When the first settlers arrived in their communities, they built three things in this order: a home, a schoolhouse and then their church. The school building soon became the center of cultural life in the community.
This schoolhouse was built in 1909, replacing an older building. It originally stood in the center of Bennington Township, four miles east of U.S. Highway #63 on the Dunkerton Road and then two miles north, near St. John’s Lutheran Church. It was thus known as “Center School,” and because of its location was used as the voting place for the township. The voting records were kept in the storage room to the right of the front entrance.
The Black Hawk County Conservation Board purchased the building in 1966 for $1,000 from Donald Sage. It was moved to Black Hawk Park in 1968 and given a new foundation and roof. At that time, restoration work was undertaken by several local groups, most notably the Cedar Falls teachers, who chose this resource as their Bicentennial project in 1976.
In the fall of 1987, the Yesterday’s Heritage Quester Chapter #809 visited the schoolhouse in Black Hawk Park. Wanting to donate to or help with the upkeep of the school, they found what was really needed was a new location. The search for a new home began, and in a short time, a site was designated in the Riverfront Beautification area near the Ice House Museum at First and Clay Streets. It took a year of planning, fundraising, and help from the public and private sectors of the community to make this dream become a reality. The building was moved on October 6, 1988 to its present location.
The schoolhouse was originally white, and it was painted its distinctive red color while it was in Black Hawk Park. In its current city park setting, it retains many of the original and authentic features of a one-room country school. A bell still rings in the bell tower to call students to class, a pot-bellied stove shows how the school was heated, and original desks seat students in neat rows. The school is equipped with turn-of-the-century teaching aids like blackboards, maps, a sand table, and individual slates. Each summer, the school comes to life during our week-long Summer at the Schoolhouse sessions and as visitors tour the museum.