Stow Historical Society has a shot at saving the city’s last viable one-room schoolhouse – if it can raise $45,000 before Dec. 1 to stave off demolition by moving the building for the second time in its 130-year history.
The early 1880s Stewart Corners School is currently located at 5090 Young Road, where it has served as Green Valley United Baptist Church for about the past 45 years.
Church trustees sold the property in early January to Metro Parks, Serving Summit County for use as a parking lot for its adjacent hike and bike trail. The parks system is willing to donate the building – but only if it’s moved by Dec. 1.
The historical society has launched a fundraising campaign to move the old schoolhouse a short distance down Young Road to Heritage Reserve Park, home of its other three historic structures/museums, which is located within Silver Springs Park.
The organization’s annual Harvest Festival – on Saturday and Sunday at Heritage Reserve Park – will feature a presentation at the Stewart’s Corner schoolhouse. Transportation to the site will be available via wagon from the festival grounds starting at 12:30 p.m., with the program set for 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday.
A gift of history
Bob Flower, historical society president, said Metro Parks officials called Stow city officials in February offering to donate the historic wood-frame structure for use elsewhere. A Stow official then shared the offer with the historical society.
Flower said he was among a group of city officials and society members who toured the building “to see if it really was as advertised. You don’t want to get all excited about something that isn’t really historic.”
The building turned out to be the real deal – the original 26- by 36-foot portion of the structure served as Stewart Corners School from the early 1880s until it closed in 1906 when Stow Township schools were consolidated.
Flower said the historical society believes it is just one of three former one-room schoolhouses remaining of the eight to 10 that served Stow at the turn of the 20th Century. And it’s the only one that truly has a shot at full restoration.
“As far as we know there are two others in Stow but they are integrated with residential dwellings and couldn’t easily be restored into a one-room schoolhouse as this one, relatively speaking, can be,” Flower explained.
He appointed a special committee to evaluate the feasibility and costs of moving the building onto a new foundation in nearby Heritage Park. The group determined that part of the project would cost $45,000, and another $30,000 would be needed for renovations.
“Our long-term goal is to re-create the look of an original one-room schoolhouse,” Flower explained.
The building’s backstory
Call Road resident Fred Hanson is very familiar with the old schoolhouse as it was built on his family’s land and used by his family for farm tool storage for about 50 years.
The family home is situated at the northwest corner of Young and Call roads, opposite of where the former schoolhouse sat on the southwest corner – also Hanson family land (now Fox Den Golf Course). Hanson said the Hanson and Stewart families were intertwined through marriage, thus the name Stewart Corners School.
The historical society has determined the schoolhouse was constructed between 1880-85 to replace its brick predecessor, said Flower. When Stow Township Centralized School was built in 1906 at the corner of Graham and Darrow Roads, where Stow City Hall now sits, the township’s eight to 10 one-room schoolhouses in use at the time were closed.
Fred Hanson Sr. – one of the last students to attend Stewart Corners School – used the building for storage until the mid-1950s, when he was approached about leasing it out as a church.
According to a circa-1957 newspaper article, the Rev. James H. Page of the United Baptist Church of Tallmadge saw the building and visualized its possibilities as a church and the Hanson family agreed to lease it to out. The article said the building’s exterior was in fairly good condition, but that the interior would need “considerable work.”
“The old school desks were removed years ago, and only some old ‘black board’ and the cloak rooms suggest its history as a ‘little red school house,’ a phase of Ohio history which is rapidly being lost in this age of centralized education,” the article noted.
In about 1966, Fred Hanson Sr. was approached about leasing out the property on which the former school building sat for the creation of Fox Den Fairways Golf Course. He offered the structure to the historical society if members could raise funds to move it, but it ended up being purchased by Green Valley United Baptist Church.
According to a circa-1967 newspaper article, the former schoolhouse was moved about 800 feet north on Young Road to make way for Fox Den’s second tee. The one-acre parcel the old schoolhouse was placed on was bought by the Baptist church from Fred Hanson Sr.
Today, Fred Hanson Jr. is employed as superintendent of the city-owned golf course. Thanks to his family’s history with the land, Hanson knows that the barn stones lining the golf course’s main parking lot originally served as the schoolhouse foundation.
“I would really like to see the city donate those barn stones to the project so they can somehow be utilized at the new site,” Hanson said.
A request for donations
Money isn’t the only thing the historical society needs or wants for its schoolhouse project. The organization is seeking old photographs of the school and its students, as well as items used in one-room schoolhouses.
Flower said he’s heard from some Hanson family members who have items, including desks, from Stewart Corners School that they’d be willing to donate if the project comes to fruition.
Anyone with questions about the old schoolhouse project can call Bob Flower at 330-688-5888.
Donations can be sent to: Old Schoolhouse Fund, Stow Historical Society, P.O. Box 1425, Stow OH 44224.