Showing its age
The Bloomfield Schoolhouse in Pilot Point, a popular destination for student field trips, is closed following an inspection of its structural integrity that found the 133-year-old building cannot be safely occupied.
The city owns the building, and council members heard a presentation on its condition during a meeting on June 13. City Manager John Dean ordered all keys be turned in the next day to Lenette Cox, director of the Main Street program, which oversees the schoolhouse.
The council briefly discussed options to repair the historic structure including contacting the Denton County Office of History and Culture for suggestions.
Cox called the director of that office, Peggy Riddle, who worked this week exploring options but has not yet made a recommendation. Riddle insisted the city contact her about any at-risk historic building after the 164-year-old Eddleman log cabin was demolished last month.
Howard Kimble, a volunteer at the schoolhouse, noticed some issues about two months ago and called in local contractor Glen Wood to inspect the building.
Wood told the council the building is leaning slightly backwards and to the side. The ceiling is sagging, and the wood in what are likely the original rafters is brittle and crumbling. Wood installed braces on the inside to support the ceiling.
“It’s been moved twice, and they didn’t do a real, real good job on fixing the rafters,” Wood said in an interview. “They took the top part of the roof off. They actually cut the top 6 feet of the roof off and then put it back on. The way they repaired it is not what I would have done.”
The schoolhouse was first moved after plans to build Ray Roberts Lake came to fruition. The Bloomfield Community, located about fives miles northwest of Pilot Point, was to be flooded when the lake’s dam was closed.
The 70-foot-long structure was relocated to the campus of North Texas State University, now the University of North Texas. After university plans to restore the schoolhouse fell through, the Bloomfield-Jones Cemetery Association raised money to move the building to Pilot Point, where some of Bloomfield’s former pupils still lived. The building was set up on property owned by the city at the corner of Washington and Division streets south of The Square.
Karen Allison volunteers at the schoolhouse and conducts the fieldtrips in the persona of an 1898 schoolmarm. She takes the kids through a typical turn-of-the-century school day, when students competed in ciphering matches and played flying Dutchman.
“I tell the students that when they come to Bloomfield School, we are going to take them back to the year 1898 when they will attend school as a pioneer boy or girl,” Allison said. “We make it authentic.”
No field trips are scheduled until October. If repairs are not complete by then, Allison will have to start cancelling classes.
Wood estimates a repair would cost $35,000 to $50,000.
“What I had planned was an engineered truss that would take everything off from the walls up,” Wood said.
Wood said he would have to replace the rafters and couldn’t save the original wood.
“It doesn’t hold a nail the way a new piece of wood does because it’s all dried out,” Wood said.
When the job is complete, Wood said, the historic building would last another 50 years.
“It would look just like it does right now from the outside,” he said. “It would not look any different, and the only thing that’s going to be different on the inside would be the ceiling.”