The Story: The Pennell Institute, a brick Italianate building with a distinctive clock tower, and the Pennell Science Laboratory are integral parts of campus of the former high school that served the Town of Gray. The buildings were completed in 1886 and 1897 respectively, and have housed educational and civic institutions since their opening. The Pennell Institute had a reputation as one of the finest high schools in New England and had several graduates of distinction, including….. The main building currently houses the Gray Historical Society, and the Science Laboratory is unoccupied.
The Threat: After years of legal dispute over the ownership of the building between the school district and the Town of Gray, the courts ruled in September 2007 that Pennell Institute is owned by the town. For years, vacant parts of the complex have suffered from neglect and deferred maintenance. Wooden entrance vestibules on the main building have sustained water damage. Structurally, however, the building remains solid.
The Solution: Now that ownership issues have been settled, work can begin on developing a plan for the future of the Pennell Institute that will ensure its preservation and use for years to come. Many residents of Gray and alumni of the Pennell Institute have been working to raise funds and awareness about the building’s history, plight and potential. Voters passed a budget that includes funding for the Institute’s maintenance. A plan use for the unoccupied spaces and funding to repair them must now be developed.