Rocky Fork Enterprise

19th-century learning

One-room schoolhouse ready for pupils, classes

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Fred Bowers and Jan Elzey spent several hours restoring this one-room schoolhouse, which the district dedicated Oct. 23 at Lincoln Elementary School, 515 Havens Corners Road.

Gahanna youth soon will be able to experience life as a student in the 1800's, thanks to the renovation and dedication of a one-room schoolhouse scheduled at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Lincoln Elementary School, 515 Havens Corners Road.

"We encourage people to come to the dedication," said Tom Gregory, a Lincoln High School speech and television-production teacher who led the effort to move and restore the schoolhouse. "At some point, we will also have an open house that ties into an event."

The dedication ceremony will be held in the Lincoln Elementary School gym, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the schoolhouse.

Special guests at the dedication are expected to be longtime Gahanna resident Norma Jean Gorsuch, 89, and Ruth Earl, who's 100 years old and is a former Gahanna teacher.

The old schoolhouse, also known as Jefferson Township No. 2 School, formerly was in front of the YMCA on U.S. Route 62 and had been converted into a garage.

A conversation with historian Jean Jarvis led Gregory to Gorsuch, who produced a photograph from 1899 in which her mother, who was only 7 at the time, was standing with her teacher and classmates in front of the building.

Records provided by the Franklin County Engineer's Office, transcripts of interviews and the photograph itself proved that the building, which had been converted into a garage in 1927, was in fact a one-room schoolhouse built circa 1869.

Over the course of 10 to 12 months, fundraising efforts led by Gregory and his WGLH-TV broadcasting students brought in nearly $80,000 from local businesses, organizations and residents, generating enough money to save the structure.

In November 2012, the building was dismantled brick by brick and slate by slate.

Gahanna residents Jan Elzey and Fred Bowers (a 1959 Lincoln High School graduate) have been working to finish hickory flooring and the original windows in time for the dedication.

Elzey, who's retired from his own engineering company, spent 700 to 800 hours on the project himself.

"It has been fun," he said. "It's about building relationships and the people you meet. Kids have been stopping by to look at it."

Elzey said the project was estimated to cost $200,000, but that was reduced to $64,000 by purchasing materials independently and by hiring seven subcontractors who provided work for free or at low prices.

"A lot of people made small donations, and we did a lot of the work ourselves," Elzey said. "We started last September. It includes the original bell tower I rebuilt from wood of an old school. The door frame is original. We kept it as much original as we could."

Inside the school will be items that a one-room school would have contained, including a potbellied stove.

Gregory worked throughout the winter to acquire desks, map cases, teaching tools and other antique objects that were authentic to the era to furnish the schoolhouse.

A 4-by-5-foot stone even sits in front of the school's entry because that's what was original to the landscape.

The roof comprises 1,060 pieces of slate, including many original pieces and 700 that were purchased, Elzey said.

"They're off old buildings and barns," he said. "We'll have a teacher's desk and chair, pull-down maps and a school bell kids can ring."

Gregory has been working on the project for the past two years.

"It is so important that students understand our local history and how it has impacted this community," he said. "I want students to understand that history didn't just happen to famous people from unfamiliar places. It happens to people in our own community. Many of their relatives had a huge impact on Gahanna's history, as well as the state history."

Gregory said he doesn't want students to think the only way they can learn is from a textbook.

"When you can reach out, touch, see and experience history, it will have much more meaning," he said. "The hope is that students will come to the schoolhouse one class at a time to experience what it was like to go to school in the 1800s."