MILTON — Santa Rosa County School Board member Buddy Hinote and attorney Paul Green fondly shared their days as young boys at the historic Berryhill Elementary School.
Neither one of them want to see it demolished. The first school devoted to serving just elementary schoolchildren opened its doors in 1926 in downtown Milton.
The School Board directed Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick to have the 20,000-square-foot, red-brick building appraised and prepared to put it up for sale.
The School District used the building for education for nearly its entire existence before converting it to offices. Early this year the district transferred about 120 employees there to a new building on U.S. Highway 90.
“I went to first grade through fourth or fifth grade there,” Green said. “I have a lot of memories of that place.”
Hinote said he spent a lot of time at the there, too. He said he still has an affinity for the 93-year-old school.
“It is no use to us as an educational facility, but I do not want to see it demolished,” he said.
Wyrosdick recalled a story about returning World War II soldiers planting trees on the three-acre site in honor of those who did not return.
“No one wants to tear down a landmark that means so much to this community,” he said.
Main Street Milton Executive Director Edward Spears told the five-member School Board that his organization was interested in buying and preserving Milton’s first elementary located in the city’s historic district. He asked for three months to submit a proposal.
“We want to focus on historic preservation,” Spears said. “It has a significant history and value to our city.”
Wyrosdick said about five private companies have also asked about the site. The land and buildings there are valued at $1.2 million by the Santa Rosa County property appraiser.
Interestingly, before becoming an elementary school, a courthouse sat on the property. When Florida became a state in 1845, the county’s first sheriff, W.W. Harrison, used it for his office until the wooden structure burned down in 1875.
Linda Sanborn, who represents Milton on the School Board, said she served as the parent teacher organization president at the original Berryhill Elementary when her three sons attended the school.
“I’d hate to see it totally demolished and turned into a parking lot,” she said.