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Historic Niles schoolhouse destroyed but charity vows to continue with its work

Niles firefighters view what's left of the historic Ferry Street School house after it was destroyed by fire early Friday morning.
Ric Pawloski, Ferry Street Resource Center
Niles firefighters view what's left of the historic Ferry Street School house after it was destroyed by fire early Friday morning.

The brick building that served as Niles’ first school for African American students burnt to the ground Friday.

The Ferry Street School was built in 1867, closed two years later when the Niles school system was integrated, and reopened in 1873 to serve children of all races. It closed as a school in 1975.

The nonprofit Ferry Street Resource Center owned and worked out of the building. It focused much of its work on helping homeless clients find housing, and on keeping poor tenants in their homes with temporary rent and utilities help, said Executive Director Ric Pawloski.

Pawloski said the fire started around 3 a.m. Friday. Its cause and point of origin weren’t yet known. But he said he’s certain the resource center will continue on.

“We’ve had a lot of people who’ve been reaching out and offering space, which has really kind of been encouraging to us. We had one person say, you’ve been helping the community, it’s time for the community to help you guys. We’re really appreciative of that approach.”

The state of Michigan marked the building as a historical place in 1980.

“That’s probably maybe the saddest part of this for me. It’s a great loss for Niles and the historical significance of the building as it relates to the

The Ferry Street Resource Center is funded largely by foundation and corporate donations. If you’d like to help the nonprofit, you can go to ferrystreet.org/donate.html.

Parrott, a longtime public radio fan, comes to WVPE with about 25 years of journalism experience at newspapers in Indiana and Michigan, including 13 years at The South Bend Tribune. He and Kristi live in Granger and have two children currently attending Indiana University in Bloomington. In his free time he enjoys fixing up their home, following his favorite college and professional sports teams, and watching TV (yes that's an acceptable hobby).