128-year-old one-room schoolhouse to continue to serve in education of Johnson County students
Small and unobtrusive, the little white one-room Virginia Schoolhouse had stood at the corner of 71st Street and Clare Road since 1877.
But at 128 years of age, the structure made its way down 71st Street and south on Mize Road to its new home, Mize Elementary School. Former students, De Soto USD 232 officials and members of the Monticello Community Historical Society marked the event, the end of an era in one way, but the beginning of bigger and better things for the building in another.
Historical society president Cindy Ashby said last week before the school was moved, that she looked forward to helping the school district use the Virginia School as a historical learning tool in the future.
"It is wonderful," Ashby said. "Our hearts' desire would be for it to stay where it is at, but we know that that isn't possible."
Charlene Frakes' great-grandfather helped build the school, and her children were the fourth generation of her family to attend the school before its closure in 1962.
Frakes said it would be strange to drive by the building's original site and not see the school.
"It's been there forever," Frakes said. "It won't seem right to go by and see this leveled off space with no school there anymore."
Frakes began attending the school in 1936, the heart of the Depression. There was no electricity or water in the building and Frakes remembers shoveling coal into the stove in the winter.
"The stove was just a big old stove with kind of a metal jacket around it that was supposed to keep people from getting too close and falling into it, I suppose," she said. "They started the fire with corncobs."
Frakes, a member of the historical society, looks forward to helping the school district find historical items for the school. She may contribute three old-fashioned desks she bought from the school when it closed, the kind with a seat attached to the front, to furnish the school, along with the historical society's contribution of books originally used there and possibly the original school bell.
Although she'll miss seeing the family and community landmark at its old location, Frakes is happy students will use the school again.
"I was tickled to death that De Soto was interested in taking it," Frakes said. "When De Soto came up with that, and putting it in a school yard to boot. And it should be, I would think, pretty well protected from vandalism."
Edna Jenkins attended the school and now lives just down the block from Clare on 71st Street. She said it will be hard to say goodbye to a building that has been part of the landscape, and the view from her front door, for so long.
"It's really going to be strange, because I look out my door every day and see it," Jenkins said. "And it's such a landmark. It's really going to be a loss -- it was a big part of my life."
The historical society helped the Virginia Schoolhouse get placed on the National Register of Historic Places in May 2004. However, almost a year later, the building's owner, Dennis Hillhouse, sold the land to a residential developer, who mandated that the school be moved by October.
Hillhouse and the historical society approached the De Soto school district about moving the building to their grounds and taking over its maintenance, which the School Board approved in April.
Hillhouse is currently footing all of the $60,000 cost to move the school to its new location at Mize Elementary, where Kansas State Historical Society officials have confirmed it should stay on the National Register of Historic Places if it faces the same direction as when it was originally built.
District 2 County Commissioner John Segale said $80,000 that still exists in the Monticello Township fund could be used to reimburse Hillhouse for the move, but the county must first sell the last piece of the township and form a review commission to oversee how the funds are dispersed.
"We have been waiting for the sale of a parcel belonging to the township so that final action can be taken on its dissolution and the dispersal of the funds," Segale said via e-mail. "The land sale is currently being finalized, but I am not sure when the funds will be available. I do anticipate the whole process to be concluded by the end of this year."
The Monticello Township encompassed 42 square miles, 59 percent of which is now in Shawnee and another 38 percent has been annexed into Lenexa.