City of Humble gets old high school; alumni want it preserved
In the middle of Humble sits an 82-year-old edifice. It's a monument to one of the city's historic figures, Charles Bender Sr.
He was a German immigrant who helped shape the city as it expanded and grew throughout the during the late 1800s. A baker by trade, he eventually made his way west and amassed a great fortune that would lead him to buy significant land in Humble to operate successful businesses in lumber and cattle.
His contribution to the city earned him the honor of having the school carry his name, with many of its current residents alumni of Charles Bender High School.
The school has been unused for the past seven years with many of city's residents wondering what the Humble school district was going to with the building. The district last used the school as an administrative building and it housed the Curriculum and Staff Development Center. But the building was vacated in 2003 after the district opened the Instructional Support Center in Kingwood.
Last month, City Council approved the purchase and land transfer of the 2-acre property, which was good news to its alumni and to those looking to preserve the school. The Council's decision in May finally put an end to the back and forth of what the district should do with the school.
The district decided the best option would to give the high school to the city, said Stephanie Rosenberg, general counsel.
"The school district had to use its resources to build some of its new schools and make repairs to the current ones during that time," Rosenberg said. "We reached a point where we didn't have the money to tear it down."
She said the cost to tear down the school, more than $300,000, would be more than the actual market value of the property at $110,000.
"It was a wash for anyone that wanted to buy the land, so we worked out a deal with the Council," she said.
Mayor Don McMannes, who graduated from Bender in 1953, said it is a better situation with the property in the city's hands.
"With the district not being able to do anything with it, Council agreed to take on that burden," he said.
McMannes said the city will do a survey of both the school and its gymnasium. Both will undergo asbestos abatement, but the gym will be demolished due to its damaged roof.
"That gym will have to go," McMannes said. "It's not in very good condition. Once you get up close you can see that big hole in the roof."
After the school shut down in 1965, the district renamed it Humble High School and transferred its students to a new building. It would eventually be used as an administrative building in 1974 after undergoing renovations.
Rodney Goss was one of the last graduates to receive his diploma from Bender in 1964. Goss said he had been waiting to see what would become of his alma mater as it stood unused.
"It's understandable that the district couldn't do anything since they didn't have the money," Goss said. "But it's exciting that the school is now in the city's hands."
Goss said he hopes the city finds a use for the building to make sure the building is "kept alive."
Georgia Fields, Bender's great great granddaughter, attended the high school during the 1950s. Her grandfather was Albert Bender, one of the sons who took over her great great grandfather's cattle business.
"A lot of people didn't want to see it torn down," she said. "I'm glad to know that the school will still stand."
McMannes said the city will continue to upkeep the property, but so far there are no concrete plans on how the building will be used.
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