By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
PANDORA — The Bridenbaugh School, a Putnam County landmark that was built 130 years ago and has survived a summer windstorm and a fire, has received an Ohio Historical Marker.
A dedication ceremony was held Friday outside the school, located at the intersection of Putnam County Road 6 and Riley Township Road M-6 near Pandora. The school is co-owned by brothers Dale and Daryl Bridenbaugh.
“I want to thank everybody for coming out and making this a great day for all of us, especially Riley Township and Putnam County and our family,” said Dale.
The new marker is one of approximately 1,750 in Ohio, said Andy Verhoff, team lead in local history services at the Ohio History Connection.
“It’s a really great way to commemorate the big and small stories of Ohio history because it’s all Ohio history,” Verhoff said. “They all tell stories about us.”
The school was built in 1889 on the Bridenbaugh farm on land donated by the brothers’ great-grandfather, Michael Bridenbaugh. It was known as the Bridenbaugh District No. 3 Riley Township School.
Dale and Daryl’s grandparents, father and four uncles all attended school there.
In 1927, the one-room school was closed for consolidation and then stood empty for 70 years.
Dale began restoration on the building in 1995. The building had been used for storage. Windows were boarded over and the front porch was removed.
Restoration took two years to complete. Thousands of people have visited since, including Pandora-Gilboa third-graders who spend a day there each spring.
“We just like to share it with the community in any way that we can,” said Dale.
It’s important, he added, because people can learn how things have changed over the years.
“Our educational system has changed so much. The one-room school, those kids got a good education, too,” he said.
Dale received the Ohio Historic Preservation Merit Award in 2000. The schoolhouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
In June 2012, the building was damaged by a fast-moving thunderstorm with near-hurricane-force winds. The brothers hired contractors to have the roof replaced. Other work included repairing and replacing the brick wall and rebuilding the bell tower.
The school reopened in December. But less than a month later, an early-morning fire started around the wood burner, causing significant smoke and water damage. Again, the family decided to repair the building, which included patching the ceiling and floor and giving everything a fresh coat of paint. Some of the desks and the wood-burning stove had to be replaced.
Verhoff said one-room schools once dotted the nation’s landscape; now there are very few left.
“And to be able to preserve one and make it available to the public like the Bridenbaugh family does and Dale does, we want to help in that effort,” he said.
The ceremony also featured speakers from sponsoring groups Riley Township Trustees, First National Bank and Bridenbaugh Family Heritage Farms, as well as the Bridenbaugh family.