The Red Brick School in Burnet has been vacant since 2016, but the school district and the Old Burnet Community Center organization are working on a plan to transform the building into a museum and cultural center.
Rick Espitia of the community center organization previously approached Burnet Consolidated School District officials about the idea, and on Tuesday, Oct. 20, shared his vision with the school board during its regular meeting.
“There is a disconnect with the young people, their community, and the past,” he told the board, though he noted it happens with adults as well.
Espitia explained he and the community center organization aren’t looking at a typical museum with artifacts from the past. Instead, he described it as more of a “living museum” that collects, celebrates, and shares stories of the people who built the community in the past, present, and future.
“It would be more of a people museum, a living museum about people who have contributed to the community,” Espitia said.
BCISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett liked the concept.
“The board and the administration are very supportive of the Red Brick School being used for the good of the community,” McBurnett said.
The next step would be drafting an interlocal agreement between the district and the Old Burnet Community Center organization and letting the school board review it.
The Red Brick School, 303 N. Pierce St., was built in 1927. Even before its construction, a schoolhouse occupied property starting in 1874. The Red Brick School served as a high school until 1942 and then held first through eighth grades for a number of years.
Quest High School occupied it most recently, but it moved to the former Burnet Elementary School in August 2016.
“That building, because of its age and lack of efficacy, will never be a classroom building again,” McBurnett said.
The Red Brick School isn’t the first stop for the Old Burnet Community Center, a nonprofit organization. Espitia housed documents, memorabilia, and other items in the Badger Building, 229 S. Pierce St. in Burnet. The late Tex Robertson purchased the Badger Building in the 1960s, and, over the years, it served several purposes, including as a community center and chamber of commerce. The city of Burnet purchased the building, which was in need of significant structural repairs, and eventually leased it, following renovations, to Wedding Oak Winery.
During the Badger Building changeover, Espitia pulled all of the Old Burnet Community Center materials from the structure and stored them. He explained that the organization’s name is to differentiate it from the current Burnet Community Center building.
He worked alongside Robertson and others on the community center project. Espitia recalled Robertson becoming concerned that Burnet was losing its connection with so many of its people who have helped build and cultivate the community.
Robertson once told Espitia: “I don’t want people to have to go to the cemetery to know these people.” Espitia explained that Robertson wanted the memory of the people and what they contributed to the community “to live and not just die and go away.”
A cultural center, as he envisions, would help accomplish that goal. Espitia told the school board that the organization already has funding on hand to cover a year to 18 months of utilities at the Red Brick School. If the plan goes through, he added that a physical presence would likely spur more and future donations.
In the end, Espitia said, “It’s about people.”