Before & After
When the Frantz One-Room Schoolhouse opened in 1855 it was as fine a building as one could imagine. The yellow pine floor was smooth and sparkling. The plastered walls were as flat as glass. The windows opened and closed with ease. This was the result of the work of talented craftsmen who had learned their craft in Europe and hoped to find success in the United States - a country not even 100 years old.
Through the years the building was well-maintained, but once it ceased to function as a school the many years that it sat unused caused it to show its age. The assault of nature took its toll - the freezing of the winter, the steamy heat of the summer and countless rain storms, hail storms and snow storms tried to undo the work of the skilled craftsmen.
We do not have the resources to restore this building to its past glory from over 160 years ago. It would require a small fortune to do so.
But we have worked hard to try to save this building,
to save it because of the history that is held within its walls.
We want to save it to respect the wonderful people who were a part of its history.
While we cannot turn the clock back, we can preserve the memories.
And we can use this building as a beacon to send out a call for folks
to step forward and share those memories and
we can use this building to bring people together to share the past.
Seated at the desk is my good friend Earl. He was among the last children to leave the school in 1945 when it was closed. I like to joke that he was the only kindergarten student at the Frantz School.
But in reality one-room schools only had first to the sixth grade. Earl's sister was babysitting him that last day of school and she was the young teacher. The last teacher at the Frantz School.
But Earl's relationship with the school goes even deeper. Long before he was born, his future father was granted an emergency teaching license for the Frantz School.
Earl not only was one of the last children at the school, but he was also one of the first to visit the school 70 years later.
Here is a view of the school in 2017 just before the Open House. Notice the small American flags above the blackboard. At least 18 flags flew over the U.S. during the use of the Frantz School between 1855 and 1945.
These are those flags.
Also, the large flag on the left is a 48 star flag - there were only 48 states when the school closed in 1945.
Irene was one of the first folks to visit the school in 2015 when we began to restore it.
Her look of amazement truly captures the feeling of each of us.
We are all indebted to Lola Sherman and her brother Lamarr Borger for safeguarding the building during the years that it was closed. They repeatedly replaced tarps to protect the building from its failing slate roof. And they secured the door and windows to prevent vandalism or theft.
Through this entire period they could have sold the original blackboards and desks, even the solid pine floor planks. But instead they kept it safe almost as if they knew a better day was coming.
I wonder if these three visitors to the school in 2015 could imagine that the south wall behind them would one day look as it does in 2017.
The south wall was in particular disrepair - moisture had caused the plaster to separate from the lath that it had been applied to a century and a half before. Large portions had to be replaced and some sections that had "bellied" out had to be "connected" to the wood behind it
The northern wall had its own problems. Rain had breached the tarp and rotted away the ceiling in the corner behind this young woman.
While lumber yards no longer carry the dimensional lumber that was used in 1855, we were fortunate to find matching lumber salvaged from an old bunkhouse.
This wall has some of my favorite displays. On the far right old farm tools from the era of the school. This small exhibit hopefully will grow as folks look around their basements or attics for items to loan to the school for display.
The framed item in the middle of the wall is an old map showing the 7 school districts in Eldred in 1855.
This visitor in 2015 was photographing writings on the old blackboard.
This is the southwest corner of the school. It is now graced with the 48 star flag and a vintage drawing of Presidents Washington & Lincoln.
Note the little flags mentioned previously and also the standard alphabet.
The windows still need repair - at least 17 panes have cracks. For now we have clear cellophane tape securing them.
Notice also the folding wood shutters, the original lectern and the two almost life-sized figures (donated by our dear friends Luz & Heriberto).
One of my favorite Frantz School stories has to do with the woods south of the school that head west. I saw to men glaring into the thick brush and asked them what they were looking for. They told me that they were the Krege brothers and each day they would walk on a small path through these woods from their parents farm, to school. And when the snow was too deep they would carry their sister Cinderella on their shoulder.
In their honor I now keep a broad path on that location - just in case they ever
need help finding their way back to school
This view shows the vintage stove that has been in the school for the last 70 or so years. We assume that the first stove was a more simple pot belly stove.
That stove was the only source of heat for the school. I am told that students would often also warm their lunch on the stove. They carried their lunch in metal pails or boxes.
The school had no lighting except for sunlight and when a thunderstorm would block the sun lessons would have to be done in near darkness.
We have replaced the 4 foot fluorescent fixtures we found here with more traditional school "globes".
Just a reminder, most of these photos compare the school in 2015 with 2017.
Not all the work has been inside the school. Sadly, the slate roof was too costly to replace and a decision to replace the worn out and missing clapboard with modern vinyl siding was a sad decision. But the cost and the need for regular upkeep on clapboard made it impossible to go with.
Also, the original mudroom was too far gone to save. It and the deck below were rotted beyond repair.
We are pleased that the building with its new roof and siding will be in good repair well-beyond our period of stewardship.
We created a tool storage area under the deck where coal or wood may have been stored years ago.
One of our first projects was to rebuild the deck and add fencing to it.
I have to admit being so worried when visitors in 2015, including former teacher Mrs. Andrews had to climb over a rotted gaping hole in the deck by standing on an old wood pallet.
Here is Heriberto taking a picture of his lovely wife Luz in the window during the first open house in 70 years - in 2015.
And that dangerous rotted deck can be seen.
In this photo to the left, taken in September 2017, you can see that the safety handrail is being installed next to Renee's pretty marigold-filled flower boxes.
The flower boxes date back to the year before.
It may not be a big deal
but replacing the front door
was an important first step in 2015.
Some of the wood from the old door
has found its new "job" in
the school as shelving.
And the hardware is on display.
Although our main purpose in repairing the 1855 One-Room School
is to serve the people of Eldred and surrounding communities,
we have to admit a special feeling of joy when our kids organized
a visit by young people from several states.
In fact, we have a special joy when someone shows up unexpected as we
are working on the building. These surprise visits often lead
to new friendships, offers of assistance with the work and
many great stories of the old days!
It is so nice to know that this building means so much to so many people.
This is what the Frantz Schoolhouse looks like on October 13, 2017.
Many thanks to the very talented Anna Petit-Bittenbender for this beautiful perspective of the school.