People tooling down Bettendorf's Forest Grove Drive looking for the old, dilapidated Forest Grove School might breeze past it without noticing.
That's because the formerly gray, weathered wood structure doesn't look that way anymore.
The front is covered with house wrap, the east side is covered with white replacement siding and — in a very exciting development for those working to restore the 1873 school into a museum — there are eight new replica replacement windows in place. They are currently protected by plywood.
Expected yet this month is the installation of a replacement front door being made by Carver Custom Millworks in Milan.
The effort to restore the school began in 2012 and is progressing as steadily as money allows. About $100,000 already has been spent from cash and in-kind donations, and it'll take perhaps again as much to complete the work, said Sharon Andresen, who is spearheading the effort.
Current priorities include the installation of a chimney, putting a stone face on the new concrete block foundation, backfilling soil around the building and finishing the painting of the clapboard exterior. Half of the north side and all of the west side are original clapboard, but the remainder had to be replaced because the original was too deteriorated, Andresen said.
Members of the group are restoring the school to its 1920s appearance, meaning they intend to replace the bell tower that was gone when the building closed in 1957.
"We're finishing the metal work on the base of the bell tower and will complete the bell tower itself as soon as we have all of the funding to cover it," Andresen wrote in an email.
"Delays have occurred because funding has been needed to get the schoolhouse completely enclosed and weather-proofed. There' s also a costly support system that must be built before installing the bell tower, so we've had to keep pushing our deadline out further.
"The tower and support system are the most detailed part of the rehabilitation and will probably take more funds for labor than materials to complete. ... But once it's finished, it will be impressive!"
Money has been raised through various events, including car washes, trivia nights, direct appeals and grants. A year ago, the group received a $50,000 grant from the state of Iowa. Of that, $17,000 must be raised locally, and the deadline is autumn 2016.
The group called Friends of Forest Grove School also has received a $10,000 grant from Silos and Smokestacks, a nonprofit organization that promotes rural heritage. Like the state of Iowa grant, though, $5,000 must be raised locally.
The husband-wife filmmaking team of Tammy and Kelly Rundle have committed a $2,500 in-kind contribution through the making of a video called "Farms and Families of Forest Grove." The documentary story will be part of the programming once the school is transformed into a museum, Andresen said.
The video will tell the story of farming around the school.
In other fundraising efforts, the group expects to receive about $3,500 from this year's Birdies for Charity, the community fundraising program of the John Deere Classic golf tournament. And Andresen expects to apply for state historic tax credits to go toward work that has already been completed.
In addition to cash to hire contractors and buy supplies, the group has received many in-kind donations of labor and materials.