Saving the Schoolhouse
Published: January 31, 2013
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When a historic structure disappears, it is lost forever.
That's exactly what the Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, a volunteer group working with Waverly Township, is trying to prevent with the Waverly One-Room Schoolhouse and a recent $32,000 grant from the Overlook Estate Foundation is going to push them closer to their goal.
The building, which is located on Main Street in the Waverly Historic District, is the oldest one-room schoolhouse standing in Lackawanna County. Maryellen D'Andrea, the project coordinator for the building's restoration, explained that the history behind the building is just as fascinating as the structure itself.
"The schoolhouse was built in 1830 and attributed to the master builder from New York State, Ephraim Russ," she said. "It was used as a borough school from 1830 to 1860 and on Sundays the building was used for worshiping and has ties to the first congregations founded in Waverly."
"Perhaps the most notable congregation was that of the first free Black community in Waverly which, around 1854, built the African Methodist Episcopal Church on Carbondale Road, years before the Civil War," she continued. "By 1884, the schoolhouse was converted to a dwelling and used as such for much of the 20th century."
Funds received from the grant will mainly address the schoolhouse's structural issues, especially its failing foundation. According to a building conditions assessment, if the foundation is not addressed, the building could risk irreparable damage or possible collapse and it needs to be fixed before any other work could begin.
In 1936, the schoolhouse was documented in architectural drawings and photographs as part of the Historic American Building Survey, an ongoing program of the National Park Service, the Library of Congress and private citizens. In 2004, the schoolhouse was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places as a part of the Waverly Historic District, which corresponds to Academy Street and Abington Road, including Carbondale Road and Beech, Cole, Church and Dearborn streets. Waverly Township purchased the building in 2008 for the purpose of preservation.
"It is important to preserve the schoolhouse because of the history it represents," D'Andrea said. "The future may never know its fascinating history unless they searched through a book. We have reminders all around us of what once was."
"I strongly believe that these reminders enhance our lives as we go forward with an appreciation of the past," she continued. "Millions of people each year visit historic sites with varying significance so I think I am not alone in my feeling. We should be proud to share our past with the future."