Reiter demolition to make way for park in Morrisville

by Anthony DiMattia

After sitting empty for nearly a decade, the M.R. Reiter Elementary School in Morrisville finally began coming down earlier this month.

The demolition kicked off on March 13th to make way for a passive park with trails and benches adjacent to the historic Summerseat Estate, former home of the financier of American Revolution and town namesake Robert Morris.

“This is a really exciting day for everyone,” borough council President Debbie Smith said. “We’re looking forward to building a passive park that will be a part of the estate next door to enhance it.”

Premium Excavating, of Falls Township, should finish razing the building by May, borough officials said. In the meantime, the borough hopes to secure grants to fund construction of the park.

“We’re working on getting the design of the park done with our engineer,” Debbie said. “We’ll apply for grants to do the sidewalks and to make sure it’s ADA compliant. That will be the first step and then the residents will have a chance to weigh in on what will be here.”

Plans include installing a commemorative plaque detailing the history of the school, which was built in 1962 after a fire gutted the former Robert Morris High School.

“It was a perfect project for open space, especially knowing the history of the area,” Debbie said. “It’s a bittersweet thing for everyone because many families have gone to this school for many generations.”

The elementary school on Harper and Hillcrest Avenues was closed in 2011 following a boiler explosion on December 13th, 2008.

About four years ago the borough began discussing the possibility of purchasing the three-acre property from the Morrisville School District.

In November, the borough bought the land for $235,000 with the help of county, state and federal grants.

The grants were secured with the help of Bucks County Commissioners and the Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County after a committee of council members, school directors and residents determined the best purpose for the site was a park, the council president said.

“It’s been a long, long process,” Debbie said. “It’s been a process for everyone who has helped out.”

The goal is for the park to better highlight Summerseat, where General George Washington stayed before crossing the Delaware to fight the Hessian soldiers in Trenton on Christmas Day 1776.

“For a long time many didn’t realize that the Summerseat building was here and how important this historical building really is,” Debbie said. “It’s a nice thing to showcase right now because of the revitalization plans we have for the town.”

Along with the proposed park, borough officials plan to add a bridge from the Delaware Canal to Bridge Street where a new brewery will be built.

“This is a whole area that we’re looking to revitalize,” she said. “By having a park here that’s connected to the canal as well as our downtown I think it will make for a nice destination for people to come.”

PHOTO CAP: The walls of M.R. Reiter come down