By Ruth A. Ringelstetter
We’ve said it before. Historic buildings are disappearing from the backroads, small towns, and cities at an alarming rate. It is what fuels our desire to be out photographing whenever we can.
Joann and I love to come across old schools, both abandoned and restored. We are happy when schools are saved as homes, but we are even happier when the owners understand the historic value and leave the outside of the schools as intact as possible.
Often the land for these old schools was donated by a farmer. It was common for farm families to have a lot of children, and usually the farmer’s children would be among the students at the school.
One of these schools was the Ripp School north of Waunakee, Wisconsin. We first photographed this school on film many years ago. We continued to pass by it over the years, and even after we upgraded to digital photography, we passed it often when we were out photographing.
For some reason, we hadn’t photographed it for years. Then, while out photographing one morning, we talked about how it had been years since we had stopped, and that we probably didn’t have digital photos for our collection.
Our last stop at the school was in September of 2011. After that, I passed the school often as I drove back and forth to Waunakee. Then one day, it was gone and in its place was a bare patch of ground. I was saddened by the sight and went home to write an email to Joann to tell her that the school had been torn down for more cropland.
In May of 2009, while driving the backroads of Lafayette County, we stumbled on another school. At first we couldn’t even decide if it was a school or just a small first house from many years ago. Then I found a picture of the school with the name of the farmer who had donated the land. The farmer was John Logue and the school was named after him. He donated 1/4 acre of land in 1867, and the school opened that year. The school functioned until 1939.
Joann loves different textures, and in that way, this school was a bonanza. It was a stone school with a brick chimney on the outside next to the wooden front vestibule. Joann took a lot of pictures that first day. We don’t spend a lot of time in Lafayette County, so we never know when we’ll be back to one of our finds.
We managed to revisit the Logue School in the spring of 2011. It was still standing and looking about the same as it had two years before. Even though we had gotten good photographs on our first stop, Joann took a few more pictures.
We returned to the area in May of 2013. Since I’m always watching the map, I knew when we came to the corner that the school should have been on. The school was gone and all that remained on the spot were a couple of trees and a small pile of stone.
The same thing is happening in all of the farming areas across the country. With the price of land, farmers want to squeeze out every inch of cropland. To this end, they are tearing out old buildings and line fences so that all you see for miles are the crops.
When you’re lucky enough to travel the backroads, enjoy the sights. Some of those sights might not be there the next time you pass by. RIP Logue and Ripp Schools. We’ll miss you.