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Selling bricks from old BHS could help fund scholarships

The upcoming demolition of two old Bemidji High School buildings has sparked an interest among some alumni, including Bemidji State University President Jon Quistgaard, to preserve some of the elements of the buildings.

The Bemidji State University Foundation owns about 12 acres of the old BHS campus, including the soon-to-be-demolished A Building and auditorium.

The foundation bought the property last summer from the Bemidji School District for $575,000 and is paying for the abatement and demolition with the plan that BSU will reimburse it for these costs.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty cut in the bonding bill Monday a request for $2 million for BSU to acquire the land. Quistgaard said the university, which plans to use the land for future academic expansion, will continue to pursue funding.

Demolition of the A Building and auditorium is set for May after the completion of hazardous material abatement.

Quistgaard said he hopes BSU will find a way to preserve some bricks and sell them. The proceeds, he said, could be used to create an endowment to provide scholarships for BHS graduates attending BSU.

A group of BHS alumni is exploring the possibility of preserving some architectural features from the front of the A building, including the balustrade; a decorative element above some windows; and the carving and short pillars at the top. At a March 25 meeting, the alumni discussed possibly incorporating the elements into a landscape feature or garden at the new BHS.

Bidding for the demolition of the two buildings opened March 27. As part of the bidding process, the BSU Foundation inquired how much it would cost to remove certain architectural features.

If the efforts of the BHS alumni group don't bloom, the university may try to save some architectural features from the building if it's feasible, said Quistgaard, who is not involved in the group. He said BSU could possibly then work with the group or others in the future to find a place for these pieces.

As a BHS alumnus, Quistgaard said the demolition of the old high school buildings is bittersweet. He said it's difficult to see them go, but he recognizes "what kind of condition those buildings are in and they need to come down."