HOWELL – The Howell Heritage and Historical Society has official gained ownership of the historic Old Ardena Schoolhouse and has begun opening it up to visitors.
What had turned into a year-long process is now a successful accomplishment for the Society. An ordinance was first introduced in September to authorize the leasing of the property to the Howell Heritage and Historical Society (HHHS). All five council members then voted ‘yes’ to approve the lease agreement. One month later, the lease was officially signed by the town and the Society.
“The previous Howell Historical Society and Commission had possession of the Schoolhouse, and a lease agreement with the town for the entire corner parcel of 12.3 acres. That was seemingly doable in 1999, with whatever associations there were at the time with the town and the old historical group. Our new historical group (HHHS) is further not associated with the town, and has to cover costs itself that were somehow carried differently 20 to 30 years ago,” President of the HHHS Robert Novak said.
Last year, the HHHS took possession of the schoolhouse building itself from the previous society but the land beneath is DEP Green Acres listed, so there was no purchase option, like the MacKenzie House.
“The HHHS is thrilled that process of delineating a new lease with Howell Township for the land that the Old Ardena Schoolhouse sits on has finally been completed,” Novak said.
An earlier, smaller Ardena School was built in 1835 on the north side of the current County Route 524, east of Vanderveer Road. It was replaced in 1855 by the current building, across the street from the present-day Ardena Baptist Church.
During this time, the one-room schoolhouse would hold class for all levels of learners and teach them together.
The building featured an outhouse for restroom use, glass windows and a single stove used as a source of heat for cold days. For the 60 students in the room, attending school was a privilege.
When Howell’s Ardena Consolidated School opened in 1938, the building was no longer needed. It was sold several times within the years until in 1973 when the Howell Historical Society pushed to preserve the building.
They were able to purchase the Old Ardena Schoolhouse and move it to where it stands today at the corner of Old Tavern and Preventorium Roads.
The HHHS states on their website that the main purpose of the relocation, and refurbishing of the Ardena Schoolhouse by the members was to preserve something from the old generation, to pass on to the new generation.
“The Society is now tasked with a different set of ‘three R’s’ for the school: Repair, Repaint and Reopen. It is our hope that by making visitation again possible, that the community can see what is available in town, and rally around to support the project, as they had when the school was moved back and refurbished in the mid-1970s,” Novak said.
“As best as we can tell presently, the last time there were exterior repairs and repainting was in 1996. A look at the school shows that exterior refurbishment is needed again, as it has weathered a fair amount over a quarter century. So we have to consider fundraising for the schoolhouse in addition to the work needed at the MacKenzie House. One thought to pursue, is to get some type of efficient climate control (heat/air) system to stabilize the swings of temperature for the materials in the building. We are hoping there could be some residual funds remaining from the previous historical society that could be forwarded to the current 2-year-old society for this purpose,” Novak said.
During the month of November, the HHHS opened up the Old Ardena Schoolhouse to visitors where they could take a look at the inside of this historic building. Novak said although they have stopped visitation due to the weather getting colder, they plan on reopening it up for visitors in the spring time.
For more information on the Old Ardena Schoolhouse, the HHHS, and ways to donate, visit howellheritagehistoricalsociety.org.