One room school restoration in Wymore

An effort is underway to bring the one room school in Wymore's McCandless park back to what it might have looked like when it was first built in the late 1800's.

Roy and Lori Hanni own a business called "The Specialist". Roy is a specialist in the restoration of historic buildings. The couple is from Oldsburg, Kansas, but Roy learned his craft in Switzerland. "From painting houses to lath and plaster restoration, wallpaper, stucco textures, you name it, I do it," Roy said.

The one room school was organized as far back as 1878, and it served many Welsh-speaking students. Gwenith Colgrove with the Great Plains Welsh Heritage Museum says the goal is to get this building on the National Register of Historic Places. "And in that, you have certain criteria. One of them being the plaster," Colgrove said. "It has to be as it was. That's why we are using the goat hair mixed with the plaster that Roy is doing now."

In many cases, horse hair was used in early buildings that used lath and plaster. "Since they did not have any sheet rock, they used lime mixed with sand, a lime powder, and then the horse hair was used as a fiber to help it bond," Roy said.

In this effort, the fiber being used is goat hair. During the restoration, Lori and Roy removed 15 to 20 layers of wallpaper, and made many discoveries. "When we were taking wall paper off, we found little scratches on the wall, where kids would have made little faces," Lori said. "The other thing is, as we were taking the wall paper off, we started discovering this black underneath the wallpaper. We found it was chalkboards. In the early days, it was not slate, but they would have painted it black and used it as a chalkboard. The first one we found was very exciting because it had actually a calendar on it, and said 'May 1933'. The other one which we do plan to keep, was apparently for Mother's Day. It has a vase with flowers in it, and above says "Mothers, we love you", Lori said.

The restorers also found evidence that the stove originally stood in the middle of the room. There's a spot in the ceiling where the chimney would have been. With any historic restoration, experts say you are bound to find something unexpected. "What you have to do is open cracks, and the holes where they've made nail holes, and when I was doing that, over in one of the corners I did find kernels of corn in the wall," Lori said. "I found kernels within a foot-and-a-half of each other, so they would have been mixed in the same bucket."

Lori and Roy Hanni started this project in November. It's going to take a total of 5 to 6 months to complete. And when it's done, it will serve as a reminder of days gone by. "It's going to be a wonderful tourism showplace. We have already hosted the Country School Association of America," Colgrove said. "We feel like we can bring a little more tourism to Southeast Nebraska." Roy Hanni says he's looking forward to finishing all of the plaster work, and seeing it complete. "I like to see the before and after," Roy said. "That's another reason why I choose this profession. It's always nice to see what it looks like when it's done."