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Former Manor Elementary School going up for bid

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
The 113-year-old former Manor High School building will be open for viewing on Sept. 17, from 4 to 7 p.m. The auction will be held Oct. 1 at 11 a.m. at the school.

A big piece of Manor's history is heading to the auction block.

Now in the hands of a court-ordered receiver, the former Manor Elementary School will be up for sale on Oct. 1. The minimum bid is set at $50,000, which is $185,000 less than the appraised value for the 113-year-old vacant building.

But selling an 18,000-square-foot neighborhood school in a borough with fewer than 4,000 residents won't be easy, experienced auctioneers say.

Old schools don't usually attract big-money investors, said Mark Ferry, president of the Pennsylvania Auctioneers Association. He organized the Southmoreland School District's spring sale of its former administration building in Scottdale, a former school, for $28,000.

“I think you're going to be looking at a select group,” said Ferry, whose auction business is based in Latrobe. “You get a big building like that, it's tough.”

The Blaine Avenue building has gone through a few owners since the Hempfield Area School District closed it in 1990 and later sold it to an attorney for $12,000.

The current owners, George and Lori Salopek of Turtle Creek, defaulted on a $364,000 mortgage they received in 2008 through Huntington National Bank. The Salopeks, who took over the building and an empty lot, could not be reached for comment.

They bought a building that had been remodeled in the 1990s by Chuck Charrie, a Manor resident who went on to become innkeeper for The Georgian Inn of Somerset, a mansion built in 1915. Charrie's restoration — which includes separate heating and cooling units for each of the classrooms — enticed child-care centers to move into the building. He also created a two-bedroom apartment inside.

Charrie said he thinks the next building owner would be better off keeping it as a mixed-use property.

“What it does is it keeps the building active and alive 24 hours a day,” Charrie said.

Still, Dave Bambeck, the Ohio-based auctioneer who is arranging his sale, concedes he has his work cut out for him. Former schools and churches are the hardest buildings to sell, he said.

“It appears to be a sound building, and we're hoping the low minimum bid will create some interest to have some people make a go of it,” Bambeck said.

The building still registers memories for a lot of people in the area. Earlier this year, some older borough residents pressed Manor Council to nix Hempfield Area officials' request to use the former school bell — which now sits outside Manor Bank a fifth of a mile away — for a monument at that district's high school.

Phylis Levino, a former teacher there, lived a block away on Third Street. She fondly recalls the fun that teachers had in painting the halls for the bicentennial in 1976.

The building be a good space from which to operate a cyber school, said Levino, who moved to Irwin in 2005 after 40 years in Manor.

“It was a shame that they shut that school, it really was. I feel that was the best school in Hempfield. It was such a small school, and you were able to keep up with everybody.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2363 or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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