May 31, 2024

Historic Lee School Demolition Nearly Complete

2.8 min read| Published On: May 31st, 2024|

By Kyle Coppola

Historic Lee School Demolition Nearly Complete

2.8 min read| Published On: May 31st, 2024|

The Historic Lee School has entered the final stage of demolition. The main school building, which has stood since it was built in 1915, is now being torn down. To put that into perspective, the building was constructed just three years after the sinking of the Titanic. For over a century, the school has been a prominent fixture in our community, but its time has come to an end.

(Note on the 2nd floor you can see a chalkboard on a wall. Can you imagine how many students learned within these walls? It truly is the end of an era.)

Within a week, all that will remain are memories of the school that served so many in our community. Lee School housed grades 1 through 12 from 1915 to 1918, before a North building was completed and became Leesburg High School. When the current Leesburg High and Carver High were opened, Lee School transitioned into an elementary school until 1974, alongside serving as a community center.

In 1974, Lee School became the Lee Adult Education Center, providing citizens of Lake County who had not finished high school with the opportunity to obtain a diploma. This second life of the building provided opportunities for an incredible number of people. This continued until the mid-2000s before operations began to wind down, eventually leading to the closure of the building. Though it was never abandoned, years of neglect led to the building becoming structurally unsound.

(You can feel the history of all the students who have learned within these walls. Although the days of teaching are long gone, you can still make out chalkboards and get a sense of what it would have been like to attend the Lee School.)

Years went by, and no plans materialized to save this historic structure. In fact, the building was designated as a Historical Building in 2008. Unfortunately, as time passed and vandals found their way inside, the Lee School began to deteriorate and become a safety issue for the community.

(The old main entry way that would lead to the main lobby up a set of stairs. Photo credit – Historic Structures.)

Finally, last year, a buyer for the site was found. The new owners elected to demolish the structure entirely due to the deterioration of the school buildings, with plans for new villas potentially taking its place. Youtubers often would sneak inside to film in the old structure. Even a scary movie was shot in the basement years ago.

As I stood watching the demolition, I felt a sense of sadness seeing such a historic building being torn down. However, I am also excited about what the future of this site may hold. Housing is a premium in Leesburg and this site will certainly be welcomed for housing.

The Lee School represented hope to so many people. Although it may have taken on a burden towards the end of its life, it was once a place where children laughed, learned, graduated, and many returned to take control of their lives. It was once the pride of Leesburg. When this school first opened it was state of the art and people wanted to come to the school as noted by the expansion early on in it’s life.

(The interior of the school circa 1995. This was one of the final versions of the school. It would host Adult Education for most of the remainder of its life until the late 2000s. Photo Credit – Historic Structures.)

The Lee School endured two World Wars, The Great Depression, assisted Vietnam War veterans returning to Florida in earning diplomas, weathered the Great Recession, served as a high school, elementary school, community center, and was a significant part of Leesburg history. Losing this school is due to a multitude of factors, but unfortunately, nothing can be done now.

The demolition of this school is nearly complete. We hope those with memories can pass them down and remember this place for the positive things it did for our community over it’s nearly 100 years of operation.

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About the Author: Kyle Coppola

Kyle Coppola was born in Newton, Massachusetts and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communications from Curry College in 2016. After traveling to Florida on a family vacation, he decided he could not get enough of the warm weather and made the move from snowy Massachusetts to central Florida 8 years ago.

For the last decade Kyle has gained valuable experience in social media content creation, marketing and sales, writing, video production, sports announcing and even broadcasting for local radio stations, such as FM 102.9 in The Villages and FM 91.5 in Massachusetts. Every year he volunteers at The Villages Charter High School as a play-by-play sports announcer for the football games as well as a public address announcer for the basketball games, including the annual Battle at The Villages Tournament.

Outside the office Kyle is a husband and father to two beautiful girls along with their cat. In his spare time he likes to spend time with his family, travel, play golf and swim. He is also a huge sports junkie and even bigger motorsports fan and loves to attend racing events when he can.

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