Elmhurst School demolition underway in Portsmouth

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PORTSMOUTH — To borrow a phrase from John Mellencamp, “the walls come tumbling down.”

On Friday, workers from J.R. Vinagro Corporation started tearing down the former Elmhurst School, which has been closed since 2010.

The Town Council Nov. 25 voted unanimously to demolish everything north of the music room at the former school.

That includes the former school’s chapel, which some in town had hoped to preserve for use as a performance space. (Ten stained glass windows have already been removed from the chapel. The town is storing them in hopes of finding a buyer.)

On Friday afternoon, workers were seen taking down the north end of the complex. The job will proceed in a southerly direction until it reaches the town-owned Glen Manor House, which is rented out for weddings and other functions.

The demolition plan was contingent on Vinagro’s ability to get the building down and the property cleared in time for the Glen Manor House’s first spring rental, scheduled for May 3, 2014. The contractor has told the town that the demolition job will be completed by April 1.

Supporters of the demolition job say it will open up the property to the waterfront and greatly enhance the profitability of the Glen Manor House, a proven money-maker for the town.

Those who wanted to preserve the chapel had proposed several uses for the building, including office space for school administration, a performing arts center, a film/music production studio and a community civic center.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.