Rescue Or Raze?

A school can be the heart of a community.

In its more than 150 years, the former Putnamville schoolhouse has gone far beyond its original purpose as a temple of learning.

Through the years, the former one-room school house at the junction of Thompson Hill and Valentine Run roads has served as a post office, Sunday school, community meeting place, social hall and, until just a few years ago, site of an annual alumni picnic.

In the last few decades, the building has suffered its share of wear and tear.

A storm in the 1990s knocked out electrical service to the building and, during the winter of 2011-12, accumulated snow took its toll on the roof and walls.

Today, the building stands in need of work, but is the impetus for a restoration there or is it time to say goodbye to a structure that has stood since the time of Lincoln?

Rene Johnson is hoping for the former, but intends to answer that question one way or the other.

According to Johnson, who is spearheading efforts to keep the building and see it restored, at a recent meeting of the Thompson Hill Cemetery Association, which owns the site, there was discussion of whether or not to tear the building down.

“I said, ‘Give me a chance to see if there is interest in restoring it,'” Johnson recalled.

In the spirit of that mission, Johnson organized a meeting, scheduled for next Wednesday, July 17, at 7 p.m. to garner community feedback on a possible project.

“(It’s) To determine whether or not there is interest in raising funds to restore it,” Johnson said, “and to see what use the community would want to put it to. Spurring it was this discussion at the meeting that it could be demolished and to do something with it one way or another before it becomes a safety hazard. I want to ask people what they think. I want to solicit the free flow of ideas.”

Johnson said the building does need some work, including a new roof, some structural repairs to the walls and a fresh coat of paint, but feels it won’t be a massive project.

“It needs some structural work, which is minor. It needs painted,” Johnson said. “It’s a nice space and it really doesn’t need that much work. The restoration we’re envisioning should take care of it for a very long time.”

The meeting on the future of the site will be held at the schoolhouse or, in case of rain, the next day at 7 p.m. According to Johnson, attendees should bring a blanket or chair to sit on as the meeting will be held outside the building.

More information on the possible restoration project can be obtained by contacting Johnson at 814-230-9030. Contributions to restoration efforts can be made to the Thompson Hill Cemetery Association.

“If anyone has ideas or support,” Johnson added, “just let me know.”