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October 4, 2013

Eastpointe Lions Club helps fix up old schoolhouse

By Kevin Bunch
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Eastpointe Lions Club member Rhonda Furby-Johnstone repaints a fence on the historic Halfway Schoolhouse back porch.

EASTPOINTE — The Halfway Historic Schoolhouse received some needed attention Sept. 28 from members of the Eastpointe Lions Club.

“We’re repairing the walkways and the ramps at the old school house on Nine Mile Road ” Eastpointe Lions Vice President Sonny Eplin said. “There’s an old wooden walkway in there that’s rotted.”

Eplin said the Lions, along with other community volunteers, replaced the rotted boards on the walkway while cleaning and repainting the handicapped-accessible ramp, which ended up requiring a second day after the volunteers ran out of paint. He said the paint had worn off the ramp, exposing the boards to the elements and making it a potential hazard in the future.

He said he first realized the building was in need of work when he spotted a dilapidated shed on the property one day this past summer. A closer inspection made him realize the schoolhouse itself was in greater need of work than the shed.

Eastpointe Mayor Suzanne Pixley said the Lions Club members did a great job fixing up the building. She said that Eplin had approached her about looking at the schoolhouse for a project.

“He was looking for a project, and I said that he should maybe look at the schoolhouse,” Pixley said. “So he came over and looked at it and thought it would be a really nice project.”

She explained that the outside of the building has deteriorated due to exposure to sunlight and skateboarders, who used the ramp and wore down the paint and wood.

“They’re the ones who wrecked the ramp,” Pixley said. “We only repainted it three years ago.”

John’s Lumber in Clinton Township donated the lumber while Rizzo Services provided a dumpster, Eplin said. He added that other Lions Club members John Osborne and Paul Hemeryck, and the business Clover Collision, donated, as well.

Eplin said the Lions likely would return in the spring, as the building still needs some work. Aside from the shed, he pointed out that the roof needs some work, as some minor water damage has occurred in the school building, itself.

The interior is still in good shape, Pixley said, and still features much of the original flooring and window glass from when it was built in 1872.

She added that the East Detroit Historical Society, which leased the building from the school district in 1985 for 100 years at $100 dollars total, recently hired a landscaper to clear the property of mulberry trees.

Since the building is recognized as a historical building by the state and the national parks system, Pixley said the society is limited in the changes that it can make to it, though it does have storm windows, an insulated attic and crawlspace, and a relatively new furnace.

Pixley said the old schoolhouse is most recognized for its architecture, which uses traits primarily seen on contemporary churches in the window and door design.

“(The school board) probably had an architect come in and design it, so they must have spent money at that time,” she said. “Look at the people on the board when they had it built in 1872. They were good businessmen, and they probably wanted it to be the best schoolhouse.”