Historic again

Ambleside High School building designated local historic landmark

[Bruce Ackerman/OG]

While the 1913 Wolf House only moved about 700 feet down Watula Avenue in 2019, the house was no longer in the Ocala Historic District.

On July 6, the Ocala City Council voted unanimously to name the building, now serving as Ambleside High School, a local historic landmark.

The 3,400-square-foot house was named after the original owners William and Sallie Wolf and housed the Ocala Marion Transportation Planning Organization when it was located on its original location on the east side of Watula.

The initial plan was to demolish the building for new townhomes. However, the city council suggested and approved covering the $65,000 expenses of moving the building onto a city-owned parking lot on the west side of Watula.

The Ocala Historic Preservation Advisory Board (OHPAB) and Benmar Construction helped relocate the building in July 2019. The building’s address changed from 121 SE Watula Ave. to 420 Watula Ave. But it also lost its spot in the historic district that includes dozens of turn-of-the-century homes.

Tyler Emmons, Ambleside’s board chairman, discovered that through the approval of OHPAB and the city council, they could deem the building a local historic landmark.

Emmons said that the school was looking to open a high school for a while but had not found the right building.

Their current rented location at Grace Episcopal Church didn’t have enough room for the high school. That is when the city suggested the Wolf House.

The first graduating class from Ambleside High School is scheduled for the spring of 2022.

“We want to raise them in maturity and doing that in a mentor-style sort of education with the environment of a home really just fits with what we do,” said Stephen Zedler, Ambleside’s high school director.

Jill Romaine, the high school principal, said the full building houses four stand-alone classes with 16 students per class for a total of 64 students.

“We are intentionally small, and we consider ourselves a boutique high school,” she said. “It really helps to foster the discipleship relationships and the adult investments in the lives of the students.”

The main campus is close enough for students to travel between the two for special events and middle school trips to the high school.

Romaine also said the community’s support for the new use of the Wolf House meant a lot to them.

Even with the success of the high school, renovations continue to improve the school. For the first year and a half, only the downstairs portion was used as the upstairs was not yet needed. The aesthetic of the building is a work in progress as the school was quickly up and running very shortly after its move. They started the school year in the new building without much modification.

“Fortunately, we now have time and resources to give it a face-lift, to make it more of a historic home that it is,” said Zedler.

The two-year plan included adding new flooring, walls, art, and audio/visual equipment for teaching. The project has begun to take place with the timing and resources coming altogether.

They hope to finish sometime in the fall after the start of the school year. “Our hope is that we’re producing thoughtful graduate leaders amongst the community as a result of this facility,” said Romaine.

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