New Era School gets funds

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners agreed to give the New Era One Room School Museum $2,500 toward a new furnace, air-conditioning unit.

The 1884 schoolhouse, which sits on the campus of Mineral Wells Elementary School served students in first through eighth grades until 1956. The building then served as a community building for the Missouri Run area. It was later turned over to the Wood County Association of Retired School Employees. In 1991, the Living Heritage Museum Project, a nonprofit volunteer organization, acquired the facility for restoration. It was dismantled and moved seven miles from Missouri Run to the Mineral Wells school campus for reconstruction.

Furnished with period furniture, books and artifacts, the school also contains photo albums and histories of area schools. The school has maintained the integrity of its time with original desks, pot-bellied stove, slate chalkboards, oiled floors, pump, outhouse, and coal shed, according to Esther Carroll, volunteer director.

Carroll was originally scheduled to meet with commissioners on Monday to make the funding request in person, but provided written information to the commission instead.

“A Trane furnace/air-conditioner was donated to the school 16 years ago from the estate of a former New Era student. It has now failed. In order to preserve the artifacts, we need a constant temperature in the little school. Also, the building cannot be opened for projects, or requested tours, or work days until warm weather again,” Carroll said. Estimates for a replacement unit were listed as $3,700 to $4,100.

“We are a museum and demonstration classroom with a beginning history of Wood County Schools,” Carroll said.

Annually more than 600 fourth-graders from Wood and surrounding counties visit the school as part of their West Virginia history curriculum. Activities include schooling in reading, writing and arithmetic under the stern tutelage of the resident school teacher. The schoolhouse is open year round by request.

During the summer, the Living Heritage Museum is open to the public every Tuesday afternoon. Fundraising projects include making and selling apple butter, making and selling Easter candy, an annual Kite Fest and Haunted House. West Virginia Humanities Council, local Scouts, church groups, schools and other organizations have contributed to this project. The annual budget is about $8,000.

“It is a treasure in Wood County,” said commission President Wayne Dunn of the restored schoolhouse.

Commissioner Steve Gainer said the school had already been approved for a $1,500 grant from the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation for a replacement unit.

“We always ask groups requesting funds to try and get as much as they can on their own. They do have little resources. They have agreed to our energy audit as well,” Dunn said.

Commissioners said the funds would be taken out of the county video lottery proceeds.