This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Newton Township School

Several weeks ago I received the following letter in my rensselaeradventures at mailbox:

Hello, my name is ----- and I recently discovered your blogs about the Rensselaer area. I wanted to see if you could help me find out some information on a few things I found in rural Rensselaer.

My biggest hobby is finding, exploring, and photographing abandoned buildings. Within the last month I've found 2 abandoned schools in Rensselaer, and I'm not talking about one room farm house schools, either. The first school I found is south of the city on state road 16, just west of the highway. It's a fairly large one story township school with "Jordan Township School" carved above the windows in stone. The left side is somewhat damaged, with an entire classroom (complete with chalkboards and hanging light fixtures) floor caved in with a large amount of junk in it. The right side appears to be a cafeteria or gymnasium. The land is scattered with new looking farm equipment, with what appears to be a makeshift large garage door on the side wall of the cafeteria/gym that's probably used for storing farm equipment. The building is locked, at least as much as it can be. The easiest ways in are far too damaged to even try.

The second, and much more impressive school in my opinion, is located northwest of the city on the corner of where county roads 200 and 1000 intersect. There are only 2 or so houses near by. It seems an odd place for a school as it is VERY isolated. However, this school is open to walk into, although I believe it's private property. It is a large, square brick building, with no main floor. It's well hidden by trees. When you walk in, you either go down or up. For the most part the school is barren, save for an ancient piano in a giant double classroom upstairs. There is a clear plaque on the front of the building bearing the name "Newton Township, and the year it was built (1923) along with the officials involved in it, including an architect by the name of Sam'L Young.

I can't seem to find any information on these schools at all, so I figured that you might know who to talk to. I noticed that you write a good amount of historical material about Rensselaer, so I believe that these abandoned schools might be somewhat significant. I have many pictures of each school if you'd like to see.

Thanks for any information you might be able to find!

I answered as best I could and he sent some pictures that he said I could use.
This second picture is one I took in October 2005. It is my only picture of the school, and at the time I did not think of going in.
The cornerstone(?) says
Erected 1923
Newton Township
Marion Freeland Trustee
Advisory Board Philip Paulus C.A. HuntingtonW.B. Walter
Sam'l Young Arch't
L.E. Wickersham Cont'r
The Jasper County Interim Report rates it notable and adds "Although it lies vacant today, the structure retains its original building materials." It also gives some background on how schools evolved. The initial schools were usually one-room district schools.
Consolidation of district schools into township schools began in the years before World War I. Better roads and motor transportation led to the creation of centralized all-grade schools; one by one the single room schools closed, were abandoned, or converted into homes, barns, or sheds. The larger township schools were often located in the center of the township or in the closest town.

Consolidation of the township schools began in the 1960s. Some of the older schools were kept as elementary schools, but most closed their doors forever.

This seems to be a different stair case than the one above.

Here is more information about the building, this from the "Guide to Historic Structures and Points of Interest of Jasper County," a brochure published by the Historic Preservation Association of Jasper County in 2007.
The four room building, of typical rural school architecture, still has it bell tower and original walls. It is rated as notable in the Inventory but has been vacant since it was closed after the 1962-3 school year. Considerable uncontrolled overgrowth jeopardizes the structure and it is listed on the 2007 Ten Most Endangered List.
Below is a close up of the piano

Any readers have more information or memories of this school?

(I will post the pictures of the old Jordan Township school in a future blog. And maybe I will finally get around to doing something with all the Drexel Hall pictures I have--more pictures showing what happens when a building is abandoned.)

(most pictures provided and used with permission)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago, I asked about Abandoned School Houses at the Historical Society (near Ricks Pizza) and I was provided a map of several. They are open every Saturday, and the map was free. They might be able to give you some additional information.