Students fight to restore one-room schoolhouse

June 10, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

Hammond Middle School seventh-graders Stephanie McLean and Riana Hershenfeld have spent much of this school year fighting to preserve a piece of the old days.

The two Laurel 12-year-olds want to see the old Pfeiffer's Corner Schoolhouse -- a 100-year-old, wooden, one-room structure off Route 108 in Clarksville -- restored as a museum before the building is damaged any further.

"It's just sitting there rotting, and nobody knows anything about it," Stephanie said.

Since 1990, students at the Laurel middle school have fought to preserve the old schoolhouse, which sits atop a stack of cinder blocks behind a chain-link fence.

"They were told that it was going to be torn down, and that made them mad," said Patricia Greenwald, a resource teacher for gifted and talented students at Hammond Middle School.

To help spur the restoration, the students raised more than $16,000, collected antique books and furniture, and contacted state and county government officials.

Because of the student involvement, the county plans to move the schoolhouse within a year to its permanent home at the Cloverhill historic site in Elkridge, across the street from Rockburn Elementary School. The schoolhouse will join a historic mansion, a log cabin and a barn already on the property.

"They're keeping up the pressure, and that's good," Clara Gouin, senior park planner for the county Department of Recreation and Parks, said of the students.

This year, as a tribute to the schoolhouse, Stephanie and Riana produced a booklet titled "Pfeiffer's Pfun Book," which gives facts about the schoolhouse and provides games for children to play.

Among those facts: Pfeiffer's is one of 18 former one-room

schoolhouses in Howard County; the land for Pfeiffer's was purchased in 1864, during the Civil War; Pfeiffer's was closed in 1933 and later used as a private home.

This school year, Stephanie and Riana submitted the project for the school system's "Type III" program, a component of the gifted and talented program. Students in the Type III class are required to identify a problem, come up with a solution and present it to an audience.

The students' "audience" included County Executive Charles I. Ecker and County Council members C. Vernon Gray and Shane Pendergrass, all of whom expressed support for restoring the schoolhouse.

The county has promised to match, at some point, a $100,000 grant given by the state four years ago. And the county is about to advertise for a consultant to do the design work on the building.

Along with the students, Ms. Greenwald has collected artifacts to fill the schoolhouse when it is restored. Items already collected include a student's desk that has a black metal frame and a wooden top, and a matching chair with a wooden seat and back support.

Ms. Greenwald also has collected a potbellied stove like the one that used to sit in the schoolhouse, an antique chalkboard and antique books.

For now, however, the schoolhouse remains abandoned. Workers have boarded up the windows and doors and nailed a blue tarpaulin onto one side to protect the building from weather damage. But the unpainted wood continues to rot and splinter.

"The schoolhouse shouldn't be forgotten," Riana said.

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