Former student moves, will restore historic schoolhouse

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Stony Point Schoolhouse, moved recently from the land where it stood since the 1800s, will be saved by a former student with plans to restore it.

Power lines were raised and the schoolhouse settled on a new foundation on a 120-acre farm owned by Rae Jeanne Kilberger, 85, at 6304 Ellis Rd. NW in Cedar Rapids. Kilberger attended the school for two years as a seventh- and eighth-grader in 1948-50, and wants to see the historical building being given new life.

Kilberger said she plans to restore the schoolhouse to how she remembers it when she went to school there, including replacing the windows, refinishing the floor and repairing the water-damaged walls and roof.

“There’s not many (one-room schoolhouses) around,” Kilberger told the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “I really believe kids today need to learn how it was to have eight grades under one teacher.”

Stony Point schoolhouse was built on the corner of what is now Stoney Point Road old Highway 94 (Covington Road and F Avenue NW) on a farm later acquired in the early 1900s by Frank and Ida Davis. The Davis family kept the school and grounds in good condition, letting church and civic groups use the property for meetings and social events.

The Davis family still owns the property where the schoolhouse originally sat. Laurie Church, co-owner of the property with her sister, Vicki Davis, said she hates to see the old school move but is glad it will be restored.

Church said she painted the schoolhouse and put a new sign out front years ago, but the building was constantly vandalized. “I hope it’s a little more protected now,” she said.

Kilberger said she doesn’t care about the expense of relocating and restoring the school. “Fortunately, I have the money to pay for it,” she said.

Cindy Hadish, a board member for the historic preservation group Save CR Heritage, which was not involved in the move, estimates the cost of moving the schoolhouse to be about $25,000. Other expenses would include hiring Alliant Energy to raise power lines for the building to be moved, building a new foundation for the school and hiring the Sheriff’s department to escort the building, she said.

“At one point in time, there were hundreds of these schoolhouses dotting the landscape of Iowa, and now we’re down to the very last few,” Hadish said. “It’s important to save what we have left.”

Kilberger recalls walking to Stony Point for school. Every day, a student would get a bucket of water that would be shared by everyone and used all day for drinking and hand washing.

It wasn’t until Kilberger went to Roosevelt High School, where she graduated in 1954 — now Roosevelt Creative Corridor Business Academy — that she had toilet paper for the first time. At Stony Point, the students’ restroom was an outhouse and their toilet paper was magazines, Kilberger said.

Kilberger was raised by her maternal grandparents, who purchased the 120 acres on which she still lives off Ellis Road NW from her fraternal grandparents in the mid-1900s. She built the house she now lives in, along with her grandfather and a few neighbors.

To prepare for the schoolhouse to be rehabilitated, Kilberger has collected about 20 school desks from the early 1900s, including a teacher’s desk and recitation bench built in 1901 where students would sit and recite their lessons in front of the class. She also acquired an 1876 brass bell from a one-room schoolhouse from Atkinson, Ill., that will be hung in the Stony Point bell tower.

Stony Point schoolhouse was a site for political gatherings in the 1870s, according to The Gazette’s archives. When classes weren’t in session in the one-story school, it also served as a church, a Sunday school and a place for community celebrations.

It was the last country school in Linn County when it closed in 1959, and students began attending Cedar Rapids schools, according to The Gazette’s archives.

The school and its contents were sold at auction Dec. 7, 1959. C. Russell Davis bought the building for $1,500, and the land automatically reverted to Davis as its original owner. In the days of one-room country schools, farmers often allowed schools to be built on their land with the understanding the land would revert to them when the school was no longer in use, according to The Gazette’s archives.

The school was renovated and used as the campaign headquarters for Richard Rawson’s 1978 run for the Iowa House.

Somewhere along the way, the neighborhood that grew up around the school added an “e” to the Stony name. The road where the schoolhouse sat until Monday is now identified as “Stoney Point.”

Clark “Bud” Derhammer, 81, sat in his car Monday watching the schoolhouse be towed down Ellis Road NW, where he also once attended school.

Kilberger is “bringing this back to life,” Derhammer said. “Give her a little time. It’ll take time to restore that, because it’s pretty well tore up.”

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