Efforts to return the 126-year-old Ford School to its original location in Lake in the Hills are kicking into high gear, members of the Lake in the Hills Historical Society say.
The former one-room schoolhouse currently sits at 2001 Algonquin Road, where it most recently was used as an office by the now-closed Stonegate Nursery, historical society president Bob Spooner said. Both the village and property owner Lynn Schuman are on board with the plan to move the building back to Ford School Park, three blocks down the road, Spooner said.
The schoolhouse, once part of Ford Farm, was moved around 1945 after it was bought by George Sticklemeier and used as living quarters. A bathroom, kitchen and walls were added over time, but all that will be removed to restore the building to its original condition, Spooner said.
"The roof was always taken care of, the basement was always dry. It's in very good condition," he said.
One-room schoolhouses used to be the central focus of rural communities. "They were used for Christmas parties, church gatherings and more. They had a much bigger function in the old days," Spooner said. "It is the only public building (in Lake in the Hills) that survived for (more than) 125 years."
The cost of moving and restoring the house initially was estimated at $31,000, but the figure was later reduced with cost-saving measures like doing without a bathroom, at least initially, Spooner said.
Several local businesses already have pledged to donate their services for landscaping, trenching and more to defray costs, Spooner said. The historical society also has set up donations via PayPal.
That leaves a fundraising target of $15,000 -- the cost of physically moving the house -- plus enough concrete to build the foundation, he said.
"What we'd like to do is to generate enough interest in the village through volunteers and others so we can raise the money," he said.
The historical society hopes that being moved to its original grounds will qualify the Ford School for the National Register of Historic Places.
The village board supports the plan, and will allow the historical society to rent the school house for $1 per year, Village Administrator Gerald Sagona said. The village will not contribute any money to the project but might be able to help with manpower, he said.
"If it's minor items, I am sure we can accommodate them," he said.
Spooner's wife, Arlene, who serves as treasurer for the historical society, said she is planning to begin a concerted fundraising effort in the coming days. The goal is to move the building by the spring, she said.
"I'll be writing letters to business and organizations. This seems to be widely accepted as a great thing by the residents, so I will try to get them involved, too," she said.
Local Boy Scouts troops have offered to help with cleaning and landscaping once the building is moved, she added.