Sunday, March 11, 2012

Recumbent Ride -- Schoolhouse Jackpot

A second schoolhouse in Sandusky Township

A few years ago I remember passing an old school house while out on a bike ride in the North-East corner of my county.  The problem was I couldn't quite remember where it was.  Since we are having a beautiful weekend with temperatures again in the upper 60's I decided to set out on two wheels and see if I could find this building again. 

Before I left I got a birds eye view using Google Earth and without too much looking I spotted the shiny roof of the schoolhouse with a single tree to the east, a state route to the front and a county road on one side.  I knew the general area to look but as you can see in the background the Northern part of my county is wide open and pretty much all looks the same.  Without the help of Google Earth I doubt I would have been able to pinpoint the exact location based solely on three or four year old memory.  After a pleasant 16 mile ride I saw the familiar shape up ahead.

I love the ornate brick arch above the windows and notice how the arch top wooden window frames are still intact.

As I was taking pictures the property owner pulled up on an all terrain vehicle from his farmhouse just a short distance down the road.  I knew this was the owner because we had met those few years before when he saw me poking around the building then.  I introduced myself and he did remember our first meeting.  This fellow is the third generation of his family farming this land and he told me how his dad and grandfather used the old school as a grain storage building by dividing the inside into rooms and shoveling grain in and out by hand.

I asked about the date plaque that surely rested below the small window and yes the farmer told me someone had stolen the marble piece years ago.  Since then he keeps an eye on the place  and maintains the roof in good repair.  He told me he wants to cut some sheet metal siding pieces to fit the windows on the sides to keep the weather out and preserve what still remains of the window frames.

Before I left he gave me directions to another schoolhouse that was just another mile and a half to the North-East so I thanked him and climbed back aboard my recumbent bike and set off in search of the bonus prize.

Next I entered Cranberry Township and soon the unmistakable red shape with three tall windows came into sight up ahead.  The photographs show that the two schoolhouses are similar but there are some small details that set them apart. 

As luck would have it soon a person of about my age rode up on a bicycle from a nearby farm.  He pulled his bike right up to the front door of the schoolhouse hopped off like he owned the place.  It turned out that he too was a third generation landowner but he had a bit more knowledge about the building that had spent all these years on his family's land.

The school was built in 1880.  The chimney visible in the picture above was added around 1910.  Unfortunately a sturdy foundation was not built under the chimney and it settled over the years causing the exterior wall to bow inwards threatening collapse at some point if the structure was not properly supported.  The wooden crates in the far left of the shot contain the bricks removed from the top of the chimney as well as those around the base of the masonry inside.  The double front door was added at a later date by the gentleman's grandfather after the school was turned back over the landowners at the end of it's service.  It seems a common practice that these structures were relegated to agricultural storage duty once they ceased their noble purpose as meeting places for education. 

The building's original slate roof is still in fairly good shape. Not bad for 132 years.

Now for the real treat.  The chalk board and wood paneling below is still in place at the head of the class.  With these pictures it's much easier to envision the goings on of America's early educational system. 

Although it was a bright sunny day outside I was still surprised at how light and cheery the inside of the room seemed thanks to the six tall windows.  In the following shot the chimney can be seen resting on a steel beam and pilings.  At some point the owner will lay a new foundation to support what must be an incredible amount of weight. 

What luck to see not only one but two old schoolhouses. And catch both the owners and have the chance to learn a bit of interesting history about each of them.  I consider this little expedition a success and I got a nice ride in too.

Out and Back
Bike:  HP Velotechnik Street Machine
Distance:  34.27 Miles
Ride Time:  2:22:58
Average Speed:  14.3 mph
Max Speed:  31.1 mph


  1. What a wonderful ride. That's too bad about the marble sign, but finding the chalkboard intact was a nice bonus! Looks like many of your schoolhouses were built of brick. Our out here were mostly lumber. Anytime you happen across another, I'd love to see the photos! Thanks, Mike!

  2. Wow great post Mike. Of course the chalkboard reminds me of the Clint Eastwood movie "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" with the half million bucks hidden in the old schoolhouse. 73 de Tom ab9nz

  3. This is a great blog! I love one room schoolhouses, and your photographs are perfect!

  4. Thanks guys for the kind words! Don't worry more schoolhouses to come.

    Darla, since your into history check out this post from last year. I'm quite proud of it:

  5. Great pics. There is so much we can learn from exploring our past.

  6. Great photos. I love brick and mortar and stone and mortar buildings.

  7. I've never seen anything like this on a bike ride. Brick buildings are exotic here in Northern California. They have a lifespan of 1 earthquake.

  8. Hey thanks guys for taking the time to leave a comment! This is some pretty cool history that I just couldn't keep to myself.