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Getting Schooled on Ballwin's Academic History

Following the completion of the renovated schoolhouse, Ballwin-Ellisville Patch takes a look at one of the city's most historic monuments.

The Old Ballwin Schoolhouse officially opened this month , renovations and assistance from the city.

And while the slender white building probably doesn't look cutting-edge by modern standards, alums like Bill Buermann remeber the space as a paragon of local academics.

"We didn't have technology," Buermann said. "But we had very good teachers. When you went from grade school to high school, the teachers all remarked that if you were from Ballwin, you were ready."

Buermann, now 86, shared these memories and more with five other Old Ballwin Schoolhouse alums who attended the building's official dedication ceremony on October 23.

"We just want to preserve it and show the children nowadays what the school district was like from the very beginning," historical commissioner Helen Pisarkiewicz said.

Pisarkiewicz, 77, estimated that close to a dozen people still live in the area who attended the school, which originally was built for $1,500 in the year 1900 and situated on Elm Avenue (the two-room facility replaced a one-room schoolhouse built about 30 years earlier, which now sits as the high-point atop ). It was there that the modest schoolhouse began with two rooms, an outhouse, a pot-bellied stove and a pump in the front yard for drinking water.

"Either a teacher or upper classman filled a bucket at the pump and we used a ladle to fill our individual cups," schoolhouse graduate Don Essen said in historian David Fiedler's book, Images of America: Looking Back on Ballwin. "Our toilet was a divided outhouse. One side for the boys and the other for the girls."

The two-room schoolhouse operated until 1938, when a three-room brick schoolhouse was built, Fiedler wrote. That facility later underwent several modifications and expansions before becoming what's now known as .

After the two-room schoolhouse was decommissioned, the original schoolhouse endured its own share of transformations and ownership changes before eventually ending up on Jefferson Avenue under the Ballwin Historical Commission.

Purchased first by George Pappas and again in 1953 by Lucille Jaycox, the two original rooms were expanded. The historical commission tried to restore the larger room to its original state while portions of the expansion were left to serve as a meeting area and kitchen space.

"Because of its heritage, it's the only building we saved from construction," Buermann said. 

Pisarkiewicz said the schoolhouse must be preserved for educational purposes in order to show today's students how fortunate they are.

"I would hope that (children) would appreciate all the modern things they have, like a gymnasium. These kids had to go outside in all kinds of weather to play. They also didn't have physical education. They just came to learn their basic reading, writing and arithmetic."

 

The Old Ballwin Schoolhouse is located behind the shopping plaza on Jefferson avenue just east of . Tours may be arranged through the Ballwin Parks & Recreation Department.

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