school with tower and outhouse

At the time this photo was taken, Forest Grove School No. 5 had a belltower and an outhouse.

The group working to save and restore the long-deteriorating Forest Grove School in Bettendorf has received a boost with notification that the building has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The designation is important because it gives the structure "a whole new level of credibility" with funding sources, including the National Park Service, which maintains the register, Sharon Andresen, an organizer of Forest Grove School Preservation, said Friday.

The group has two grant applications totaling about $35,000 that are pending with the Riverboat Development Authority and the Scott County Regional Authority.

The money would pay for a new roof and gutters, eight replacement windows, a replacement for the front door and a heating-ventilation-and-air-conditioning system.

The big question everyone wants answered is when the roof will be replaced, Andresen said.

A tarp was placed over the roof last fall, but there has been one delay after another since then as far as getting to the roof, she said.

One delay involves the preservation group's desire to build a replica bell tower, bringing the school back to how it looked in 1949. A box for the tower needs to be built on the roof before the rest of it is replaced, she said.

"We would like to see construction of the bell tower on the ground this winter so that it can be lifted by crane in the spring, but we hate to commit to anything because it's all dependent on money," she added.

Another delay involving the roof is that the group first will have to build a chimney — even though it will be non-functioning — because that was a significant feature of the original school, Andresen said.

Still, much has been accomplished since she and others interested in saving the school — including the children of its former owners —announced their plans in February 2012.

The application for National Register designation took more than a year to research and document, including interviews with former students and consulting old newspapers, volumes of Scott County history and an original treasurer's ledger.

The work was done by Andresen, of Bettendorf, and Brenda Sorensen, of Long Grove, who traveled to LeMars, Iowa, in June to advocate the nomination before the state Historic Preservation Review Committee.

The group has also attained 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

As for the building itself, it has a new poured concrete foundation that was donated, and work is ongoing to repair the floor joists.

About $25,000 to $30,000 has been spent, mostly to employ a moving company that jacked up the structure, squared it and then set it back down on the foundation once that was completed. Money also has been spent for insurance and architectural work by Doug Steinmetz of Cedar Rapids, Andresen said.

Known as Forest Grove School No. 5, the school was built in 1873 and closed in 1957. The preservation group's plan is to restore it to its 1949 appearance and open it as a museum and place for children to learn about rural education.

When finished, the building will have more replacement materials than original. Siding is the major salvageable material.

"But the beauty of it is, they (the replacement materials) will be true replicas of what was then," Andresen said. "It will look like it did back in the day."