Protected land includes schoolhouse sites
Last year, ACRES shared the difficult decision to retire trail systems at about 20 properties that don’t meet our new standards by the end of 2024. Although daily public access to these properties will end, ACRES will continue to dedicate the same level of stewardship to these areas. As we retire trail systems at these properties, we will highlight each one in the Quarterly. In the first article of this series, ACRES volunteer Chris Fairfield shares how the sites of two schoolhouses became protected forever.
By Chris Fairfield
ACRES Land Trust’s mission is to own and protect natural and working lands. So why does ACRES own two schoolhouse properties? One answer is that the donors expressed a desire for both the land and the memory of these two educational buildings to be preserved always. Both schoolhouses served their communities well. Now, under the watchful eye of ACRES Land Trust, their land will always be a benefit to all.
MUNRO NATURE PRESERVE
The foundation and façade of the one-room schoolhouse at the Munro Nature Preserve rests on what was once part of the 13,000-acre Limberlost Woods and was known as the Porter Farm. Officially named Hartford Township District No. 6 School, it is better known to generations of readers as the Brushwood School in Gene Stratton-Porter’s book, A Girl of the Limberlost, published in 1906. The school and surrounding 25.6 acres were donated in 1993 by Edith Munro and Esther Munro Cooper. ACRES agreed to preserve the land and seek a historical organization to restore or stabilize the frail structure. To date, none have had the capacity to tackle the project.
MADISON TOWNSHIP SCHOOL
A large stone monument and two limestone entrance placards now mark the Madison Township School and its 27.3-acre nature preserve. This former 11-room brick building was the fourth educational structure on the site. The school’s last class graduated in 1967; the building was demolished in 1976. Louis (Sam) Bibler, a 1933 graduate and 1994 donor, asked ACRES to save in perpetuity the school’s memory and the attached acreage. Today, the still-visible building
site is ensconced in the growth of a secondary forest.
Having originally arisen amidst surrounding forest, these two schools are returning to nature under the permanent care of ACRES. ACRES will retire the trail systems at these properties Dec. 31, 2021, but these historic grounds will remain protected forever.