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Group works to preserve historic Sharon High School in Johnson County
Fundraising underway to restore former Sharon Center schoolhouse as community events center
A 19th century schoolhouse in rural Johnson County was named as one of the most endangered properties in the state last year, a designation given for historical sites that are at risk without preservation efforts.
The former Sharon High School, built in 1899 in the unincorporated community of Sharon Center, is one of the few remaining two-story country schoolhouses left in the state.
The building, which has a classroom on the first floor and an auditorium on the second floor, has served as a community center for the township throughout its history. Classes were held in the school until 1931.
The now-Frytown Masonic Lodge No. 549 purchased the building in 1918 and converted the second floor to a Fellowship Lodge, which remains to this day.
What’s happened since?
The Friends of Historic Sharon High School and Community Center recently formed as a nonprofit group focused on the restoration and preservation of the old schoolhouse. Through these efforts, directors of the organization hope to one day create a space to host public events and other functions in the rural southwest Johnson County community.
“It’s neat to see others go through this effort,” said Dave Jackson, a member of the nonprofit group. “Several people involved, even board members, have ancestors who attended the school. They really tie it back to their roots.”
The Friends of Historic Sharon High School and Community Center is collecting donations to help fund the restoration effort.
The building has fallen into disrepair, and some estimates from assessors put the cost to repair aspects of the building at hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It’s expected to cost around $150,000 to replace the crumbling foundation, which is beginning to collapse as a result of water damage. A construction company will need to lift the building on heavy beams while workers rebuild the basement, Jackson said.
“Once the building is stabilized, then we can move forward very quickly,” said Cheryne Yoder, vice president of the board of directors.
Group members still are tallying the cost to restore other parts of the building, but Yoder said the first and second floors still are in good condition. The first floor has its original wood plank floor and painted chalkboard, and the second floor has the original woodwork and doors.
The nonprofit also is working to have the old Sharon High School nominated for the National Register of Historic Places, the federal list of sites deemed worthy of preservation for their historical significance. Doing so will open the door for the group to receive grants, tax incentives and other financial assistance from the federal government to preserve the property.
“It’s also acknowledging that the community wants to preserve it and is committed to preserving it,” Jackson said.
Group leaders are working with the Johnson County Historic Preservation Commission and have conducted a site assessment with a preservation architect based out of Des Moines.
They also are looking for any photographs, documents or other historical documentation of classes or events that took place in the building. Anyone with documentation should contact the Friends of Historic Sharon High School and Community Center.
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