A *culture is not optional project
The current Huss School building was built in 1918 after the previous school structure burned down. The facility housed one of the city’s four public elementary schools until the early 1980s when the school board closed Huss to integrate students into the other three districts. The school system re-opened the building to serve a variety of para-educational purposes, including administration, adult education and in-school suspension. In 2006, the services offered at Huss were moved elsewhere and the city sold the building to a private party, who then sold the building to *culture is not optional in 2009.
These details and many others are the facts that can be neatly placed on a timeline, but like most buildings, Huss has an undocumented history that lives in the stories of the townspeople. Located in second district, which encompasses neighborhoods historically occupied by low-income families and people of color, Huss School is a significant symbol for many in the community. It’s the place where they developed formative relationships with their teachers. It’s the place where they learned to share with friends who didn’t have enough to eat. It’s the community institution that the school board stole from their neighborhood. It’s the place to drive out-of-town visitors past because it played such a significant role in personal history. It’s the place to snap a class reunion photo.
Huss School is a needy building that could easily be demolished for the purposes of community aesthetics. However, the emotional investment of the community in that space is something that could never be recovered or rebuilt. The building has practical potential as a solid structure on four acres of land in a residential neighborhood. Perhaps more importantly, it has symbolic potential to tap into the hopes and dreams of a people by giving new life to the artifact of their good memories, and the possibility of reconciliation and renewal for their painful associations.
The following history of the Huss School property was compiled by Jared Renaud, with the help of many resources, including the Three Rivers Commercial-News, the Kalamazoo Gazette, Three Rivers: The Early Years, school board minutes, the Three Rivers Public Library and the Silliman House Museum.