Pilot Point volunteer working with city on plan to restore Bloomfield Schoolhouse
Chris Aquinaldo climbed a ladder to check out how the roof of the Bloomfield Schoolhouse is supported.
At some point in its 130-year history, the one-room schoolhouse was moved, and the top half of its roof was taken off.
“They have scabbed the roof rafters back together, which makes it a little more difficult to work with,” Aquinaldo said. “From what I’m seeing, the attic area is just completely full of makeshift supports to help hold the roof up.”
A contractor specializing in home remodeling and the chairman of the Pilot Point Historic Review Board, Aquinaldo has been tapped by city leaders as part of a plan to fix structural problems that have kept the schoolhouse closed for more than three years.
“I see a lot of potential,” Aquinaldo said. “It’s still got for the most part good bones. We’ve already met with the foundation experts. They said there is some rot. But for all intents and purposes, it is in very good shape considering the age of the structure.”
Pilot Point City Manager Alan Guard presented the plan to fix the schoolhouse at the City Council’s regular meeting last week. If the structural problems can be repaired, the plan calls for a barn raising volunteer effort to paint and further beautify the building so it can again be used for living history educational programs.
“That might be a way for us to have that thing open and running by the spring,” Guard said. “We’re looking at doing this barn raising thing when it is cool in October or November.”
City staff identified $38,000 in bond proceeds from 2011 that can be used to purchase materials needed to fix the schoolhouse foundation and roof, Guard said.
As of Tuesday, Aquinaldo was still pricing out the cost to determine how far that money would go.
“I think it will surprisingly get us pretty far,” Aquinaldo said. “I think the structural part of it, we could easily do for under $25,000.”
A previous estimate provided to the city for the repairing and painting of the building totaled $167,000, but Guard received a second opinion from Mike Doughty, the city’s chief building inspector.
“Mike Doughty said a lot of this stuff is overkill,” Guard said. “You could reinforce the structure of the roof differently. You could do the foundation differently. The cost was much, much, much less.”
After he received Doughty’s recommendations, Guard reached out to Aquinaldo and asked him to serve as the professional leading the effort.
“Chris wants to be involved with the community,” Guard said. “So, I think he’ll bring a lot of enthusiasm to it and do a good job of recruiting people to come help.”
With his contacts in the construction industry, Aquinaldo said, he will be able to find lumber that works well for the project.
“And we’re working with all of our vendors to cut profits out of it and do it more as a goodwill gesture,” Aquinaldo said. “That way, we can kind of give back to the city and help with this without it being financially irresponsible or not doable.”
The Bloomfield Schoolhouse was built in 1889 after a tornado swept through the town of Bloomfield and destroyed its previous school buildings, according to the Denton County Office of History and Culture.
A center for community life, the building served both as a school and church. It hosted spelling bees, plays, holiday parties and farm labor union meetings.
The building faced inundation with the creation of Ray Roberts Lake, so it was given to the University of North Texas and moved to Denton.
It was moved to its current location next to the Pilot Point Community Library in 1996 and opened as an historic living schoolhouse in 2004. Until it was closed for repairs in 2016, it hosted hundreds of schoolchildren from Denton County schools every year.
“If you built this building with today’s materials, it would not have lasted a fraction of the time this one has,” Aquinaldo said. “I think it is important to the entire county and probably surrounding counties. And so, I think the volunteer effort could be even more than Pilot Point citizens.”
At the City Council meeting last week, Guard also spoke about the future of the city-owned Ice House building on Main Street near The Square. Previously used for storage, it has been mostly cleaned out, Guard said, though it needs new windows and repairs to its eaves.
“I’d like to have a town hall meeting to discuss how we will use it,” Guard said.
Residents Francis and Marie Vidil, for instance, have expressed interest in using the building to age wine. Another person has talked to the city about using the building as a restaurant. Setting up the building as a public bathroom was a particularly great suggestion, Guard said.
“We get a lot of requests from people on The Square who want us to build a bathroom,” he said. “I personally don’t think we want a bathroom on The Square. But just off The Square could work really well.”
Long term, Guard said, the area around the Ice House could also be used for a farmers market.
Council member Jim Porter said he supported the idea of holding a town hall meeting so the public can provide input. Mayor Shea Dane-Patterson said she agreed bathrooms at the Ice House would fill a need for The Square.
“I like the idea of a farmers market,” Dane-Patterson said. “You could do it once a month. It ties back in historically to what Pilot Point was with farmers and ranchers.”