Adrian Brisee and his wife read a listing for an abandoned school building in Irwin, Iowa, on the popular auction Web site, eBay. It sounded like what they were looking for; so, the couple drove from their home in Coeymans, New York, to the Iowa location to inspect the building. They made an offer, and it was accepted soon after.
Built in 1917, the elementary school was outdated and was closed roughly two years ago, according to Jeff Kruse, Superintendent of Schools in Irwin. "We were looking at options of either getting rid of the building or tearing it down," said Kruse. The latter option would cost as much as $100,000, so the board opted to try and sell it first. The board had learned that a Kansas district and the closer-to-home Mapleton school district each had placed advertisements and successfully sold school buildings on eBay.
"We kicked it around a while and then thought to give it a try," said Kruse. The district received about a dozen inquiries and three firm bids, ranging from $5,000-$15,000. Bids came from Florida, Canada, and New York. After investigation, the board accepted what ended up being the lowest bid. Explained Kruse, "The board felt most comfortable with this couple.” The reason given was that they were the only ones to visit the site and to meet in person with the school board. Their interest in the building and plans to convert it to a genealogy center for public benefit swayed the school board.
"And as far as the board was concerned, this was a $100,000 swing. They were pleased they wouldn't have to tear it down,” said Kruse.
Mr. and Mrs. Brisee own thousands of genealogy books. The couple plan to move them to the new site and convert it to a Midwest genealogy center that will be open to the public.