About a year and a half ago, Annie Hanson, manager of continuing education and outreach at The University of Akron, got a call about a one-room schoolhouse in Stow that was about to be torn down.
Hanson, who now serves as the co-chair of Save Our Schoolhouse (S.O.S.), agreed to be part of a committee to move the Stewart School building 1/4 mile down the street and restore it to its original historical character. It wasn’t just because this was the last remaining one-room schoolhouse in Stow — built in the 1880s — but also because her grandfather attended the school, which was on her family’s farmland.
When Stow schools were centralized in 1906, the building was used for storage, revival meetings, community dances and neighborhood get-togethers. In the 1950s and 1960s when Firestone Golf Course was being built, Green Valley Baptist Church purchased the building, moved it and converted it into a church.
“What’s amazing about the building is it’s still in remarkably good shape,” Hanson says. “We had architects come in who were able to point out where the original doors were, what type of stove it likely had, what the original windows were like.”
The building was most recently situated on Young Road on property owned by Metro Parks Serving Summit County and the land was scheduled to be used as a parking lot. The parks system offered the building to the Stow Historical Society if the society could raise enough money.
Several months and $50,000 later, S.O.S., working with the Stow Historical Society, had enough money to move the building to Heritage Reserve Park on a rainy day last October.
“It probably took 20 minutes,” Hanson says. “One of the neat features about its new location is the original foundation stone that was holding the building up in its original place on the golf course was donated by the city of Stow, and we were able to reuse it in its new location.”
Now S.O.S. is moving on to Phases Two and Three, which include renovating the building back to its original interior and facade, and filling it with 1880s-era artifacts to be used by the community as a place to learn, gather and host meetings and speakers.
“It’s not going to be one of those things we’re just going to put in moth balls and open it once or twice a year,” says John Pribonic, S.O.S. co-chair and Stow councilman. “We’re hoping to really use this building so the community can enjoy it and learn from it at the same time.”
People from Stow and the surrounding communities have worked hard on a campaign to raise money and donate time and artifacts to complete the move and the restoration project. S.O.S. has received an original school desk, records, yearbooks and photographs from the school system, and the historical society donated a graduation dress worn by a woman in the early 1900s.
“It’s one of those efforts in which you can be young or old and participate,” Pribonic says. “It’s interesting to see how school has changed.”
Hanson says she’s amazed by the historical aspect for the school and its transitions over the years.
“I think nearly everyone in the cities of Stow and Munroe Falls has some tie to the school and to the historical perspective,” she says. “I think this is really special.”
Hanson says members of S.O.S. plan to finish the restoration and open the schoolhouse to the public this coming October.
“This isn’t just a piece of the city of Stow,” Pribonic says. “It’s important for people to see how far we’ve come and how far our education process has come. We’ve been able to find out some things about Stow that even Stow didn’t know about, and I think each little piece adds to the puzzle.”
/ Writer Caitlyn Callahan is a senior at KSU working on her bachelor’s in magazine journalism.
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