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“.:, You K1D5 WILL LAVE To WI/11a _ “=”;,,- sts>”>6x*,,v…44. vuvii4 tivo POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE Schoolyard Bullies DEMOLISHED IN DENISON For much of its history, the North Texas town of Denison has nursed a civic inferiority complex. Though it thrived for a century as a railroad hub near the Oklahoma border and counts itself as the birthplace of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Denison lagged behind its neighbor, the city of Sherman, in population and prestige. Some believe a competitive streak pushed city leaders to erect one of the area’s grandest buildings and may help explain why, nearly a century later, they want to tear it down. In 1913, the town built the enormous Denison High School on Main Street to rival Sherman’s elaborate county courthouse. Built in the Mission Revival style and filling an entire city block, the intricately detailed high school featured a white clock tower, two towering chimneys, rounded archways, an amphitheater, and a basement reportedly strong enough to withstand a strong earthquake. The local school system abandoned the building and moved the children to a modern school in the mid-1980s. As the old building fell into disrepair, so did the surrounding downtown. The railroads had started the process, leaving Denison in the 1970s. The town’s population and tax dollars began to melt away. In 2006, city officials grabbed the school building from a bankrupt nonprofit tasked with managing the property. City officials planned to raze the old school as an offering to that perennial just-out-of-reach savior of small, dying townsan economic development deal. The mayor, city manager, and city council hoped the site would catalyze a revitalized downtown, one that would be the equal of wealthier Sherman. City officials have yet to disclose plans for the site. Rumors include everything from a library to a box store. A group of Denison residents and preservationists from around the state, appalled by the idea of the demolition, fought to save the building, which is list ed on the National Register of Historic Places. Engineers declared it structurally sound. Preservationists raised roughly $2.2 million in donations for restoration. Brad Patterson, of the Texas Historical Commission’s architecture division, said the amount would be sufficient to restore the building’s fagade. Patterson and other commission officials spent the past year urging Denison officials to spare the unique structure. None of it dissuaded city leaders. \(Both City Manager Larry Cruise and Mayor Robert Brady declined to respond In mid-September, a district judge denied the preservationists a temporary restraining order. Demolition began on the high school that afternoon. At press time, roughly 60 percent of the structure had been destroyed, and wrecking crews planned to bring down the rest soon. Many question District Judge Lauri Blake’s ruling. \(Blake is the same judge who gained international notoriety two years ago by sentencing a teenager to abstain from sex until she finished isn’t usually difficult. The preservationists’ attorney, Ben Baker, said the high school sits in a historic district and the city didn’t apply to the Historic Preservation Board for demolition as required by city ordinance After Blake condemned the building, desperate preservationists bought a fullpage ad in the local newspaper offering to buy the property. At press time, they had received no response. Barring a lastminute miracle, the rest of the beautiful old structure will soon be gone. BULLY FOR THEM The Legislature has been out of session for months, and it’s not quite campaign season yet, so why is interest group Environmental Defense running radio ads bashing Angleton Republican state Rep. Dennis Bonnen? “He’s a bully, and someone has to stand up to a bully, so it might as well be us,” said Jim Marston, president of Environmental Defense of Texas. \(Full disclosure: Marston also chairs the board that publishes 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER 5, 2007