Stow -- A lot of work and fundraising still needs to be done to restore the old schoolhouse to its original state, but it is now in its new home near other historical buildings on the Young Road side of Silver Springs Park.
"Whew," said Bob Flower, a trustee with the Stow Historical Society, shortly after the building was moved a fifth of a mile and placed on its new, recently constructed foundation Oct. 16.
Flower, who was society president last year when the society acquired the building from the Summit County MetroParks and served as chairman of the Old Schoolhouse Committee, said it had been a long process lasting more than 18 months.
"It never would have happened without the professionals we had, both the contractors and the volunteers," he said.
The contractors, said Flower, included architect David Jatich, who designed the foundation; Bourgeois Enterprises Inc., which did the excavation; and Crowe Construction, which built the foundation. All three are located in Stow, said Flower, and the building's move was handled by Wolfe House and Building Movers of Pennsylvania, Indiana and Georgia.
"I'm very pleased with the successful results and hope we can enjoy the schoolhouse for the next 50 years," said Flower.
Society member Annie Hanson, who oversaw fundraising efforts with Stow Council member John Pribonic, said she was excited to see the move completed.
"It's great to see it here," she said. "It's going to add so much to the historical community in the park here."
The entire operation took less than three hours. The move itself, on a motorized wheeled platform, took less than an hour, but some time was needed to prepare to gently lower the building the final foot or so onto the foundation. Pribonic said he was impressed with the move.
"It's amazing how fast they moved it in. It's better than parking a car," he said.
The schoolhouse, which was built in the early 1880s on the corner of Call and Young roads, was originally called Stewarts Corners Schoolhouse and was one of eight late 19th century one-room schoolhouses in what was then Stow Township. All the schoolhouses ceased operating as schools in 1907 when Stow Township Centralized School opened, moving all the township's students into one building.
A personal connection
Hanson said she has a personal connection with the schoolhouse. Its original location was a farm owned by Hanson's grandfather, Fred Hanson, who with his first wife Ina had attended school there.
"I got involved for sentimental reasons," said Annie Hanson. "This was kind of a way for me to honor my ancestors."
For a number of years, the schoolhouse was periodically used for dances and revival meetings, but eventually Fred Hanson used it as a storage shed.
Broadview Heights resident Letty Kilbride, Hanson's aunt and a daughter of Fred and Ina Hanson, said she has memories of the schoolhouse going back as far as the late 1920s while living on the 143-acre farm.
"I used to play in it as a kid," said Kilbride, 89. "There was an old organ in it and a stage and my sister and I would go in it with friends."
Kilbride said the organ did not work, but the children pretended to play it and would put on performances among themselves on the stage.
"It was just us," she said. "We would get up there and sing, something like that."
She said their visits to the schoolhouse were clandestine.
"Kids are kids," she said. "Dad told us not to go into it, so of course we had to go in.
"It was just a place for us to play," Kilbride added. "It was dusty, but we didn't care."
In 1967, the schoolhouse was moved a short way north on Young Road, close to the park's entrance, to make room for Fox Den Golf Course' second tee. Kilbride said a neighboring farm owned by her father's brother Tom is also now a part of the golf course. For many years, the schoolhouse was used by the Green Valley Baptist Church.
In February 2012, the MetroParks, which had purchased the land for the construction of a parking lot to serve the nearby Bike and Hike Trail, contacted the historical society to see if it had any interest in taking the building. Flower said the society was indeed interested, but the first step was to inspect it to determine if it was in good enough shape to move. He said a thorough evaluation was done, including by the city, and the building was found to be in good shape.
Then the fundraising effort began. Pribonic said about $42,000 was raised to handle all the costs of moving the building. This has included selling inscribed bricks that will be placed into a walkway, donations from various local organizations, and money collected by Stow-Munroe Falls School District students in a change drive.
"It was all local money that did this so it was the community that moved the building," said Pribonic.
The effort is not over. Starting early next year, the society will begin the campaign anew to raise money to restore the building to its original condition, which Pribonic said is estimated to cost about $33,000. This includes removing changes to the interior that were made over the years and restoring two doors in the front, one that was used by boys entering the school and the other by girls, and removing center double doors installed by the church.
"It's going to be a community effort," said Hanson of the fundraising.
"We're committed to having [the restoration] completed by the end of next year," said Pribonic. "We're going to be doing a very professional restoration of the house."
Pribonic said once it is finished, the building will not only be a museum containing historical artifacts the society has, but will be available for functions, such as meetings.
"It will be historical, but also a usable space," said Pribonic, adding he estimated it can hold as many as 50 people.
As for the move itself, Flower said he was happy it went so well, especially after the lengthy effort to make it happen.
"When you do something like that, it's nice to see it come to a successful conclusion and it makes my day," he said.
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