And then there was light.
One of many steps in the ongoing restoration of the historic, one-room Forest Grove School in Bettendorf has been the installation this year of electrical service to the building.
People visiting the school when it eventually opens as a museum/interpretive center won't see any outlets or fixtures, though. The school that was built in 1873 and closed in 1957 is being restored to how it looked in 1923, and there was no electricity then.
But to have the option of using the building at night, members of Forest Grove School Preservation paid for electricity. Light will emanate from LED strips strategically placed above windows, doorways and chalkboards so that the strips don't show, Sharon Andresen, project coordinator, said.
Electricity also will be invisibly available for slide shows and videos, she said.
Another recently accomplished task was the installation of an asphalt parking lot with nine regular spaces and one for handicapped accessibility, and the removal of an old garage on the property. Wood from the garage will be used to — someday — construct outhouses for the property, Andresen said.
Other tasks to be accomplished by the end of the group's fiscal year in June 2018 are installation of an interior vapor barrier, insulation, drywall and flooring, Andresen said. In total, work for the fiscal year, including the electricity and the parking lot, is budgeted at $65,000.
Regarding the drywall, Andresen hastens to add that it will be the kind that, when finished, will have the appearance of the original lath and plaster. It will be installed so that it curves at the ceiling to follow the lines of the original wood cove framework that remains in place, she said.
As for the flooring, only a few original boards were sturdy enough the salvage, but the preservation group got lucky with a period donation from Dennis and Linda Oberlander of Princeton.
Sometime in the 1950s when independent, one-room schools were being closed because of statewide consolidation, Dennis' father purchased the Locust Lane School on Bluff Road and tore it down for the lumber, Dennis said.
His father, Leon, used much of it, but the tongue-and-groove pine flooring went into storage on the farm where it stayed for nearly 50 years — until Linda Oberlander read in the newspaper about Forest Grove's need for flooring, and the couple offered to donate it.
"It just seemed right," Linda said. "It came from an old school, and it should go back to an old school."
Andresen was thrilled; a previous bid for reclaimed wood flooring from 2014 had come in at more than $10,000, she said.
For the next phase, the group is working to raise about $18,000 to custom-replicate interior trim, including door and window casings, doors, transoms, wainscoting and chalkboard framing, Andresen said.
She also has been accepting donations of period-appropriate school desks and chalkboards, but so far hasn't received any known to have been used in Forest Grove. A donation over the weekend included three slate chalkboards from Cedarville No. 5, a country school in Muscatine County, she said.
The group is doing well on fund-raising. About $15,000 came in after the fall newsletter was sent to the 500 people on the donor mailing list and $5,262 was raised through Birdies for Charity, the charity fundraising arm of the John Deere Golf Classic, Andresen said.
The group has come a long way since early 2012 when Andresen and others announced the restoration project.
Standing in the front of the building that was visibly sagging and had holes everywhere — in the roof, floor and windows — Cedar Rapids architect Doug Steinmetz told reporters that, yes, he thought the building could be saved. But it would take money and commitment and, because of the building's seriously deteriorated condition, time was of the essence.
Steinmetz now calls the work that has been accomplished nothing short of astonishing — a true community effort that he is thankful be involved in.
"Each step of the process has been a chapter in learning, community spirit, and development," he said in an email. "From my first visit to the site to the present day, I have witnessed a community doing great work together."