In 1952, Harry Truman was president, a young princess had just been crowned Queen Elizabeth II, American soldiers were fighting in the Korean War and a new school was under construction in Geneseo.

To heat the new building, school officials purchased a brand new 240-horsepower Kewanee steam boiler.

In the 67 years since then, Queen Elizabeth II still reigns and the boiler still heats the school.

In the mid-1950s, school officials were concerned with overcrowding at Geneseo High School (then located in what is today the north part of the city park).

School board members decided to spend $1.15 million to construct a junior high for the seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade classes. It opened in 1954 and for several years, the building served as a junior high until a switch was made and the new facility became what is today Geneseo High School.

Through it all, the 1952 steam boiler kept pumping heat to the building. An addition and renovation designed in 1963 added a second 240 horsepower Kewanee steam boiler and expanded the steam and condensate piping system to serve the new addition to the south of the existing building.

Both the 1952 and 1963 boilers continue to serve the high school, but their days may be coming to a close.

A recent hot water heating system study conducted by MMEA Engineers called the steam boiler system “inefficient.”

“You’re looking at about an 82 percent efficiency on these boilers, while new boilers have 96 or 97 percent efficiency,” said Randy Bormann, maintenance director for the Geneseo School District.

The engineering report noted, “Further additions and renovations designed in 2000 converted the existing steam heating system to a hot water system. The two existing steam boilers from 1952 and 1963 are still utilized with added steam to hot water heat exchangers to produce the heating hot water.”

The report continued, “Further renovations and additions designed in 2016 eliminated about 24,000 square feet of space served by the existing steam to hot water heating system and added approximately 33,000 square feet of space served by a new hot water heating system. It is estimated that approximately 137,000 square feet of space in the school is currently served by the existing hot water heating system with a few small areas still served by steam heat.”

While the existing steam boilers are “rebuildable and refurbishable,” Bormann said the age and efficiency of the units must be compared with modern technology and equipment.

“(The steam boilers) are a lot more expensive when you do have to make repairs. Plus, it’s a steam system, so there are chemicals you have to add to it, which is another expense,” he said.

Repairs and updates have been made to the boilers, at one point, 15 inches were cut out of the bottom of one of the boilers and replaced with new steel.

“The state inspects them every two years,” said Bormann. “They have to be kept up to their safety standards.”

The boilers are in need of roughly $50,000 in repairs by next summer, according to school district estimates.

The 1952 boiler “is the oldest piece of equipment in the district” said Bormann.

The engineering report noted the 1953 and 1962 boilers have “greatly exceeded” a typical 35-year life expectancy for that type of equipment.

Replacing the steam boilers with condensing style hot water boilers could save the district $20,000 a year, according to engineering estimates, but the initial cost to replace the two boilers could be around $350,000.

Tim Gronski, the chief school business official for the district, recently told the school board he’d like to have “firmer cost numbers before making any recommendations.”

In addition to increased efficiency, a new system “would be about 50 times smaller” said Bormann.

“We’d be installing a boiler about half the size of a refrigerator compared to what we have now ... they’re as big as a bedroom,” he said.