Work wrapping up on one-room Cape schoolhouse

Tuesday, July 10, 2012
City planner Ryan Shrimplin examines some of the work that has been done on old Hanover Lutheran School. (ADAM VOGLER)

Floyd Petzoldt was initially against spending any money to fix up the old Hanover Lutheran School that is owned by his church. Then he took a drive past the 88-year-old one-room schoolhouse along Perryville Road last week and saw how some of the money had been spent.

That changed his mind.

"It didn't seem worth it to me at first," said Petzoldt, a longtime parishioner at Hanover Lutheran Church. "But look at it. It probably looks better than when it was first built."

Six weeks ago, it was less than certain that the parochial school built in 1924 would still be standing for long. The church was mulling tearing it down, despite the fact that it holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, along with the nearby former church building. The school, which educated area students until 1957, is one of America's declining number of old one-room schoolhouses. The city's Historic Preservation Commission had even named it to the city's endangered buildings list earlier this year.

But parishioners were faced with a quandary: The structure was in violation of three city codes, and some, such as Petzoldt, felt perhaps it was time to bring the building down.

On June 3, however, the church voted 31-12 in favor of saving the building and using $10,000 in donations to make repairs and keep it going as a heritage museum, meeting place and workshop for students interested in the bygone era of potbellied stoves, old wooden desks and two-mile walks to school. The structure still houses historic memorabilia, including mimeographs from the 1890s, turn-of-the-century school desks and Bibles written in German.

A month after the vote, the majority of the repairs have been made, including a new $8,000 roof that is asbestos-free, said Bonnie Kelpe, the chairwoman of the committee that oversees the 22-by-50-foot building. Roofers Stonewall Co. of Jackson completed the roof replacement and the only work that remains is some gutter replacement. Midwest Environmental Studies removed the asbestos, using up the other $2,000.

Once the gutters are replaced, Kelpe and other old Hanover supporters intend to give the school a scrubbing, as well as replace some of the doors and make other internal repairs. Some are volunteering to help: A local Boy Scout is considering helping repair stairs to the school's basement and some Girl Scouts have offered to do some landscaping.

"It's been so gratifying to see it all come together," Kelpe said.

City planner Ryan Shrimplin agreed, after he stopped by the site to see how the work is progressing. In December, city inspectors found that the school's roof, fascia, soffit and gutters were beginning to deteriorate. The property was found to be in violation of city codes, meaning it didn't meet the city's minimum property standards. The city sent a letter to church leaders, asking that the repairs be made.

While the building is still under city review until all the work is complete, Shrimplin said the problems seemed to have been addressed for the most part.

"The major violations appear to be remedied by the work that they've done," Shrimplin said. "I think it turned out well."

In August, Shrimplin said he will give the city's Historic Preservation Commission an update on the building that made the group's endangered buildings list. Shrimplin said the school offers a good example of a historic building that has been renovated with modern materials while maintaining its historic integrity.

He lamented that Kage School, another old one-room schoolhouse along Kage Road, continues to deteriorate.

"One-room schoolhouses seem to be on the brink of extinction," Shrimplin said. "It's nice to have this one headed in the right direction. I think this is a success."

Former Old Hanover student Harold Phillips said he would have hated to see the building come down that also houses so many memories for hundreds of other former students.

"It would have been a part of history that would have been gone," Phillips said. "I'm glad they kept it."


Pertinent address:

2949 Perryville Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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