Chabad of Upper Montgomery County is bringing a historic building back to life. The center purchased the Garrett Farm in Gaithersburg three years ago and is almost ready to open the building as the Simcha Educational Center.
The new facility will house a preschool, religious school, after-school programs and eventually a worship space, according to Rabbi Sholom Raichik. The Chabad had been looking to expand its educational offering for many years, and when it had they opportunity purchase the long-vacant property, the Chabad center took it.
The roof and silos of the historic 19th century building must be left as they are- dominating the site like two enormous Shabbat candles.
But the interior of the building was completely renovated.
“Everything here is new. There was nothing that was here before other than the outside walls of the building,” Raichik said. After purchasing the building in 2016, the synagogue had it gutted, dug out tons of concrete to create more room and removed several support beams.
In the center’s unfinished lobby, Raichik shows the progress on a tri-fold poster board covered in photos he took during the renovation process. The photos show the interior stripped down to the barest essentials, then lighting and new flooring being added.
The 10,000 square-foot space includes six classrooms, an office, employee lounge and a large multipurpose room. There are even doors with full length windows connecting the classrooms, so the children can see what others are doing.
Raichik has visited the space nearly every day since renovations started and constantly stops to speak with the construction workers, who are busy putting the finishing touches on the building, and Raichik pointing out the nooks in the hallway that will be made into reading areas for kids.
Outside, he points to a part of the barn that was used for milking, a space where they installed a wooden playground and a patch of grass that he plans to turn into a ball field.
Raichik also points out an unused building to the side, covered in graffiti, that he hasn’t decided how to use yet.
The project cost about $4 million ― $1.5 million to purchase the property and around $2 million for construction and renovation.
Raichik said there is no exact date for the center’s opening, but he hopes it will be “soon.”