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Swarner House

The Swarner House will be the new office of the Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce.

Carlisle school board members could decide early next year whether to approve the sale of the Swarner House to an unidentified nonprofit organization.

District administrators could present a draft agreement of sale to the board property committee as early as Dec. 6.

A final version could be presented on Jan. 10, with the closing of the sale anticipated on or before June 28.

The district has already entered into a non-binding letter of intent with an unnamed organization to purchase the house from the district in an “as is condition,” said Shawn Farr, district director of finance. He added that legal counsel is preparing the agreement with language to prevent the property from being used or redeveloped for commercial purposes.

Adjacent to Lamberton Middle School, the brownstone and brick house is the first old building travelers come across after leaving Interstate 81 at the Hanover Street exit to head north toward downtown Carlisle. The house sits on a 2.86-acre property the district purchased in 1999 through a sheriff’s sale at a cost of about $575,000.

At the time of the purchase, the board was trying to control traffic onto South Hanover Street in the vicinity of the school. “It was an excellent decision at the time,” committee chairman Brian J. Guillaume said last week. “But we have outgrown the facility, and there are maintenance issues.”

Built in 1907, the Swarner House was converted from a residence to office space in the 1980s. When the district took over, it continued that use, but the building was not designed to handle the weight load of staff and office equipment put on it by the district.

The house consists of three floors totaling about 4,643 square feet, according to a report released in March by a work group of board members and administrators. For fire safety reasons, only the first two floors of 3,248 square feet can be used by the 12 district employees who work in special education administration, child accounting, student registration, transportation management and safety and security management.

The future of the Swarner House first became a topic in 2013 when the district considered purchasing the former PennDOT maintenance building at 540 W. North St. The district eventually bought that building and followed through with its goal of relocating its maintenance department from the Swartz building of Carlisle High School to the former PennDOT building.

The district is in the process of converting the former warehouse space at the Swartz building into office space. Once the buildout is complete in the late winter or early spring of 2019, the staff working at the Swarner House will be transferred to the converted warehouse space. This would leave the Swarner House vacate.

At one point, the district planned to invest an estimated $400,000 toward the renovation and repair of the house to prepare it for a lease, Farr said. But instead the district reconsidered and decided to put the house up for sale to a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization.

One task of the work group was to have an engineering analysis done on the Swarner House to verify that it is structurally sound, Guillaume said. He added there is always concern whenever renovation work is done on older buildings because of what may be uncovered beneath a surface.

Board members seem to be in agreement that selling the Swarner House is the only viable option that makes operational and fiscal sense.

“The school district is not in the business of restoring old homes,” Bruce Clash said.

“As an historian, I am very glad we are selling it to an organization that would treasure it,” Deborah Sweaney said. “In its day, it must have been a beautiful home. It is still beautiful, but we can’t really take care of it. That is not our business. That is not our expertise.”

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Education/History Reporter

History and education reporter for The Sentinel.