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LITTLE RED SCHOOLHOUSE Historic site in need of repair



Published: Fri, April 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The historical society wants to raise about $10,000 for improvements.

POLAND -- From the front, the Little Red Schoolhouse looks like a quaint step back in time.

But walk around to the back and prepare to be shocked.

Recently the 147-year-old red-brick schoolhouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was vandalized by schoolboys wielding cans of white spray paint. They left behind words and symbols that will cost the Poland Township Historical Society more than $700 to erase. The schoolhouse is on the corner of U.S. Route 224 and Struthers Road.

"It's just terrible," said Historical Society President Connie Coloutes. "We want to get it off the building as quickly as can, but because we are considered an historical building, we have to follow certain procedures for repair."

The unwanted graffiti is the latest in a series of building woes faced by the Historical Society, which took over management of the building in 1979. The Poland School District had considered selling the building because of continuing upkeep issues, but the group negotiated a 99-year lease with the district which gives them the building for $1 per year. Upkeep and repair is the Historical Society's job.

Needed improvements

In addition to repairing the vandalism, the schoolhouse needs other work. On the to-do list: A new furnace, replacing rotted wood, removing mold in the attic and repairing plaster.

The group has relied on grants and donations for many improvements over the years, Coloutes said. The building is home to an impressive array of Poland Township history -- road department and school board ledger books that are nearly 100 years old, old letters and photographs, newspapers and historical documents. A walk-in closet contains items that haven't been cataloged yet, Coloutes said. She spends about five hours a week at the schoolhouse, poring over donated items.

The building was last used as a school in 1915, Coloutes said. In the late 1980s, an addition was built, including a small kitchen, bathrooms and storage space.

A group of second-graders will have class in the old schoolhouse later this month, sitting on chairs, not at desks, as students did a century ago. "The teacher wants it to be authentic," Coloutes said.

The historical society plans a series of fund-raisers, including a flower sale and a holiday tour of homes this year in an effort to raise the $10,000 needed for the repairs. Donations are welcome, and anyone can join the historical society to help pay for the repairs. Membership prices range from $10 for an associate membership to $1,000 for a lifetime membership. For more information about the group, call Coloutes at (330) 757-4764.

"It's really so important to preserve this history," said Coloutes, who moved to Poland Township in 1968. "People come in, and they see their grandfather or their uncle [in a document or photograph], and that gives them a little more interest in history. They say, 'Oh, I didn't know that.' I think when that happens, people see a little more the importance of history."




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