Before beginning the general restoration of the schoolhouse structure itself, a large amount of administrative work was done, as listed in Goals objective #1. During that period of time, work on the structure itself was limited to repairs needed to keep the structure from further deterioration. With the administrative base firmly in place, physical restoration of the schoolhouse structure began in April of 2003. Upon delving into the task, major structural problems were found in this "Post and Beam" structure. There were four layers of rotted flooring, sections of both the upper and lower beams that were completely rotted away, floor joists (tree trunks) that were rotted and certain walls, consisting of 3 one inch planks, were completely rotted. After six months of intense volunteer effort, the schoolhouse was rendered structurally sound in September of 2003.
Simultaneous with the effort on the schoolhouse structure itself in 2003, was an aggressive approach to locating vintage furniture, artifacts and other memorabilia relating to one-room schoolhouses circa 1900. Significant progress was made on this front, with many valuable items coming out of attics, basements and in one case, off the front porch. During the following winter months a great deal of time was spent in repairing and refinishing much of the vintage furniture that had been donated.
The year 2004 started off with a scare in that a very large pine tree, located at the old site on Ketchum Road, started leaning in the direction of the schoolhouse and clearly would have crushed the schoolhouse had it fallen. After an attempt was made to stabilize the situation with chains and cables, it was decided that there was the need for a tree surgeon to remove this threat. Late in March the effort on the schoolhouse intensified as we prepared to move the schoolhouse from its Ketchum Road site to its new home on the Library Campus in North Collins. A very wide temporary driveway had to first be installed at the new site in order to accommodate the movement of the schoolhouse structure from the library parking lot to its final location on the site. Late in March the schoolhouse was loaded onto the moving equipment for a 5.6 mile trip to North Collins. Despite one close encounter with a low hanging traffic light, this trip was made in less than one hour. A three block foundation was then built at the new site, using rock faced block, and the building was then lowered onto this foundation.
Carpentry work intensified at this point with installation of a new front door; installation of a new ceiling; wooden clapboards were applied; one of the two remaining windows was installed in the rear of the structure (the other one had to wait until the display cases were brought into the structure); wooden shingles were applied to the roof; a cupola was constructed and installed on the roof, along with the school bell; new flooring was installed in the main portion of the schoolhouse; some of the original flooring, salvaged earlier, was refinished and applied in the entranceway; window panes were all replaced with tempered glass, for safety purposes; a chimney was constructed; a vintage door was installed as the inner door; two blackboards were mounted; pull-down maps were mounted; the schoolhouse was populated with vintage desks, both student and teacher types; display cases were completed and brought into the facility; the final window was installed on the rear of the structure; remaining clapboards were installed; and 550 feet of drainage lines were installed throughout the site to address the inherent wetness of the new site.
Again, as was in the case in 2003, the effort continued to collect items needed to tell the "one-room schoolhouse" story. As can be seen in the "Picture Gallery" on this website, many interesting artifacts have been donated.
In 2004 a significant amount of effort went into developing this web site, www.schoolhouse8.info as a means of sharing with others the Schoolhouse #8 story.
During the 2004-2005 winter months, the effort to locate artifacts continued and the effort to develop "programs" picked up speed with the first objective being to expose educators in the North Collins Central School system to the resource that was soon going to be available to them.
When spring of 2005 came, effort at the site again picked up speed. The site was graded and seeded. A new "Schoolhouse #8 History Center" sign was purchased and mounted on 4 x 4 posts on the Road side of the site. A planter was constructed around this sign and populated with attractive shrubbery. Artifacts were brought into the schoolhouse, registered and then placed in the three display cases that take-up approximately one third of the Schoolhouse. A gravel sidewalk was installed, a landing for the entranceway was constructed, vintage railings were installed, a vintage hand water pump was installed outside the Schoolhouse, and a flagpole was installed.
With the facility ready, the grounds in shape, and the Schoolhouse totally populated, the Grand Opening and Dedication ceremony was held July 10th, 2005 which was attended by almost 300 people. At this event three teachers, Miss Avery, Mrs. Falk and Mrs. Luther, who previously taught in one-room schoolhouses in the North Collins School System, were honored with certificates and corsages. Mr. Douglas Tower, retired principal, was also honored for his many years of service to the North Collins School System. "School lunches" were served which consisted of peanut and jelly sandwiches, a cookie, an apple, and milk. This event was blessed with absolutely perfect weather and the real good news was that the speeches were not too long.
Following the Grand Opening, the Schoolhouse #8 History Center & Museum immediately went to a schedule of being open to the public every Sunday 1-4 PM through the middle of October. There is also provision for people to call (716) 337-3341 and make arrangements for special showings. Interest level and public participation was very good, with an average of 15-20 visitors each Sunday. In addition, approximately 30 students from the North Collins Elementary School toured the museum as part of their curriculum.
In late 2005 the Board of Trustees, having reached the major milestone of having a museum open and serving the public, started looking further into the future. The challenge put forth was to develop ways to ensure the financial viability of the Schoolhouse Museum for generations to come. To address this need, the decision was made to launch a fundraising effort to raise $50,000 for an Endowment Fund. It is felt that if this amount of money were to be conservatively invested, the earnings on the principal would be adequate to ensure that the History Center is perpetuated for generations to come. This drive, initially spearheaded by the Renaldo family of NORCO Propane Energy, brought the Endowment Fund to approximately 32% of goal within a year.
Upon realizing that their extraordinary efforts had reached a plateau, the Board of Trustees decided to launch two additional fundraising programs to raise still additional funds to populate the Endowment Fund. The first program, an annual raffle, has raised approximately $3100 over the past two years to the benefit of the Endowment Fund. The second fundraising effort centered around creating a Walk of Remembrance program whereby individuals, businesses, civic organizations, churches and volunteer organizations can, with a $100 donation, specify an inscription on a 4” x 8” granite brick that would be placed at the Schoolhouse #8 History Center & Museum site. As of this time, 220 bricks have been ordered with 198 already in place at the Schoolhouse site. The additional revenue from the “brick” program, net of expenses, the raffle revenue and other Endowment Fund donations have brought the Endowment Fund balance to approximately 68% of goal.
The spring of 2006 led to the first full year of operation of the Schoolhouse #8 History Center & Museum. A full staff of docents was recruited and trained before the first opening to the general public on May 15th. Throughout the year the donation of artifacts continued which further enriched the historic nature of the Schoolhouse Museum. These artifacts were in the form of books, pictures, old school records, a three hole outhouse and a Schoolhouse clock. Although we had a very fine collection of artifacts and memorabilia to start with, our ability to share history was further enhanced with every contribution. The addition of the outhouse, in particular, clearly addressed the frequently asked question, “Where did they go to the bathroom?”
It is estimated that we had over 200 people visit during the Sunday 1-4 PM sessions and well over 200 students attend as part of their curriculum. Beyond that, there were another 30 individuals who visited by special appointment. Although the statistics were good, of equal importance is the fact that visitors were very pleased with what they saw, as evidenced by the many very positive comments made by the people visiting the Schoolhouse Museum. On October 15th, the last day of being open for the season, a social event was held at the Schoolhouse to dedicate the first 108 Walk of Remembrance “bricks” and to conduct what has become an annual raffle. Although a wintry day, following by one day the big Blizzard of 2006 in nearby Buffalo, it was a great event. It was attended by approximately one hundred people who enjoyed themselves especially when the speeches were short and the refreshments tasty.
The 2007 season saw a quantum leap in our efforts to “let more of the world know" about the cultural jewel that exists in North Collins. A massive amount of effort went into publicity as follows:
Placed an article in “Forever Young” magazine;
Arranged for listing, with links to our web site, on various tourism web sites, such as the Niagara Cultural Tourism web site;
Development of rack card for display in local hotels, libraries, Seaway Trail Visitor Center, and various other places of interest;
Advertised in "EXPLORE NEW YORK" (guidebook) - spring and summer & fall editions;
Information appeared on Bee News website;
Information included in Buffalo Evening News "GUSTO" every weekend;
Information published one week in June in "Coming Events" section of local Pennysavers;
E-mailed to Buffalo Niagara Visitors Bureau to be included on their website;
Contacted (by mail) 30 local historical societies to have them include our Schoolhouse #8 information in newsletters to their membership;
Placed paid advertisements in local Pennysavers;
Article in "HAMBURG SUN" (local newspaper) and Gowanda Pennysaver focusing on our "Walk of Remembrance" initiative;
Contacted local bus tour company for possible inclusion on bus tours in our area;
Contacted Christine Smyczynski and suggested that she write an article on Schoolhouse #8 for her Buffalo News column "One Tank Trip"; also to include Schoolhouse #8 in her upcoming Western New York guidebook (due to be released in 2008);
E-mailed information for inclusion in "FAMILY" newspaper published monthly;
Obtained listing on Google Maps;
Wrote articles for buffalo.com such as “Step back in time at Schoolhouse #8";
Listed in upcoming events on buffalo.com;
Hosted Kevin O’Neill from Channel 2 TV;
Promoted Schoolhouse #8 as part of the Southtowns Tourism Coalition.
The measure of success in operating a museum is how many people visit and their reactions to what they see while visiting. The attendance level in 2007 was outstanding and, quite frankly, with a little lag time involved, reflected the tremendous publicity efforts as discussed earlier. It is estimated that over 400 people visited during the Sunday 1-4 PM sessions, 175 students attended as part of their curriculum and beyond that, approximately 100 people visited the Schoolhouse by special appointment. Some of the groups that attended by special appointment were the Masonic Lodge from Toronto, Canada and the Sardinia Historical Society. Incidentally, 140 of the students were from Eden Central. Complimenting the publicity efforts in increasing attendance was the dedicated team of building and grounds volunteers, a fine staff of docents and a team that worked very hard to develop programs of interest for both students and the general public. A “History Mystery Scavenger Hunt” conducted jointly with the North Collins Historical Society, was one such program.
In 2007, as was the case in 2006, we had a social event at the end of the year for all friends and supporters of the Schoolhouse #8 History Center & Museum. The celebration this year, held on September 30th, centered around the fact that in 2007, Schoolhouse #8 became 150 years old. We took this occasion to also celebrate Mrs. Evelyn Falk’s 96th Birthday and to dedicate an additional 90 Walk of Remembrance “bricks.” Approximately 175 people attended this function and had a great time touring the Schoolhouse, studying the many inscriptions on the “bricks” and enjoying some food, especially the hot dogs right off the grill.
2008 was a year when the Schoolhouse #8 History Center & Museum matured even further. “Programs” for students were further developed and refined, thus substantially increasing North Collins Central School student attendance.
Publicity effort was again intense and, quite frankly, was in large part responsible for the attendance of over 600 people, even in an the environment where people were limiting their travel due to much higher gas prices.
To be more specific relative to publicity, some of the actions taken this year were:
The Schoolhouse #8 website was completely re-vamped and made current with pictures, verbiage and timely listings of future happenings;
Pennysaver ads in Eden-North Collins, Angola, Gowanda, and Hamburg were placed 6 times;
Ad in "GUSTO" (weekly section in the Buffalo News Friday edition) ran every week for the entire season;
"EXPLORE NEW YORK" Calendar for 3 editions. Additionally, a separate paid ad in 2 editions;
Short-form brochures placed in various hotels, libraries, Graycliff Manor, Kazoo Factory, etc.;
Placed information on the Bee News website;
Listed on Niagara Convention Bureau Visitors website;
Very comprehensive article in the Dunkirk Observer;
Nice article in the Buffalo News;
Presentation made to teaching staff at North Collins Elementary School;
Mailed invitations to 24 Erie County Historical Society chapters to visit Schoolhouse #8 and request that our information be included in an upcoming newsletter to their membership;
Wrote article for buffalo.com entitled “Step back in time at Schoolhouse #8”;
Listed weekly under upcoming events on buffalo.com ;
Hosted Southtowns Tourism Coalition meeting at Schoolhouse #8.
To compliment the publicity efforts, an additional group of volunteers was making sure that when visitors arrived, they were greeted by immaculate grounds, a well-kept Schoolhouse, and a group of enthusiastic docents who not only welcomed them but made sure they left well informed as to what the educational environment was like in rural America circa 1900.
As mentioned earlier, 2008 was another year of maturing. “Programs” for students were further developed and refined, thus substantially increasing NCCS student attendance. In addition to developing specific curriculum by grade level for Primary and Elementary students, “old-time games” were developed for students who were in the pavilion awaiting their opportunity to tour the Schoolhouse itself.
2008 was also the beginning of what we refer to as an “Outreach Program.” Armed with a PowerPoint presentation and a number of artifacts, presentations were made to residents of the Lake Shore Nursing Home and the Eden Heights assisted living facility. Based upon reactions, these presentations were very well received and greatly appreciated.
The attendance level in 2008 was approximately 625 people. Of this number, 220 were students who attended as part of their curriculum, approximately 350 were the general public who either visited on Sunday afternoons or by special appointment. In addition, our Outreach Program shared the Schoolhouse #8 story with another 55 people at nursing homes. Beyond the number of visitors, a good judge of the Schoolhouse #8 History Center & Museum is the consistency of positive comments left in the guest book. A review of the guest book reveals the following comments:
Finally, on September 28th we had a cookout to:
Mr. Douglas Tower, retired educator and administrator at NCCS, was the honored guest at this year-end function. This event was attended by approximately 125 people who all seemed to enjoy themselves immensely.
At the September 28th function, we also dedicated another thirty-six Walk of Remembrance “bricks.” This program continues to be a phenomenal success. The success can be measured more by intangible effects than monetary terms because, with the costs for granite and engraving going up every year, the Endowment Fund realizes less and less monies per brick. The real benefits turn out to be the fact that the program yields a special environment where people can honor the living or memorialize the deceased. It is also a way of making sure that old family names or business names are not forgotten.
The following picture shows the first 210 bricks in place along the walkway to and around the flagpole. What isn’t shown is an additional 36 bricks along the walkway leading to the “water pump.”
With generous financial support from our members, and a lot of hard work by volunteers, 2009 was another very successful year for Schoolhouse #8.
Goals Met: First of all, two of our long outstanding goals were met in 2009:
After over two years of administrative effort, Schoolhouse #8 was granted a Provisional Charter by the NYS Board of Regents on May 18th, 2009. This means that we can now officially operate as a museum. As part of that action there was the need to change our corporate name to Schoolhouse #8 History Center & Museum. The next plateau in the chartering process will come in five years, at which point we can apply to the Board of Regents for a permanent charter. During the interim, we have a lot of work to do in generating policies and procedures in compliance with the Board of Regents requirements.
On May 12th of 2009 a Historic Marker was installed at the site on Ketchum Road where Schoolhouse #8 resided for 147 years. It can easily be read from the road and, in general, it is very classy as you can see from the following picture:
Publicity: In recognition of the economic conditions, we scaled back on the amount of money allocated for publicity last year. Despite this, very effective paid advertisements were run in the Eden-North Collins, Gowanda, Hamburg, and Springville Pennysavers to attract local visitors. In addition to this, free advertising was utilized to spread the word as follows:
Listings in "GUSTO" (weekly section in the Buffalo News Friday edition) ran every week for the entire season.
Calendar postings in "EXPLORE NEW YORK" magazine and their website.
Short-form brochures were placed in various places such as local libraries, Graycliff Manor, Kazoo Factory, etc.
Information was posted on the Bee News website.
Listing on the Niagara Convention Bureau Visitors website.
Mailings were made to several public and private schools in the area.
Information was listed under upcoming events on buffalo.com.
Schoolhouse #8 was promoted as part of the South Towns Coalition activities.
The Schoolhouse #8 website was kept current with verbiage, pictures and timely listings of future events. I should hasten to point out that the web site has now been tweaked to the point where you can now view all of the existing Walk of Remembrance “bricks” by going to our website, www.schoolhouse8.info and selecting “Picture Gallery.”
Buildings & Grounds Maintenance: We are very fortunate to have a staff of volunteers who continue to keep the Schoolhouse structure and grounds in first class condition. This year the team responsible for maintenance of the Schoolhouse structure, and the grounds, had to meet a challenge above and beyond the usual carpentry work, painting and lawn care. For some strange reason, the outside of the Schoolhouse building was infested with mildew. This necessitated washing/scrubbing the entire outside surface with Clorox and then priming and repainting of the outside of the building. This same mildew condition also appeared on the picnic tables which necessitated the same remedial action as the Schoolhouse. In addition to that, the abnormally wet season necessitated cutting the lawn 26 times. Despite these unusual circumstances, the Schoolhouse #8 structure and the lawn were maintained in “showcase” condition. In addition, this same team expended a significant amount of effort in installing and maintaining the Walk of Remembrance bricks.
Collection of Artifacts: Fortunately, the donation of artifacts continues. Artifacts received in 2009 were in the form of books, pictures, old school records, an individual slate, vintage roller skates and a 48-Star Flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol. We are now at the point of having 919 artifacts, in various forms, to use in illustrating what the educational environment was like circa 1900.
Annual Raffle: Thanks to those who donated no less than twenty prizes for our annual raffle, and the support of those who purchased raffle tickets, we had another very successful raffle in 2009 to benefit the Schoolhouse #8 Endowment Fund. This raffle yielded net proceeds of $1,469.
Yard Sale: Schoolhouse #8 held its first yard sale last year to benefit the Endowment Fund. It was a great success with net proceeds of $762.80.
Walk of Remembrance Program: This program was initiated to honor or memorialize people or organizations by engraving messages in granite, as well as to raise money for the Endowment Fund. The program has been met with great enthusiasm as evidenced by the fact that as of this date, 272 bricks have been ordered. Of these, 264 bricks have already been placed at the site. As you will note from the following pictures, the walkway to the flagpole, as well as the circle around the flagpole, is totally populated with “bricks.” In the second picture you will also see where the walkway leading to the “water pump” is totally populated, except for six bricks, which happen to be at the engraver awaiting inscriptions.
Attendance: Finally, the greatest measure of success in 2009 came in the form of attendance! We had visitors from nine States, Canada and West Africa. In total, we had 746 visitors in 2009. This breaks down as 239 students and staff from North Collins Central, Eden Central and BOCES, who visited as part of their curriculum; over 272 people visited the Museum during our Sunday afternoon openings and 135 people visited by special appointment. This special appointment group included visitors from two Boy Scout Troops; Classes of 1954 & 1955 Reunions; West Valley Historical Society; Red Hat Ladies; Retired Teachers from Pioneer School; Oakfield Senior Citizens; and Comfort Today Senior Citizens. In addition, over 100 people attended the September 27th function to help celebrate another very successful year at the Schoolhouse #8 History Center & Museum, as well as to dedicate the newly placed Walk of Remembrance “bricks.”
In addition, over 100 people attended the September 27th function to help celebrate another very successful year at the Schoolhouse #8 History Center & Museum, as well as to dedicate the newly placed Walk of Remembrance “bricks.”
To see over six hundred pictures of the restoration process, collectables and functions, go to the Picture Gallery on this website.
"Program Chronology" updated 02/25/2010