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Updated | Ewan alumnus is top bidder for former school

Lexington businessman Bill Meade bid $1,225,000 to buy the old Julia R. Ewan Elementary School Thursday.

Meade, who attended J.R. Ewan in the 1950s, said he wants to preserve the property and put it to some community use that he hasn't determined yet. Neighborhood residents said they're pleased with that idea.

The school, which closed at the end of last school year, was sold at public auction by the Fayette County Board of Education, which still must give final approval of the sale price. Fifteen people registered to bid on the 70,000-square-foot building and its 4.6 acres of grounds on Henry Clay Boulevard in the Fairway neighborhood. It dates back to 1909.

Meade, who lives near the school, said he'd been thinking for some time about the old building going up for sale, but he didn't decide to attend the auction until early Thursday morning.

"I don't have a plan for it right now," he said. "I just wanted make sure that it fell into the right hands."

Meade said he had feared that someone would buy the property and convert it some use that would not fit the neighborhood.

The area is zoned residential, but several neighborhood residents at Thursday's sale said they had worried that the property might end up as some type of commercial development.

"We're more pleased than you know," said a relieved Pat Petro, who lives just across the street with her husband, Joe. "I was just so afraid that some big-time developer would come in, bulldoze it and leave us with something not befitting the neighborhood."

Pat Petro attended J.R. Ewan in the 1940s, and their children went to school there. The Petros said they knew Bill Meade "indirectly," but that they didn't realize he had any intention of buying the school.

"I think everybody came down here this morning with a little apprehension," Joe Petro said. "This whole area is unique and beautiful, and right in the middle of Lexington."

A crow of almost 100 people gathered on the school's front lawn to watch the bidding. It began at $500,000, moving in $100,000-increments to the $1 million range.

Meade, 61, eventually edged out a number of other bidders. Under terms of the auction, he will have to pay a 10 percent bidder's premium on top of his winning bid, which will bring the total price to $1,347,500.

The sale is subject to approval by the Fayette County Board of Education, which presumably will come at its meeting Monday night.

Meade, who runs a masonry-fabricating company, said he grew up in the neighborhood and was captain of the school patrol during his student days at J.R. Ewan. Buying the property was an easy decision, he said.

"The only tough part was spending that much money," he said. "But I think it's going to mean a lot to the community."