Sunday, October 4, 2015

Austinville Public School

I've always enjoyed looking through photos of abandoned buildings.  Unfortunately (or rather fortunately)  since I'm not a detective, secret agent, [or bad guy], I don't end up in old empty warehouses or houses with squeaking doors, falling axes, secret tunnels underneath, and wind blowing through broken window panes very often.
One place, however, which I had wanted to tour since early this year when I visited the Austinville Historical Society  and heard stories of  the town's many bank robberies, defiance of a presidential mandate, attempted burial of an effigy, and wild softball games, was the public school where these colorful Austinville citizens studied and/or sent their children.
The Music Room
When school districts were consolidated in the area around my home, some old schools were left vacant, including the public school in Austinville, Iowa.  It was built in 1916, and served the community until 1968 or '69, according to local man Larry Harken, who attended the school from 6th to 8th grade.  Mr. Harken remembers riding his horse, a Palomino named Trigger (after Roy Roger's horse), to school on more than one occasion.    
A Classroom
His family bought the school in 1981, and used it for their lumber and construction business.  During the 1984 financial crisis, the bank foreclosed on them.  They were kicked out on a Wednesday at 2 pm.  He recalls that when he asked the bank why they chose to foreclose on them, the bank told him that they knew they could get their money from him.  Other farmers and business owners were in so deep that even if the bank foreclosed they wouldn't get hardly anything.
Later, the building was used by a golf cart business and a type of nursery.  Now the church owns it.  For a while they used a room downstairs as a Sunday School room.  But now it's becoming a liability and will soon be bulldozed.  
Before that is done, however, Mr. Harken's job is to salvage everything useful from the building.  He's taken out most of the old chalkboards, and is working on the lumber. 
A classroom is shown above.  Part of what used to be the gym/basketball court is below left.  Bottom right is the room the church used as a Sunday School for a while.  They painted one wall with very bright colors.
 
 The first photo here is where students used to hang their coats.  The chalkboards were most recently used for alumni to sign in when they visited.
The schoolhouse grounds had plenty of room for a recess area with slides and the like, and if I understood correctly, what now is the cornfield across the street used to be the softball field.
I'm sure this old clock would attest that time is fleeting.  The photo on the left is of the Austinville marching band in its glory (you can click the photo to enlarge).
I'd very much like to thank Mr. Harken for the fascinating tour, and for the work he is doing to save the old chalkboards and whatever can be salvaged from the building.  It was wonderful to hear his stories from when he attended school here.  And I'm finally able to check off "touring an abandoned building" from my mental bucket list!

24 comments:

  1. Bethany it was a nice school But now in a bad condition what a pity..

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    1. It happens. Around here new schools are being built and old ones torn down all the time. Everyone seems to want things to be new and improved.

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  2. Interesting, and I am glad an effort is being made to recycle some of the things from the building's history. xx

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    1. Yes, Mr. Harken is trying to make sure nothing useful goes to waste.

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  3. he's had a lot of history with that place. bless him. just sad to see things just 'left' there in place.

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    1. It is kind of strange to see things that were left behind. There's one abandoned house out in the country on one of the gravel roads that still has an old car parked there and children's swing sets (or the like) outside...it's like the inhabitants were raptured.

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  4. A shame to see so many things being wasted.

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    1. He's trying to salvage as much as possible.

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  5. Very interesting--and how cool that you were able to tour the building with someone who was actually there for a good chunk of its history!

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    1. Yes, I was so grateful for the opportunity!

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  6. I find old and abandoned building very interesting too. It was nice to tour with someone who had spent so much time there. Thanks for sharing this one!

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  7. Isn't that sad to see those old buildings fall into disrepair and become just a jumble of brick, stone and wood in the end? I am glad you were able to see it...and talk with someone that had a good, solid connection to the building. I am glad he is able to salvage some of it. xo Diana

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    1. Yes, it was a real treat! I am so thankful he let me in to see the building. So many people are so concerned about liability and people getting hurt and suing (and with good reason) that they don't let people see some neat places.

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  8. What an interesting find! Nice write up and group of photos to showcase this nearly 100 year old school building.

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  9. I LOVE this! This is definitely a top favourite photography theme of mine. I really enjoy touring abandoned places and learning about their history. Your images are terrific and so is your write up. You must have been thrilled as you walked around and snapped these shots. I would hardly be able to contain myself :)

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  10. What a tour!!! I also enjoy abandoned buildings and my dream is to visit Chernobyl! Thank you for this post, I really enjoyed it! Love, Liuba x

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    1. Chernobyl would be interesting. On first thought, I'd be hesitant to visit...but I see that the Chernobyl tour website assures visitors that the places they will be taken on the tour are safe.

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  11. Such a great tour, Bethany! How sad to see it abandoned and in decay. Here in Montreal the schools that close down usually become something else, like a housing facility, for example. We have had a few abandoned movie theaters, but thankfully they got torn down, because they ended up being inhabited by pigeons and squatters and had become potentially dangerous to people.

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    1. Well, people tried to keep this building going--first Mr. Harken with his lumber business, and later the folks who owned the golf-cart company--but it just didn't work out. The old schoolhouse in Steamboat Rock, another neighboring town, has fared better. When I first moved here it was full of shops, a really neat place for a child to tour! Now all the upstairs shops have closed. But downstairs in what was probably the cafeteria, there's a Mexican restaurant, Mama's Family Diner. A back room is apparently used for city counsel meetings, and another room is sort of a community gym.

      Glad most of the schools in your area are put to good use after they close.

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