Thomas B. Reed School, Portland

In the 1920s the Portland Trolley Company decided to run a line to the amusement park and casino at Riverton Park, providing a key transportation link that led to the development of the Riverton area. By 1926 the neighborhood needed an elementary school to serve its growing population. The Reed School is named for Thomas B. Reed, a Portland native and an influential US Congressman who served the state in the late 19th century. The original building, designed in the Colonial Revival style, included 8 classrooms on two floors. In 1960 a single-story addition was added with 9 classrooms and an auditorium and gymnasium space. The school remained in operation until 1980 when a larger facility was constructed nearby on Forest Avenue. The old Reed School was subsequently used as the central kitchen for the entire Portland school system until 2013, when it became vacant.

The abandoned building fell subject to vandalism, water and mold damage, and rodents. Many of the windows were smashed and others were boarded up to prevent further damage. The school became a shameful symbol of neglect in an otherwise flourishing neighborhood.

To its credit, the City of Portland recognized the problem, and with the help of the community, began to develop a program for reuse. These efforts led to plans for Children’s Odyssey, a nonprofit providing structured programming for children of varied developmental levels, to expand into the 1960s section of the school. In Phase ii, the 1926 building will accommodate 8 market rate apartments. Thanks to a public access easement the former playground area will always remain a welcoming open space for the neighborhood to enjoy.

The extensive rehabilitation began by unblocking and restoring the windows and skylights, once again letting natural light into the space. An insensitive metal mechanical building was removed along with asbestos floor tiles. To accommodate the new use, bathrooms were added to each classroom space while other floor space was adapted to accommodate offices, conference rooms, and storage.

With the help of an incredible team led by Developer’s Collaborative and Children’s Odyssey, and the use of historic tax credits, an important neighborhood structure has been saved and will continue to serve as a community resource for decades to come. Reed lives and all of Riverton’s the better for it.