In recent decades, a realtor, homebuilder and pediatricians had their offices nestled into the building near Smokey Row Road and State Road 135.
Multiple renovations by those owners hide the building’s original use: a single-room schoolhouse, known in the 1800s and 1900s as School No. 6 in White River Township.
Memories of the schoolhouse will soon be relegated to pictures. The building is scheduled to be demolished by March 28 to make way for a state road construction project to improve safety at the intersection, state department of transportation spokesman Harry Maginity said.
The one-room schoolhouse was believed to be originally built in 1876, but the wood structure was torn down and replaced with a brick building in 1889, according to a history of the building that former teacher and student Emma Smith wrote that was published in Nostalgia News by the Johnson County Museum of History.
Students from first through eighth grade were greeted in the school by a blackboard that spanned the west wall, with numbers and the alphabet written out.
A potbelly stove sat on each side of the schoolhouse, keeping students warm once they walked in through the opening coat room, Smith wrote.
“We entered the room at the sound of the hand bell,” Smith wrote. “The teacher stood in the doorway, with her long white apron, tied on with long white streamers in the back.”
The last class in the schoolhouse was in 1905, and what it was used for over the next 50 to 60 years is unclear, according to information from the county museum.
Francis Whitaker, owner of Big Red Realty, bought the property in the late 1970s.
The building was in disrepair and was previously used for grain storage, Whitaker said at the time.
The phrase ‘Learn to think’ had been carved into a wall and was one of the only indications of the building’s prior use, said Whitaker, who added a porch to the schoolhouse and divided the building into four offices, before selling the property to Dan Nichols in 1982.
Nichols said he purchased the property for its convenient location on State Road 135.
He gutted the building, adding a second story and wing onto the south side. He remembered the walls of the schoolhouse were four bricks deep, blocking out sound and weather, Nichols said.
“There was a tornado that came through Stones Crossing in the 1980s, and I never heard it because the walls were so thick,” Nichols said.
An insurance agent later had office space in the schoolhouse before Old Schoolhouse Pediatrics bought the property.
The doctor’s office sold the land and the building to the state for the road construction project. The intersection has now become dangerous with increased traffic.
A 2010 traffic study showed more than 20,000 vehicles pass through the intersection daily.
The intersection does not have a stoplight and is near a hill, and has been the site of multiple accidents when drivers try to turn onto or make it across State Road 135.
After the property was purchased by the state, grass reached 2 feet high over the summer on the southern corners of the intersection, creating a hazard for drivers attempting to cross the two-way stop on Smokey Row Road.
Now, the building is being torn down to create space for the additional lanes and stoplight that will be added.
Construction on the intersection is expected to begin later this spring and should finish this year, Maginity said.