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Now browsing: Hometown News > News > Volusia County

Enterprise schoolhouse will have new life as museum
Rating: 2.52 / 5 (27 votes)  
Posted: 2012 Nov 16 - 06:14



By Erika Webb



On a recent morning, children's voices rang out from the playground at Enterprise Elementary School, while across Main Street members of the Enterprise Preservation Society assembled to continue work on what once was the small community's junior high school. It will soon be reintroduced as the Enterprise Heritage Center.

When society volunteer Roy Walters first entered the building he felt transported back to his own elementary school. That nostalgic nudge prompted Mr. Walters and his wife Sandy to buy and donate a piece of property across the street to the Enterprise Preservation Society, where the 1936 school house could be restored and its history shared.

Society board member Lois Hurrell said volunteers have logged 2,500 hours working on the structure since spring 2011.

The building was donated in 2005 by Volusia County Schools after it sat for decades on the Enterprise Elementary property. Its various uses included storage, office space, and special education and music classrooms. It even served as a community food pantry.

Society chair Cynthia Sullivan said hundreds of residents lined the streets on June 30, 2007, when Youngblood Building Movers toted the building so carefully to its new location that not a single window, nor one of the 10 to 15 original glass-globe light covers, was broken.

Ms. Sullivan said Progress Energy temporarily cut power to area homes and businesses, then de-energized and dropped the power lines stretching over the road to safely get the building to its new location.

A $79,000 Volusia ECHO grant literally got the project off the ground. A second allocation of $140,000 has helped foot the bill for extensive work inside the Heritage Center.

"The first ECHO grant enabled us to get the building moved, and a portion of the second was used for the work to get the bathrooms and electrical system up to code," she said.

Volusia ECHO is a program that provides grant funds to finance acquisition, restoration, construction or improvement of facilities to be used for environmental/ecological, cultural, historical/heritage, or outdoor recreation purposes that must be open for public use, according to the Volusia County website.

Ms. Sullivan said Volusia ECHO is one of the few to grant "brick and mortar" funds to restore or build a structure.

"You can't get grants from most entities unless your doors are already open," she said.

The value of the land donated was the match needed to get funds from Volusia ECHO to move the building.

Additional funds have come from private citizens dedicated to helping the project.

One event significant to the community and to the preservation effort was in 1924 when the George E. Turner Power Plant, originally the Benson Springs Power Plant, was built on the shores of Lake Monroe. Prior to the Great Depression, Enterprise was a boomtown - the head of navigation on the St. Johns River - serving at various times as the county seat for three different counties.

Ms. Sullivan said some of the older residents of the now unincorporated area in southwest Volusia County credit the old power plant with helping families there survive during the depression.

"Teachers got paid and the school got money during the depression, all because of the Turner Plant," Ms. Sullivan said. "The school did very well during those lean years because of the Turner Plant."

Demolition on the defunct power plant began officially in 2007 and ended a year later.

Ms. Sullivan said Progress Energy has pledged a total of $50,000 to the Heritage Center, $25,000 of which, she said was donated around the time the building was moved. Last year the company pledged another $25,000 to be disbursed in $5,000 increments over five years.

"They have just been a huge, huge supporter and we are very, very grateful," Ms. Sullivan said.

So grateful, she said, that one of the downstairs classrooms will be named after Progress Energy.

A true preservationist, Mr. Walters said the most exacting work has been removing layers of materials, including varnish, stain and paint from walls, baseboards, moldings, floors, stairs and banisters, then scraping to find the original wall colors in order to obtain a true paint match.

He has gone to extensive measures to ensure the crew's efforts are lasting.

"The sun hits those windows and, at certain times of the year, temperatures can fluctuate pretty drastically," he said. "We used UV inhibited spar varnish around the windows because it will expand and contract with temperatures and not crack. The polyurethane we used in other areas just doesn't have the same coefficient of expansion."

One downstairs classroom will house a community museum with cases displaying historical memorabilia and community artifacts; the other, a complete replica of its former self, will be used for community lectures, presentations and as an educational activity room for children.

Upstairs classrooms will contain the society's offices and conference room as well as a space for history and genealogy research.

Mr. Walters said he and the other volunteers are hopeful work on the Heritage Center will be completed in three or four months.

Retired educator, Ruth Ryon, who lives in Debary, taught eighth grade in one of those downstairs classrooms.

"I think it's wonderful and I'm so glad they're doing it," Ms. Ryon said in a phone interview. "There were only four classrooms in that building because they didn't have enough children then. All the children that came down to visit grandma and grandpa went to that school. Those children are all grown up and now they're grandparents. That's history."

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