Recreating HHS virtually


Nathan Smith, a 2005 graduate of Hillsboro High School who lives in Orlando, Florida, is coordinating an ambitious project to create a virtual reality version of the old Hillsboro High School that was demolished in 2009.

The old school that had a three-story neocolonial design was built in 1934, and the first graduating class walked through its halls in 1935. It was there for 75 years and served five generations of students.

Attempts were made to preserve the school, but the condition of the building was badly deteriorating, and it could not be sustained.

In 2023, Smith was in Hillsboro for the Fourth of July weekend and was inspired by a book about the history of education in Hillsboro to find a way to bring the old high school back.

After some research and planning, he created a Facebook post that elicited a flood of photos, artifact and memories about the school and what it meant to the community.

He made another visit to Hillsboro with a 3-D scanner app and a group of local historians. He scanned original photographs and objects, visited the high school’s sister school in Mariemont designed by the same architect, and gained access to the original blueprints and digitally scanned them at Hillsboro architectural firm McCarty Associates.

“We had so much to work with, and most importantly, we had momentum,” said Smith.

His next step was to look for a team of professionals who could take all of the groundwork and ideas and translate them to a virtual reality environment. He contacted and had meetings with firms across the country, and estimates for the project were from $80,000 to $150,000.

Smith found that the local firm McCarty Associates has an architect who does 3-D preconstruction work, and they accepted the job for a fraction of the other estimates, he said.

“Here I was reaching out to people across the world about our project when a company willing and able to complete it was half a mile from the old school site,” said Smith. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Smith has a fundraising goal for the project of $12,000. The build will cost $10,000 and $2,000 will go to administrative and marketing costs. He plans to generate 40 percent of the money through crowdfunding and 60 percent through local, state and federal grants.

“That means that the Hillsboro community — individuals, families, alumni and businesses — only need to raise $5,000, and the project will move forward,” said Smith.

The fundraising effort kicked off Tuesday and Smith said the plan is to launch the Hillsboro High School VR Experience in the summer of 2025 on the 90th anniversary of the year the school’s first students walked through its doors.

Donors can receive customized Harsha Monuments bricks, T-shirts, and printed copies of the original school blueprints. Donations can be made by visiting

Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.

No posts to display