The rebirth of a country school

Month: July 2015

Voices from the Past

The kids have spoken!  A few weeks ago we boxed up the original slate chalkboards and found earlier makeshift chalkboards underneath, but no leftover writing.  But this week, we took down the last of the drywall.  Here’s what was underneath…

Names found under the drywall in old school.

Names found under the drywall in old school.

Alphabet found under drywall in one-room school

Alphabet found under drywall in one-room school

A Question of Chronology

As we worked last weekend to carefully take down tin ceiling plates and drywall, lath and plaster, it occurred to me that, to paraphrase a line from the donkey in Shrek the Movie, a schoolhouse is like an onion.



Layers.  Let me tell you what I mean.  Consider the tin ceiling.  We, along with most everyone else, have fallen in love with the ‘original’ tin ceilings.

Tin Ceilings

As I started around the edges of the room, I realized that the tin is ON TOP of the drywall.  How can this be if it’s ‘original’?  I did a little Google research and found that drywall has been around since the early 1900’s, but was rarely used until the war, when labor and materials were scarce and drywall was a cheaper alternative than lath and plaster.  So – 1940’s, perhaps.  The school was still in operation until 1944, so it could have been put in while still a classroom.

Digging further, I found that the plaster underneath the tin ceilings was in pretty rough.  Can you see how much it’s bowing??  How did that even stay up?

Bowing ceiling

Perhaps the tin ceiling was put up because the plaster was falling down??  A nice layer of supporting boards and a tin ceiling would sure have fancied up a schoolroom.

And then on to the windows.  If you look back, I wrote a post last year about why the west windows were covered up.  A local historian put forth that a ‘scientist’ of the era convinced the local school boards that having open west windows interfered with right-handed children’s ability to learn, so they were filled in. Looking at what I found as window ‘filler’, I could buy this explanation.


But others contend that it was simpler than that, that the windows were covered up much later and simply as a protection from the cold NW winds of winter.  Like the windows, there seems to be a hole in that theory, all based on the layers.  As I pulled off the drywall, I found ‘new’ lath and plaster over the window opening.  And that extended to where the old slate chalkboard had been.  So if the windows were put in later, then the craftsman took down the chalkboard, used an old technique of lath and plaster over the patch, then replaced it all.  It seems more likely that the windows were covered sometime before the 1940’s.  The why – well that remains a mystery.

On a closing note, since we are using fictional character metaphors anyway, something big has been here….


What the heck is living under my shed??  Wombat.  Small bear?  Snipe.


Happy 4th of July!

The school is a great place to celebrate the 4th!

View from the Belltower

But of course, it’s not all fireworks and kayaks and s’mores and great friends and family – well, some of it is, but we are just not built to sit still for long, so between naps, we also got some stuff done!

A room with a view

Our ongoing efforts to shore up the bell tower means that we are creating some more, shall we say, airier rooms.  Here’s the peek-a-boo window into the bathroom…Bathroom window

But never fear, I couldn’t leave it like that.  When I was done, it was really an Open-Air concept bathroom.  Make sure you knock on the front door if you stop by!

Bathroom open

And speaking of bathrooms, we got an outdoor upgrade with a shower extension off the camper.  Can’t wait to try singing in the rain in the shower….

Outdoor shower

Back to Work!

Back in the school, another big project was to CAREFULLY remove the slate chalkboards from the walls so we can save them to reinstall in the future.  Gently, gently we lifted them off the walls and safely into their crates Kevin put together for them – all 500 lbs of them (I’m pretty sure).  But look what we found underneath – more chalkboards!!  If you look carefully – you can even see the writing on the wall – literally.

Two chalkboards  Previous chalkboard

We also removed one of these.  Yes, the finest one of these I have ever seen.

One of These

Along with visits from Kevin’s family and a hot dog roast, we called in Paul, Kevin’s partner, for some expert opinion trading on the best way to approach the bell tower supports.

Expert Advice

4th of July – Fireworks from the Belltower

Fireworks in the Tower

End of the day Saturday, we climbed up to the belltower, as tons of kids have throughout the years, and watched the fireworks from many many neighboring towns.  Up there with the bats and the swallows and the ‘skeeters.

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