Column: Historic real estate for sale in Little Rock TownshipWORTHINGTON — John Honken wants me to buy the old Little Rock Township Hall, which is an historic Little Rock country school.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — John Honken wants me to buy the old Little Rock Township Hall, which is an historic Little Rock country school.
I say, “No. Thank you.” I was standing beside the school. “I only stopped to take some pictures. I really don’t want to buy this.”
Here’s the thing: John said you may buy the school, whoever you are. Now the ball is in your court. No reason why you can’t move the building to your backyard and (maybe) operate it as a country school museum. If you are ready to buy, John Honken and his wife live the first place east of the school, on the south side of Nobles County CSAH 6.
John says few records of the Little Rock school were kept. “There is nothing to say when it started but we guess it goes back to the 1890s. It’s more than 100 years old.”
John takes out a tape measure and begins measuring the east wall. “I think it’s 36-feet square.” It is. Thirty-six feet no inches and square as ever a building can be.
“The wood I believe is fir. It came from — oh, State of Washington. The school was all pre-cut, like those houses people used to order from Montgomery Ward or Sears. All they had to do was put it up when they got it here.”
The Little Rock school has several fine architectural features which were not found in many country schools.
Most of the back wall, which is the east wall, is comprised of seven large windows. It must have been true joy for the Little Rock scholars, sitting at their desks, to be able to look to the sky in all seasons and often to bask in the light of the morning sun.
On the south wall there are two curtained bay windows where the school library is located. “All those old books are still here,” John Honken says. John recalls when he was a student at this school six decades gone by.
Three steps lead to the porch and the front door. That door is flanked by two narrow, vertical windows. Lifting from the roof above the door is a dormer with two horizontal French windows. There also are French panes in the upper-half of the two largest front windows.
Everything is a little out of the ordinary.
Oh my. The building does need paint. White paint. Some of the green asphalt shingles are breaking up, but cedar shingles still are in place beneath these.
For several decades, the old school served as Little Rock Township Hall. A substantial new town hall has been built. Now a big question mark hangs over that old school.
Of course there was no way to save all of America’s landmark country schools and country churches — and 95 percent of those schools and churches are gone by now. Nobles County’s Pioneer Village was begun with a country school and there also are two venerable churches on the Village site. These columns recently looked in on four Norwegian Lutheran cemeteries, one of those also in Little Rock Township. The cemeteries remain, but those white prairie churches are lost to everyone’s memory.
This may be the best we can do — write something black on white to tell that once there was such a place and this is how it looked.
We had a thing (some would say) rare and precious as Egypt’s pyramids on our American prairie with those wood frame schools and churches.
There weren’t white country churches miles from settlements in either New England nor New Mexico. Little white frame country schools never were built in Britain or Brazil, in Bulgaria or Botswana. These were a thing found in our place. largely before our time. The first ones appeared in — oh — the late 1860s. Very many of them were razed and forgot by the 1950s.
There still are active country church congregations in modest frame buildings, although these are but a handful from the country churches which once spread over this part of our earth. Most surviving country churches have been altered by additions and extensions.
“What’s going to happen here?” John Honken asks of the Little Rock school. “You think just tear it down and burn it?”
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.