BROOKSVILLE — One-room schools have gone the way of ciphering, slate boards and students making manners for their teacher. But volunteers with the county historical association will begin work in the next few months to bring back a taste of 1890s education.
A few of the utilitarian buildings that served up reading, 'riting and 'rithmatic remain sprinkled around Florida, including one at the Pioneer Florida Museum and Village in Dade City. But through the 1800s and into the 20th century, most Florida schools were single-room affairs that mingled pupils of all grades — the youngest in front, the oldest at the rear.
All of the 17 or so one-room schools that dotted Hernando County in the 1890s are long gone, though the Little Rock Cannery northwest of Brooksville is in a single-room school built during the 1930s.
But if plans of the Hernando Historical Museum Association work out, a replica of the old education institutions will go up next to the group's railroad depot on Russell Street in Brooksville.
One of the people spearheading the project, Gretchen Countryman, has spent years raising money for the building and giving talks about 1890s education and the effort, including garage sales and even a wine tasting. With about $38,000 accumulated, she said the building fund is past midway toward the estimate of $60,000 needed for construction.
Today, the project will be officially launched with a dedication of the site where the schoolhouse will be built. The dedication at the historical association's 1885 train depot on Russell Street starts at 10 a.m.
Countryman hopes construction can begin early next year, but there is no estimate about how long it will take.
The building will be a simple frame structure of about 850 square feet, supported on stone pillars with a small front porch and a few windows, said Brooksville architect John White, who designed the replica.
"It's not too complex, about 24 by 36 with a porch and bell out front," White said.
Handicap access at the back of the building will be one modern addition.
The replica will be loosely patterned after a single-room school built by the Lykes family in mid to late 1800s in what was called Spring Hill, said Countryman.
At the time, though, Spring Hill was a lot farther east than the modern version. Most believe the building was near the western end of Fort Dade Avenue, said Suzanne Touchton, a volunteer with the association. That would have put it about 5 miles west of Brooksville.
"Nobody knows exactly where it was," Touchton said.
The association has plenty with which to outfit the schoolhouse. Fixtures and accoutrements of a bygone era have been on display in a room at the association's May-Stringer Heritage Museum for years, and Countryman has used the room to re-create school days of 12 decades ago for groups of students and visitors.
"I would take in groups of children for a demonstration of what a day was like in a one-room schoolhouse," she said. "The lessons were all based on manners, responsibility and the 3 R's."
That included students "making manners" to the teacher, with the girls doing a curtsey and boys bowing, she said.
Schools such as the one the Lykes family built were constructed privately, often for the education of family members of those who paid for the building, teacher and supplies, Touchton said. Public schooling didn't show up in Hernando County until about the 1870s, she said.
Classes lasted maybe four months of the year, and the student body consisted of a dozen or so children. There were no grades, and students advanced when the teacher deemed them ready, she said.
Once the replica schoolhouse is finished, Countryman hopes to continue her demonstrations of 1800s schooling, maybe with the help of other retired teachers.
"This is something I want to do for Brooksville'" she said. "It's been my dream."