Community members, Slippery Rock School Board discuss the “Rocket Barn”

Slippery Rock Area School Board discusses demolishing a welcoming feature of the campus due to safety concerns

Published by Layla Joseph, Date: April 5, 2023
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Slippery Rock community members have been airing their grievances online in regard to the fate of the large, white and red “Rocket Barn” that sits at the entrance of Slippery Rock High School’s campus. 

A Facebook post by Slippery Rock Town-Crier on March 23 called attention to the possibility of the barn being demolished, which opened online discussion amongst community members. 

Slippery Rock Area School Board held a meeting Monday about the status of the barn, an engineering study that was performed in December and possible outcomes for the structure.

According to the engineering study performed by Barber & Hoffman Inc., posted on the school district’s website, the barn was once used for unheated storage and should either be fixed in a timely manner or no longer used.

Although the majority of framing was in good condition, localized deterioration, foundation shifting, and framing modifications have resulted in potentially unstable conditions,” the study said. 

Barber & Hoffman Inc. recommended the district install structural bracing as soon as possible to counteract the barn from additional shifting, or discontinuing use of the building, according to the study.

Due to the complexity of the barn’s issues and the age of the structure, the study reported that the necessary repairs may not be feasible for the district.

 “As an alternative to repairing the existing building, the district may consider constructing a new storage building that could offer more efficient use of space, more convenient access for equipment, and lower long-term maintenance costs,” the study read. 

Fixing the barn could be costly, up to $300,000, according to Slippery Rock School Board Member Mark Taylor at the meeting Monday. 

“I think the district can spend the money in better ways,” Taylor said. “Other than sentimental attachment, [the barn] doesn’t have value as far as storage or anything.”

Slippery Rock School Board Member Vito Pilosi III continued the discussion after Taylor.

“I think, as a board, we can all agree that none of us want to take the barn down,” Pilosi said. 

Pilosi said fixing the barn is not something people can just get together and do. He said to fix the barn, the district will have to look at the legal aspect of liability, follow state laws, and hire someone with insurance to fix the structure. 

“If we take the barn down, what can we do to commemorate it?” Pilosi asked. “I think we should try to get input from people, what do we do with it?”

The barn has been sitting on the property since the early 1930s, far before the school came into ownership, according to Butler County resident Larry Palmer. 

Palmer, who attended the meeting, said that the barn used to belong to his grandparents, John and Estella McNees, before the property was sold to the school district. 

Palmer said that he felt terrible about the possibility of the barn getting demolished. 

“I want to see it fixed up,” he said. “That’s the first thing people see when they pull up to the school.” 

Arleen McCurdy, 62, is a cousin to Palmer and has been living near Slippery Rock all her life. She said that her class was the first class to walk through Slippery Rock Area Middle School back in 1972.

She did not speak at the meeting but said she had been in contact with the superintendent about her idea to honor the barn.

McCurdy said that if the barn gets demolished, she would like to see wood from the structure painted and made into a frame that can hang in the high school’s library. 

Online, some community members were calling to save one wall of the building that includes it’s most defining feature, red letters that read “This Is Rocket Territory,” and use it as a billboard.

While no decision was made on how to proceed in regard to the Rocket Barn, the school board plans to reconvene and discuss the issue again in June. 

Until then, the board will be accepting ideas on how to commemorate the barn and the sentiment it holds. Community members with ideas they would like to share should call Alfonso Angelucci, Slippery Rock School District’s superintendent, at 724-794-2960 x1001 and leave a message. 

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