Folks are invited to help celebrate the preservation and restoration of a valuable piece of Addison Township history.
An open house will be held at the 19th-century Arnold School in Watershed Preserve Park, located at 5757 Rochester Rd., on Sunday, Oct. 22 from noon to 3 p.m.
There will be plenty of free food, live banjo music, old-fashioned games (including sack races and bobbing for apples) and ample opportunity to check out this historic structure and the unique artifacts contained within it.
Township Supervisor Bruce Pearson is urging people to come hungry.
“Leonard Market donated 300 hot dogs and buns. The Valero gas station donated 300 bags of chips and 300 bottles of pop and all the ice,” he said. “The Lakeville Cemetery Auxiliary donated their grill and they’re going to cook hot dogs for everybody.”
The open house is designed to thank everyone who was involved in saving and renovating the old schoolhouse, show the public exactly what’s been accomplished and expose them to some local history.
“History is my passion,” Pearson said. “Everybody needs to know history. They need to know where we all came from. The township just didn’t drop out of the sky.”
This quaint one-room schoolhouse, which used to be located at the northwest corner Lakeville and Hosner roads, educated generations of Addison children from the 1850s through the 1950s.
The next thing you know, the schoolhouse was purchased by the township for $1 in July 2009 and two months later, it made an 8-mile journey up the road to its new home in the 229-acre park, just north of Leonard.
Since then, it’s taken countless hours of labor and a long list of generous donors, who have given money, materials and services, to create what now greets park visitors.
“I’d say 75 percent of this project was donated,” Pearson said. “Basically, it was a community project. I just want to thank everybody who contributed. Everybody who helped out got a personal invitation (to the open house).”
Pearson turned the project into a personal mission. “It took a long time, but I said this is something I have to complete,” he said. “Every day, I made arrangements to get something done here.”
Pearson stressed the township could have never accomplished this without all the donors.
“The parking lot alone would have cost us probably over $100,000,” he said.
The schoolhouse wasn’t just restored to its former glory. It’s been transformed into a museum-like showplace.
Inside, visitors will find nine antique, wooden desks for students, a variety of old books, a portrait of President George Washington, an American flag containing 48 stars (which flew from 1912-59) and a map of the world from the 1950s.
There’s even a dunce cap perched upon a little wooden chair sitting in the corner – a reminder of what discipline used to be like in the olden days.
A couple of the student desks along with all the books and the American flag are all from the original Arnold School.
The teacher’s desk is a donation made in 2009. It was last used in 1954 at the Maple Grove School in Schoolcraft County’s Hiawatha Township in the Upper Peninsula.
“The only thing we’re missing is a potbelly stove and we’re looking for one,” Pearson noted.
The stove would simply be for decoration because the schoolhouse now has a modern heating system along with air conditioning.
Other non-school-related artifacts are on display such as post office boxes and a blacksmith’s anvil and tools, all from Lakeville’s past.
Pearson envisions students from Leonard Elementary and other schools visiting the Arnold schoolhouse on field trips to learn about everything from history to nature.
“They can walk right out into the park and see firsthand what they just learned about,” he said. “Our (14 park) rangers are all very well-versed on the natural aspects of the park. It’s just a gem. You go back there and you think you’re in the 1800s, among the first settlers here, because there’s nothing out there.”
Pearson said the schoolhouse could also be used for weddings and small gatherings.
To prevent the historic building from being vandalized or having items within it stolen, it will not be left open for anyone to access at any time.
Visitors who wish to tour the schoolhouse will have to either make an appointment to do so or ask one of the park rangers that’s on duty to see it.