With hammer and putty knife in hand, Cindy Kuhn stood before a large tile mural on a wall of Rock Island's soon-to-be-demolished Audubon School, chipping the tiles from the wall, one by one.

The mural is one of hundreds of items being "harvested" from the school by Habitat ReStore, a Davenport nonprofit that sells new or gently used building materials, with proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity Quad-Cities, a housing organization.

After the Rock Island-Milan School Board voted Oct. 22 to tear down the vacant school at 2601 18th Ave., the district invited ReStore to remove usable materials before the demolition crew moves in for asbestos removal, scheduled to begin Thursday.

ReStore began working Thursday; priorities are five-panel oak closet doors from nearly all the classrooms, chair rail and other decorative molding, chalk trays, old-style coat hooks and glass cabinet doors.

All classroom floors are hardwood, likely maple, but Kuhn, director of ReStore, said she does not know whether there is time to remove any of it. Some floors come up more easily than others.

In addition to practical items, Kuhn is looking for small things — such as the individual tiles from the mural or chalkboard trays — that people could buy as a remembrance.

The tiles might be used to make trivets, she said.

All harvested items will be grouped together in a sale area at ReStore, 3629 Mississippi Ave. The doors will be priced at $45; the hand-painted tiles at $5.

The tiles Kuhn removed made up a 6½-foot by 5½-foot mural with a dinosaur theme, dated 1979. The tiles were handpainted and many appear to be handmade. As Kuhn worked, she thought of all the activity those tiles witnessed over the years — trips to the principal's office, hordes of kids bouncing out the door, parents stopping to pick up a sick child.

She wondered where those kids, now established adults, are now.

Walking through the building during the harvesting, volunteer Gary Flutz was struck by its sheer size.

"This is a big, big building," he said.

The combination gymnasium/auditorium has wood seats, some with decorative panels.

Kuhn said she isn't sure how many of these will be saved. Removing them is labor-intensive and once removed, the chairs don't stand on their own. They have to be bolted to a floor, and such use has limited appeal. ReStore already has two sets of auditorium seats, she said.

Elsewhere in the auditorium, a blue velvet stage curtain still hangs on the stage and the basketball hoops are in place on either side of the floor. All around the room there are student papers, each with an individually colored picture of a running shoe and the words, "I completed the 10-mile run!"

Upstairs, names of children playing roles in what must have been a dramatization are written in chalk on a blackboard. A girl named Ellen, for example, was assigned to be Abigail Adams.

A white board in another room announces "final band practice — 1:30 June 1, 2010." That was the year the school closed.

Asbestos removal in the school is expected to take two to three weeks, with the actual wrecking-ball demolition beginning at the end of the month, Holly Sparkman, district representative, said. 

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