Jim Carney

The long-awaited demolition of one of the oldest buildings in downtown Akron is nearly complete.

The St. Bernard School at the southwest corner of University Avenue and South Broadway is being torn down to provide more parking for the adjacent St. Bernard Parish building.

Officials from Baumann Enterprises of Garfield Heights said the project, which began in earnest Friday, could be done today.

The lane closest to the building on University Avenue was closed on Thursday and is expected to reopen tonight, according to the Akron Traffic Engineering Division.

The building was erected in 1887 and served as a school for the church for 92 years.

Enrollment peaked at 400 in 1924 and had declined to 117 when the school shut its doors.

The first two classes of Archbishop Hoban High School also attended the school in the 1953-54 school year while they awaited completion of their new school.

The Akron Teen Parent Center used the building after its closure until 1991, after which it reopened as a private and then charter school by Akron businessman David Brennan. The charter school moved to larger facilities in 2003, and the building has been closed since then.

The Diocese of Cleveland and its insurance company had declared the building a safety hazard several years ago.

Homeless people lived in the doorways until recently, when the area was cleared for the demolition.

The church is spending about $200,000 for asbestos removal and other demolition costs.

Tony Troppe, who has preserved the 1871 Everett Building on East Market Street, the 1877 Kaiser Building on South Main Street and the 1903 Gothic Building on Mill Street and many others said he would have loved to have had the chance to try to preserve the school.

“You cannot create an old building any easier than one can grow an old tree,” Troppe said. “Both need to be protected because of their intrinsic value ... Our history and our historic places are what distinguish us from AnyPlace USA.”

Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or jcarney@thebeaconjournal.com.