The long and gradual wave of school consolidation has seen the old-fashioned one-room country schools in Juneau County close. Some have been abandoned and demolished, and others converted to utilitarian use.
A handful of those old buildings have been restored and preserved. One of those buildings is a few miles west of New Lisbon, in the middle of Juneau County cornfields.
The Lone Rock School, located a short distance from the Lone Rock Baptist Church, is being renovated in an effort led by that church’s members and pastor. They’re returning the more than century-old school to its original appearance inside and out because they have too many good memories of the school to let them go.
“We want to keep the school for the next generation; it’s part of the history in this area,” said Pastor Ray Anderson of the Lone Rock Baptist Church.
After the building was no longer used as a school it became the Lone Rock town hall, but when that ended, the building became dilapidated. It was once slated for demolition before Anderson decided to restore it.
“A large number of people were interested. We don’t want it to become an eyesore,” said Lois Scott, one of the leaders of the restoration effort, who attended the final classes at the school.
With fresh white paint coating the exterior the school building looks much as it did when it was open, but the project is unfinished, including the building’s interior.
The Lone Rock School stayed open through the mid-1960s before it was closed and its students reassigned to New Lisbon Schools, much the same fate that occurred to schools in neighboring Hustler. While the main school in Hustler was lost to fire and never rebuilt, the Lone Rock School remained standing, avoiding demolition by a few feet when a road garage was constructed 100 feet away.
The old neglected building managed to survive Wisconsin’s harsh winters and the annual invasion of bats that roosted in its unused chimney. One of the first steps toward restoring the building was to evict the bats and close the chimney opening.
Another step was to remove the school’s original wooden steps. In an era before schools were built with the school house floor near ground level to accommodate gently sloped ramps for the handicapped, the Lone Rock School was constructed with its main floor about 6 feet above the ground, supported by a brick foundation.
The elevated floor eased the chore of loading coal and firewood into a chute at the back of the building, an opening that also was elevated to keep workers from needing to shovel snow from the opening. Snow probably piled high next to a building that had no wind breaks in the middle of open fields.
The chute door, made by the Roenius Foundry of Grand Rapids, carries the date of November 7, 1905, and bears the characteristic Roenius cross-hatched pattern.
The most impressive and meaningful metal work at the school is the old bell, which has lasted through the decades in good shape. The bell tower and its rigging have been restored and the bell rings as it did when school was open.
Last year there was a fundraising walk for the restoration project and more events will be held this year, including the sale of polo shirts embroidered with an image of the school.