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TELL CITY – One of Tell City’s oldest and most familiar landmarks has been converted into one of the city’s newest concepts in apartment living.
Larry, Kathy, and Gena Fleming purchased the old Franklin School building in 2006 and have spent extensive time and energy over the past five years transforming former classrooms into very creative and comfortable apartment units. According to the Flemings’ oldest daughter, Gena, the school was built in 1909 at a cost of $19,000. The building also served as the high school until the current high school was built. In reference to the school, Gena said, “It has a lot of soul from the early 1900s, but my family has added a lot of soul as well.”
When the Flemings first purchased the school, they removed more than 200 truckloads of trash which included remnants of a haunted house that had been set up in the school a short time before they bought the building. Larry is a man of many talents, and with the assistance of his wife, daugh-ters Gena and Mallory, and granddaughter Kayla Reeves, they have tackled everything from removing plaster, adding second levels and walls in most of the apartments, plumbing and electrical work to replacing windows, stripping paint, re-painting and repaneling. Among Larry’s skills and hobbies is metal artwork. Along with the metal art that is on display in the apartments, Larry also has a gall-ery of metal art for sale in a hallway of the basement.
The Fleming family re-sides in three of the apartments, and two other apartments are rented by tenants other than family. Currently, Larry and family are finishing out another classroom on the top level that will house two single-dwelling apartments complete with all new plumbing fixtures and appliances.
Located on the main level covering the entire right wing is the apartment of Larry and Kathy. Two classrooms and the hallway bet-ween the rooms make up their apartment. The character of building is evident in the original brick walls and wood floors still in use. Larry added a loft over the main living area of their apartment that holds a spare bedroom and an office area. He built the wooden staircase leading up the loft, and a metal bridge connects the loft office to the bedroom. The kitchen was built into the hallway between the two classrooms.
One of the unique features in the house guest area of the apartment is a movie theatre-sized pull-down screen where the family gathers with friends and guests for movie nights.
Gena and her daughter Kayla’s apartment is located on the second level. They have a large L-shaped living area, and the centerpiece of their living space is a spiral staircase built by Ron La-Ford and Larry. The center post of the staircase was the school’s original flagpole. Kayla’s room in the loft is brightly painted and decorated in colors and design appealing to teenagers. On display in Gena’s room is one of her dad’s lighted metal art pieces. Gena’s favorite area of the apartment is her kitchen and bath. Gena is a culinary artist, and she enjoys working in her industrial-style kitchen. The kitchen has a long wall of original enclosed walnut closets, now painted black, and the closets hold most of Gena’s cookware, dishes and dry goods. The “bonus” room in Gena’s apartment is a guest bedroom that was once the principal’s office.
The old boiler system is no longer in use; instead each apartment has individual heating and air units that provide a very efficient and economic means of heating and cooling each living space.
Many may remember the gym and stage located on the top level. The family uses this large open space for large family gatherings. They have renovated the stage area and painted the walls a nautical blue and the trim work a bright white. Gena hopes to add a commercial kitchen off of this room to make it more conducive to handling large events.
Kathy runs a dog grooming business in the back of the building. The Flemings’ youngest daughter, Mallory, has a studio apartment in the basement of the school. Also found in the basement is Larry’s large workroom as well as a large workout room. The original fire es-cape still exists in the workout room. Gena said that although the family has put extensive work into their “home,” it has also been very rewarding.
Her daughter Kayla says she has learned much from helping her mom and grandparents renovate the school. They still have many more projects that they plan to tackle, but they said it is very impressive and worth the price of admission to see the extensive amount of work that has transpired Franklin into a local piece of art. Gena is working on a book of pictures showing the transformation of Franklin, and she hopes to have it available the day of the tour.
Note: The Holiday House Tour Committee wishes to point out to tour guests that the building is not wheelchair-accessible.
However, the main level contains the foyer, Larry and Kathy’s double apartment as well as the two rented apartments, all of which will be open for viewing the day of the tour.