A 1930s-era vacant school is about to gain new life as an upscale apartment building in the City of Chester, according to a Chester-Upland School District official.
The Wetherill School, a classic, stone building on East 24th Street, recently was sold at auction for $200,000 to Best Homes Company of Glenolden, which plans to undertake the conversion, Chester-Upland solicitor Leo A. Hackett said Thursday. Two other vacant school-district structures also have been auctioned.
"That building is a fortress," he said, adding that the Wetherill project would be a massive undertaking. "Inside it would have to be redone to make it suitable for apartments. The shell, the roof and the foundation are salvagable."
The school is named for John Wetherill, the farmer son of a wealthy industrialist family and a school board member for 24 years in Chester.
"They were a very well-to-do and philanthropic family in the early 1900s," Hackett said, noting that the family built two mansions in Chester, one at 20th and Providence Avenues and another that is part of Widener University's campus.
According to a 1964 history of the family by Sara Roberts Wetherill, John Wetherill was "deeply interested in the schools and the welfare of children." Naming a school for him was "a fitting tribute to his memory," she wrote.
Wetherill originally was an elementary school but had become an alternative school when it was closed four years ago.
The two other school-district properties that were auctioned, the Vocational Building and Pulaski School, were in such bad shape that will need to be torn down, said Hackett.
Community Baptist Church agreed to pay $65,000 for the Vocational School building, on East Eighth Street. The school has been closed since the 1990s when the county took over vocational education.
The city of Chester purchased the Pulaski School, a former middle school closed in 2002, on West Seventh Street, for $70,000. It also agreed to forgive obligations of $105,000 that the school district owed for crossing guards and tax collection, Hackett said.