G-J teachers seek support to build one-room schoolhouse
Gahanna Lincoln High School teacher Tom Gregory is asking city leaders to support a plan to restore a one-room schoolhouse that would bring history to life for local students.
During the Oct. 1 Gahanna City Council meeting, Gregory said an old schoolhouse in front of the YMCA on U.S. Route 62 had been converted into a garage.
"Last year, at the end of the summer, I realized the city got the property, and it was slated to be demolished," he said. "I don't think a lot of people realized it was a one-room schoolhouse."
Gregory, a speech and television-production teacher, said he had researched the history of the building and has spoken with Norma Jean Gorsuch, whose mother attended the schoolhouse.
Gorsuch provided a photo of the schoolhouse, taken in 1899 or 1900, with the teacher and students in front of the school. The school was on what was known as the Mechwart Farm, and various Gahanna families from local farms would send their children to the school, Gregory said.
He visited the Franklin County Engineer's Office and copied the oldest map he could find of the area in 1872, showing the schoolhouse on that location in Jefferson Township, he said.
"The best guess of when it was built is the late 1860s," he said.
The structure was converted into a garage in 1927.
Gregory's goal is to have the support of the city, the YMCA, Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, the Gahanna Historical Society and the Ohio Historical Society. He's seeking ways to earn money for the renovation of the schoolhouse, going to community members, businesses and local community organizations.
Dale Foor, president of the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation, told ThisWeek the foundation has committed up to $20,000 to help with the schoolhouse effort.
"We're trying to help it grow some legs and get it moving," he said.
Gregory asked council members for their backing of the concept. In addition, he requested that the city waive any fees needed for the project and to reallocate funds for demolition to instead disassemble the structure.
"It would be put on pallets, stored and put back on school property," Gregory said.
Council member Karen Angelou asked if the structure still would be designated as a historic landmark if it's moved and even though it has been altered.
"It is a historic landmark," Gregory said. "It has been altered because they put a garage door in it. They also took the floor out because of putting a car in there."
Gregory said he envisions transforming the building back to its original character.
"We want to bring it back to what it was," he said. "It will be a much safer building. The building will be secure and safe. There's a slate roof on it already, and the trusses are original."
Gregory said the renovation process could be used as an educational tool for Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools' architecture students who are based at Gahanna Lincoln.
"They could not only be part of the design process but also follow the project all the way through to completion," he said.
He said he's hoping a grant could be available through the Ohio Historical Society to preserve local history.
Gregory said the building could be taken apart and rebuilt on school property, possibly at Gahanna Middle School South.
He said plumbing wouldn't be included as part of the schoolhouse rebuild, and GMSS already has a locker room with restrooms separate from the school.
"If a class visits, there would be access to restrooms," he said.
Gregory presented a video produced by his students, who visited Johnstown's Cornell one-room schoolhouse.
A link of the seven-minute video is online at schooltube.com.
He said Gahanna would like to create a similar experience for Gahanna students and community members.
He said the schoolhouse could be used as a teaching tool for various classes in the G-J district, including U.S. history, American literature, local government, global studies and drama students who could wear period costumes and role play.
"It would be a living museum that students could attend one class at a time," Gregory said. "Third-grade students could learn about Gahanna history and be part of a one-day school experience in a one-room schoolhouse. History could come to life, and they could experience and touch it."