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2,000 Legos help preserve St. Paul's School

New York artist Nathan Sawaya, 38, shows off

New York artist Nathan Sawaya, 38, shows off his Lego replica of the clock tower connected to St. Paul's School in Garden City during the grand opening of Kiehl's Since 1851 at Roosevelt Field mall. (April 13, 2012) Credit: Brittany Wait

New York artist Nathan Sawaya, 38, spent a day-and-a-half building a Lego replica of the clock tower attached to St. Paul’s School in Garden City.

Sawaya used 2,000 Lego blocks to build the clock tower as a way to show his support for the historic school’s preservation and restoration.

He showed off his creation at the grand opening of Kiehl’s Since 1851 — a hair, body and skin care store — at Roosevelt Field all in Garden City Friday.

”It was a great time for me to come out and volunteer to create something for the community ... and it will hopefully benefit the Committee to Save St. Paul’s,” Sawaya said. “Once I finish the clock tower today it will stay in the store for a little bit and then be donated to the Committee to Save St. Paul’s.”

Kiehl’s president Chris Salgardo joined Sawaya and presented a $10,000 check to the Committee to Save St. Paul’s for the Garden City school’s restoration.

“When we enter a community, in our mission statement, we believe that if you’re going to operate a store in that community you need to find some way to give back to that community,” Salgardo said. “This one just seemed to make the most sense.”

The grand opening became an event not only to benefit the Committee to Save St. Paul's, but also to give children a chance to frost cupcakes and create their own artwork using Legos.

While Katie Graney, 8, of Garden City, joined her mother and sister in decorating cupcakes in the store, she watched Sawaya build the replica of the clock tower.

“You get to build stuff and right behind us there was a tower and it’s really cool,” Katie said. “We’re having a lot of fun.”

Maureen Traxler, administrative and communications director on the Committee to Save St. Paul's, describes the school — built in 1879 — as part of the village’s historic landscape.

“We would like to put this money towards our efforts to get this building restored and preserved and part of public use,” Traxler said.

She said the school closed in 1990 and the village purchased the building and surrounding extensions three years later. Since then, the village has been trying to determine what the building should be used for.

At its highest point, the building has four stories, and takes up 13,000 square feet of space, Traxler said. She added that the committee and historical society have put together a proposal of $8 million to $10 million to make 10,500 square feet of the building a community center.

“It’s really a remarkable structure, the architecture is beautiful and in the inside there are historic features that just can’t be reproduced anywhere, “ Traxler said. “ It’s really a treasure and it’s worth everyone getting involved in to try and keep it with us.”

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