Century-Old Schoolhouse in Jeopardy Due to Road Widening Project

By: Elizabeth Lamb Email
By: Elizabeth Lamb Email

HARRISONBURG -- March Warner, a historian, is working to preserve the Mabel Memorial Schoolhouse and the century of history it contains. Warner said the city could soon own the property in an effort to expand a road.

“You look around here and all you see is student housing. It's the last little bit of history here on Reservoir Street, and it's very important to our community,” said Warner.

Lucy Drive is already built around the house, but that could change.

The old schoolhouse is just feet from the road, and if a Reservoir Street improvement plan is put into place, the road could become even wider, putting the schoolhouse in jeopardy.

Matt Sibley, who works with Virginia Heritage Preservation, wants people to honor the building's history. Schoolhouse teachers taught students about integration there. It also taught teachers at what would become James Madison University.

“It was sort of a self-sustained community. They used this schoolhouse back then. It's sort of one of the last things that you can see as a part of that history,” said Sibley.

Harrisonburg Councilman Richard Baugh said the city's involvement stems from the road widening project. The future of the building, Baugh said, is up to the property owner.

Baugh said city leaders and the property owner are discussing a settlement and that could shape the future of the road.

“As it is, we put the road in, and it does give it a little kink that it otherwise wouldn't have had otherwise, and this may give us an opportunity to revisit that,” said Baugh.

Warner hoped people would appreciate the building's history and help sustain its future.

“People who live here and grew up here need to know that history,” said Warner.

Baugh said an update on that settlement could come up in Tuesday night's city council meeting, but that would happen in a closed session.

Schoolhouse supporters are trying to get a roadside historical marker for the building and they say that could help keep the school where it is.

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