It took a small group of retired teachers to save a retired schoolhouse.
And it's not just any old schoolhouse. It is believed to be among the oldest public schools in the nation.
Nestled between suburban homes of Davidsonville, in the community of Lavall, the tiny stone building had been home to the Annearrundell Free School of 1724, serving students from an area that now includes Howard County until the Civil War. It became a residence in 1875, was abandoned in 1956, and scheduled for demolition in 1975.
"It was really an eyesore," said Lavall resident Laurie C. Segelhorst, who lives a half-mile away.
Through efforts of the Anne Arundel County Retired Teachers Association, the building was rescued - the authenticity of the one-room schoolhouse proved, and the property, then owned by developer Lavall Inc., donated to the county Board of Education.
Now the retired teachers would like to fill the seats of the little-known landmark with a larger number of visitors.
On Sundays, retired teachers don early American costume and wait for curious visitors to open the red wooden door. Or any visitor, for that matter.
Most of the time, the docents have no one to whom to recount the history of the school or show off the antique books and fixtures that fill its main room. The guest book goes weeks without being signed.
On a recent damp Sunday afternoon, Annapolis resident Rosamond H. Rice discovered the obscure landmark.
"I've lived here 30 years, and I didn't even know it existed," said Rice, a librarian who heard about it from her friends, Bob and Anne Donaldson - a couple who volunteer one Sunday each year as docents. "I came because I didn't know anything about it."
The Donaldsons - she is a former county teacher, he is a retired engineer - gave Rice a grand tour of the school and a slide show of its history, thrilled at having her visit.
One of 12 government-funded schools established in 1724 by the Maryland Free School Act, it was placed in the center of Anne Arundel County - which at that time was Davidsonville.
The teachers association has researched, rebuilt and maintained the landmark since its rescue.
Schoolhouse docent Howard N. Hall said the association set up three committees to take on the project - one focused on proving the authenticity of the structure through archeological digs and research, the second gathering antique furnishings and fixtures, and the third organizing programs for schools and visitors.
The only free school remaining in Maryland, it was originally surrounded by 150 acres of woodlands. Now the school on Lavall Drive, off Rutland Road, sits on a little more than an acre, surrounded by houses.
By 1991, after nearly 11 years of reconstruction, the schoolhouse had regained the look of its 1820s glory.
Retired Teachers Association member Martha L. Collison of Mayo remembered, "It was desolate and overrun and all of the windows were broken out. It really has been a remarkable change."
Now, with portions of the original fieldstone structure visible, the school is back in session - open for school groups year-round and to the public from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays from May to October, if only people will come.
Children can catch a glimpse of early school life, before recess and physical education classes. Young visitors can attend an hourlong class with benches, slates, antique reading books and a schoolmarm, Hall said.
Segelhorst said the Lavall community was hesitant about the area possibly getting flooded with tourists. "Initially we didn't want a tourist attraction within the community," said Segelhorst. "But now we are accepting of it and even proud."
The schoolhouse has gained importance in the neighborhood and the retirees' association.
"I think it is one of the best projects any retired teachers association could take on because it helps to preserve the educational history of the state," Hall said, noting that about 40 members volunteer to maintain and run the 276-year-old school during the visiting season.
Attracting visitors to the hidden treasure has become the priority, said association member Herb Sappington of Linthicum. "Many teachers don't even know about it."