By Kristy Hansen
Before modern facilities characterized standards of academic excellence, the one-room schoolhouse was the heart of education.
Fort Hays State University will open doors into the past on Saturday, July 3, from 3-5 p.m. when the Plymouth Schoolhouse will welcome students, faculty and visitors alike. Refreshments will be provided through free-will donations.
FHSU's Plymouth Schoolhouse, dedicated on Sept. 22, 1979, was originally located on the Francis Kaufman farm in eastern Russell County. Moving and rebuilding of the historical landmark was first conceived in 1975 at a Phi Delta Kappa leadership conference in Salina. Nancy Vogel, Bill Claflin, and Allan Miller presented the idea to the conference as a potential project for the chapter to undertake. Miller was appointed project director and a small committee was organized to narrow the list of more than 30 possible school buildings to 10. The Garvey Foundation of Wichita underwrote expenses for the project.
Plymouth School was selected out of the final pool of 10 for four major reasons: it was constructed of post rock limestone, it was the oldest school, it was close to major highways for easy truck access, and it had nearly complete records and a history, written by Loretta Doubrava.
Two years later, relocation of Plymouth School house began stone by stone as a total of 3,000 stones were individually marked, removed from the building, and loaded onto trucks loaned by Van Doren Industries. Phi Delta Kappa, aided by local professionals, erected the school building using original materials, with the exception of slate board taken from the old Rarick Hall building to be used as a blackboard, replacing the original smoothed plaster board accented by a wood frame. More than 200 individuals were directly involved in the restoration process, which included farmers, legislators and college professors.
Miller said that community spirit made the project a success and continues to make it a living monument to our pioneering ancestors and the frontiersmen of tomorrow, "our children." The key to their future, he said, is in understanding the past.
More than 1,000 visitors per year tour Plymouth Schoolhouse, now complete with four rows of wood and wrought-iron desks, an easel filled with maps, a teacher's desk located at the front of the room, and a pot-bellied stove. Donated by Malcolm Shaw, Wilson, the stove is an exact replica of the original. To top off the schoolhouse's historical features, an enhanced media presentation titled "Education: Our Heritage on the Great Plains," can be viewed by guests.
Plymouth Schoolhouse is located on the FHSU campus across from Tomanek Hall. It is hoped that the public, faculty and students will take advantage of the opportunity to visit the landmark and rediscover our educational heritage on the High Plains of Kansas.