BROOKSVILLE — Gretchen Countryman has worked for 14 years to raise enough money to build a replica one-room schoolhouse in Hernando County that will provide residents a window into the past.
On Saturday, her dream will finally begin taking shape.
Countryman and others with the Hernando Historical Museum Association will break ground on the project at 2 p.m. Saturday at the museum's property on Russell Street in Brooksville. The schoolhouse, a simple 24- by 32-foot rectangle, will be located next to the association's restored railroad depot.
"I really believe, to know where you're going, you have to understand the past," said Countryman. "It's important for children to understand a connection to the past."
Countryman, 71, is the education coordinator for the museum association and has given tours and interactive lessons for years on the one-room schoolhouse tradition in the United States, teaching students and visitors about manners, morals and the three R's — reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic.
About 14 years ago, she decided to try to save and restore a one-room schoolhouse in the county. She looked all around, but couldn't find any. All of the 17 or so that dotted the region in the 1890s had disappeared, though the Little Rock Cannery, built during the 1930s northwest of Brooksville, originally served as a single-room school.
"It's too bad that we couldn't save one," Countryman said. "This is the next best thing."
The schoolhouse will be loosely modeled after a single-room school built by the Lykes family in the mid to late 1800s, Countryman said. There will be a bell on the top of the roof, and she also hopes to add a well in the front of the property.
"Wouldn't it be neat for children to pump water?" she said.
She aims for the schoolhouse to be a living history museum, complete with weekly tours. She also would like to see it be used for meetings and events.
Countryman, a retired teacher of 40 years who lives in the High Point community, says she has visited hundreds of one-room schoolhouses over the years.
"I'm into history," she said. "I'm into preserving the past."
But her love of America's education past goes even deeper. Countryman got her start in education in a one-room schoolhouse.
To gathering the money for construction of the replica, Countryman had numerous fundraisers — everything from raffles and garage sales to wine tastings. Last month, she hit her target and now has amassed roughly $62,000.
She says she will continue to raise money to help pay for maintenance and other needs. Construction of the building, by Treelawn Builders of Brooksville, is expected to be completed by spring.
Information from Times files was used in this report. Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.