Press-Republican

July 8, 2013

Schoolhouse gets historic designation

JEFF MEYERS
Press-Republican

PERU — The Town of Peru recently received word that Lyons Street Schoolhouse has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The schoolhouse, which is located at the intersection of Lyons and Rock roads, served the children of that rural community from at least 1880 to 1938.

It was closed as Peru School District opened.

‘VERY FUSSY’

“According to the Beers Atlas of Clinton County, a building was here at this same location in 1869,” said Ron Allen, who is co-historian for the town with his wife, Carol Allen.

“The National Historic Register is very fussy about documentation, and the earliest we could document the schoolhouse was in 1880. But when it was actually built, we’re not sure.”

The building served as the school for children within a 2-to-3-mile radius of the building.

It was one of 19 districts in the Town of Peru, though some of those also served students in neighboring towns, Mr. Allen said.

It is in remarkably good condition for a wooden building, he added.

GRANT PROSPECTS

“The national recognition makes this building eligible for future grants,” Mr. Allen said.

“Placement on the National Register does protect the building, but we will be able to make renovations and restorations to help keep it protected.”

The building had been owned by the Marion Dixon family since 1939, but the Dixons sold the property to the town for $1 in 2011.

The Dixons had used the building for storage and as a play area for their children. A basketball net still hangs on one wall, and an old pool table rests against an interior wall.

A LOOK AT HISTORY

The Allens hope that future restorations of the building will include a display featuring old-time blackboards and antique student desks to remind people what life was like in a one-room schoolhouse.

“We’d like to have current schoolchildren come in and see what it was like for schoolchildren back then,” Mr. Allen said.

The interior includes the original wainscoating, and the outlines of two blackboards can be seen at the front of the room.

One adjacent room used to be for children to hang their coats, and another stored wood and led to the bell tower.

The tower is currently missing from the building. Former Peru Highway Superintendent Robbie Timmons has repaired the damaged structure, which is at the Town Garage.

The bell is currently at Clinton County Museum as part of the Town of Peru history display.

UPGRADES NEEDED

The exterior is red but was originally painted white, Mr. Allen noted. Officials are trying to decide whether to keep the current color or revert to that original image.

The metal roof will also be painted at some time.

Other structural and foundation needs will be addressed in time, but Mr. Allen repeated his confidence that the building is structurally sound.

Timmons has also repaired an antique circular window placed directly above the front door. The window is being stored in the Town Historian’s Office until it can be reattached, Mr. Allen said.

Email Jeff Meyers:jmeyers@pressrepublican.com

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DESKS SOUGHT

Town of Peru Co-Historian Carol Allen is asking for help from the public in refurbishing the one-room schoolhouse.

If anyone has antique student desks they would like to donate, call the Town Historian's Office at 643-2745, ext. 113.