Strait Run School restored

LOWELL-One year after high winds blew a huge pine tree onto the historic Strait Run School, the one-room schoolhouse on Lowell’s Buell Island has been repaired.

“It was like the tree had been picked up and slammed down onto the schoolhouse roof,” said Lowell resident Terry Schwendemann who was among several volunteers who helped repair the facility.

He said the force of the impact broke portions of roof trusses built with heavy-duty 2×6-inch lumber.

On June 29, 2012, a powerful derecho windstorm swept through the Mid-Ohio Valley, downing trees and utility poles and leaving thousands of residents without power for weeks.

Lowell Historial Society president Steve Weber checked on the damaged 150-year-old schoolhouse shortly after the storm.

“The pine tree in back of the building had just snapped in half and fell onto the school,” he said. “The building was broken like a toy.”

Steve’s son, Doug Weber, said the damage was heavy to the structure’s slate roof and back wall.

“But it didn’t hit the school bell tower or damage the chimney,” he said. “Repairing the slate roof wasn’t hard to do, but it would have been a different story if the roof had to be replaced.”

He explained the original slate roofing tiles were cut 14 by 24 inches, while modern slate tiles are 12 by 24 inches.

Steve said he and fellow Lowell Historical Society member Earl Smith repaired the slate roof, whild Jeff and Jarrod Lang, owners of Lowell Homebuilders, worked on the rest of the structure.

“The Langs did a great job-the whole backside of the building was busted all to heck,” Steve said.

Doug said the building was so twisted that the Langs had to wrap straps around the structure and pull them tight in order to bring the walls of the building back in line.

“Then they installed steel strips to reinforce all four corners of the building to keep it from shifting again,” he said. “And Fred Brooker repaired the back windows-they were all twisted and broken.”

Steve said the building was insured, and estimated the repairs have cost around $20,000.

“I knew we could do this, but we didn’t know how long it would take to restore the school building,” he said. “It took about a month to complete the repair work, and most of it has been done in June this year.”

More than 40 volunteers from the community have assisted with the effort.

“We couldn’t have done it without them,” Steve said.

He said there’s still some painting and other restoration to complete inside the schoolhouse, but everything should be ready in time for the Lowell community’s annual Octoberfest this fall.

“It will probably take the rest of the summer to get the interior and exterior painted, and then we’ll re-hang the pictures on the walls and put the oil lamps back in,” Steve said.

The one-room schoolhouse was located in a field along Strait Run near Lowell until 1994 when the historical society decided to move the building to its present location on Buell Island.

Since then several hundred people visit the schoolhouse every year-many during the Lowell Springfest and Octoberfest when the building is left open for tours. Other times of the year tours are offered by appointment only, Steve said.

Originally constructed in 1859, the Strait Run School was one of 15 to 20 one-room schoolhouses located in Adams Township alone.

Steve said teachers at the time would have lived with local farm families and taught classes of 20 to 30 students in first through eighth grades.

To help maintain the facility the historical society sells engraved memorial bricks that are placed in a walkway in front of the schoolhouse. Names engraved on those bricks include some of the school’s former teachers and students.

“We’re still selling the bricks to anyone who would like to help support preservation of the schoolhouse,” Steve said.