Little Red Schoolhouse PART ONE


Little Red Schoolhouse


By Terry Bailey



Beloit’s Little Red Schoolhouse, located at the intersection of North Walnut Street and Highway 24, is somewhat of a local landmark. Those giving directions to others often begin by saying, “When you see the Little Red Schoolhouse…” It was originally the Honey Creek Schoolhouse, District 21, located just southeast of Glen Elder.




The original school building was built in 1874. It was the center of educational and social activities for that area. Fire destroyed the original building when it burned to the ground on September 29, 1942. A new school was rebuilt by an all-volunteer work force on the same location. The new school was completed and classes resumed on November 9, 1942. While the new school was being built, classes were held in the nearby Weidenhaft home. The new school house, built in 1942, remained in operation until 1961. Attending school at the Honey
Creek schoolhouse was a favored experience for area school children.




In the late 1950s Walter Knott was looking for a one room schoolhouse for his Knott’s Berry Farm theme park located next to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. He selected the Iowa School, District #83 school house located nine miles south and three miles west of Beloit. It was taken apart in pieces with each piece labeled and shipped to Los Angeles to be reassembled.




Encouraged by the efforts of Knott, three Mitchel County leaders began an effort of select a Mitchell County one room schoolhouse to use in establishing a living history museum. Harold Boettcher, Harold Hill, and Maurice McDonald scoured the County to find a suitable schoolhouse. In the early 1960s they discovered the Honey Creek School which was painted white and in excellent structural condition. They decided that it would be just what was needed to create a living history museum to teach future generations about how school was conducted during pioneer days. The three men paid $500 for the building.




In 1970 the building was moved to a location just east of the Dairy Queen on the outskirts of Beloit. It was at this point it was painted red and the belfry and bell was added to the entranceway. At the time the interior was filled with educational antiques and furnishings.




In 1975 the Little Red Schoolhouse was moved to its current location in the rest area. In 1979 the Alpha Kappa Gamma educational sorority and City of Beloit worked together as a joint venture to showcase the Little Red Schoolhouse. This sorority, formed on March 31, 1951 by retired teachers, agreed to provide members to staff the schoolhouse as a Living Library/Museum and to keep it open from noon to 7 p.m. every day of the week from March to September every year.




For many years teachers from Beloit Elementary School and other schools in the County brought their classes to Beloit for a day of school in the Little Red Schoolhouse. The students were treated to a day of learning in the same fashion as their ancestors were taught. It was a hands-on, up close and personal learning experience.




Tourists passing by were able to visit the inside of the Little Red Schoolhouse and receive a guided tour from the retired teacher on duty that day. There was a very good chance that the teacher on duty had taught in a one room schoolhouse in her early teaching days. She could provide excellent examples of what it was like in a one room schoolhouse from her own life.




Over the years the founders and visionaries of the Little Red Schoolhouse project have passed on. The three gentlemen who saw a one room schoolhouse as a living history museum to educate future generations about learning in pioneer days are no longer with us. The members of the Alpha Kappa Gamma teacher sorority who staffed the Little Red Schoolhouse to make it available to the public are no long with us. Most of the folks from those previous generations who attended one room schoolhouses in the country and had strong memories about having done so have passed on.




The future of the Little Red Schoolhouse is in doubt. Deferred maintenance has resulted in serious structural problems. The cost of repair ranges for $30,000 to $50,000. The roof leaks, the floor is rotting, the windows allow wind, rain, and snow to enter the building and the foundation is crumbling.




When Maurice McDonald, Harold Boettcher, and Harold Hill purchased the building and had it moved to Beloit, they did not envision a project that would last 25 or 50 years. Their goal was a living history museum that would last forever.




It could be that forever may come much sooner than they anticipated.








Other News

Like us on Facebook! Job Hub