The old schoolhouse has been a fixture between two Franklin schools for almost two decades.

Since the Dollen’s schoolhouse was moved between Needham and Webb elementary schools in Franklin, hundreds of students have visited the building.

Classes are taught there by a teacher dressed in period clothing from when the school was built between 1850 and 1870, and guest speakers are brought in to talk to classes.

The building has been used for PTO holiday events, one-on-one tutoring, weddings, a high school graduation open house and as a reward for students who did well on a statewide reading exam.

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“The kids being able to have exposure to the schoolhouse helps connect it back to their past,” said Kent Pettet, former Needham Elementary School principal.

The schoolhouse was originally built in the Bargersville area in the mid 1800s, said Delbert Cragen, former principal at Needham Elementary School.

Children who lived in the area of State Roads 144 and 135, where the school house was built, learned reading, writing and arithmetic in that building for about 60 years, Cragen said.

Then, in 1910, a larger schoolhouse was built, and the Dollen’s schoolhouse was no longer needed, he said.

Community members found other uses for it and turned the building into a blacksmith shop and finally a house. When the Franklin school district got the house, no one was living there, Cragen said.

Volunteers cleared weeds and debris from around the schoolhouse, and a company from Kentucky helped move it to a clearing behind the two elementary schools. Classes have used the schoolhouse since it was moved in 1998.

The goal was to have a schoolhouse that could teach students about history and could be a community building, Cragen said. But officials also saw how other school districts used similar buildings for field trips, rewards and classes.

“We wanted it to be used for the atmosphere of it,” he said.

Classes are one of the largest users of the schoolhouse, Pettet said.

Teachers will use a morning in the schoolhouse as an incentive to do well, he said. New teachers at Franklin schools get a tour of the schoolhouse as part of their orientation, he said.

A few years ago, when bathrooms were installed next to the schoolhouse, that allowed students to stay for an extended amount of time, he said. A nature walk was also built near the schoolhouse, and a totem pole.

“For students, it was very exciting to go out there and be in a schoolhouse,” he said.  “It was probably used every week for one class or another.”

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Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2770.