as part of the Existing Conditions Report for the school Master Plan. It did not evaluate the heating and plumbing, or all the changes needed to bring the building up to current code requirements for school or public use. Architect Lori Cowles said her firm has not undertaken a detailed analysis of the structure or cost of repairs. They have concentrated on providing the conceptual plans and options for future school expansion. While preliminary, the remarks concerning Highland in their draft report provide information pertinent to a consideration of the structure's future.


Asphalt shingles cover original wood decking on the roof. The report states the shingles appeared to be in "fair condition." However, the roof leaks and metal flashing around the chimney was "in need of immediate repair." The report also said the canopy roofs over the side entries were "rusted and open."

Report recommendations: replace /repair metal roof flashing at the chimney immediately; reshingle within five years; and install insulation in roof if needed.


The walls are wood-framed, with evidence that some time in the past insulation was blown in between the studs. The exterior is wood shingles over the original wood clapboards, and the interior surface is plaster. There is a four-foot-high stone foundation.

The report states that the wood trim is "generally in very good condition" though the paint is worn. The wood shingles are "worn, curled and loose." Hughes believes the shingles were added after some clapboards were damaged by the hurricane of 1938.

Report recommendations: remove wood shingles and replace/repair the underlying clapboards. Strip, repair and repaint the wood trim. Repoint areas of the foundation where the mortar has deteriorated.

Windows and doors

The windows are double-hung solid wood with single-pane glass. Not all have aluminum storm windows. The report states the windows are "generally in good structural condition, but damage was seen on some lacking storm windows. The original wooden doors had worn paint, but were otherwise "in good condition." However, other doors are worn and rotted.

Report recommendations: "All of the windows should be refurbished completely, including re-glazing, repair and/or new hardware and sash ropes, added weather-stripping and stripping/re-painting. The storm windows likely would be damaged during this work and therefore should be assumed to need to be replaced. An alternative would be to replace them with new wood or metal insulating glazed windows. Given the historic character of the Highland Building, any replacement windows should be a historic profile type with true-divided lights. The original wood doors should be repainted. The other doors should be replaced."

Porch and balcony

There is a wooden porch, basically in "fair condition." However, parts of the decking and steps are loose or rotten.

Report recommendations: Replace the decking and steps, and raise the railing height to comply with current code. If closer examination warrants, repair or replace the entire porch.

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito