Back to 1914 School Bash open house: Myakka prepares for final push to reopen schoolhouse

jajones1@bradenton.comOctober 31, 2013 

MANATEE -- All historical significance aside, the Back to 1914 School Bash open house, set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in Myakka City, sounds like a lot of fun.

Highlights: Swamp cabbage "butchering," teenage musicians playing banjos and mandolins, a barbecue cookoff, roping demonstrations, shootouts by the Hole in the Wall Gang, a schoolmarm in long dress and bonnet, fried-green tomatoes, gator bites, ribs and pulled pork.

It's all part of the two-decade effort to save the 1914 wooden schoolhouse in Myakka City. Although the Mosaic phosphate mining company

is donating $50,000 to the effort, up to $250,000 is required to complete the project, said Marilyn Coker, president of the Myakka City Historical Society.

"There is no finishes on the wall or the ceiling. It's all roughed in. There is a lot of plastering and partitioning to be done," Coker said Wednesday.

Open house activities will be outside the school house at 10060 Wauchula Road. The public can take a walk-through tour to see what has been done and what remains to be completed.

To date, $550,000 has been expended on the project.

The historic structure was set for demolition when the new Myakka City Elementary School building was built onsite in 1993.

But there was strong sentiment in the community to save the structure, which resulted in it being cut in half, moved and stored for three years.

Eventually, the two halves of the 5,500-square-foot building were rejoined, and -- in spurts over the years -- new roofing, painting and repairs undertaken. In addition, a screened porch and restrooms were added to the building.

Most window frames and hardwood floors are original, but complete originality wouldn't be practical. Students in 1914 used outhouses, and there was no electricity in the building.

"It's been harder than you would think, but we are two-thirds of the way finished," Coker said. "We have already raised $550,000, I would never have imagined that we would have been able to raise that much."

Also envisioned for the schoolhouse, when it hopefully opens to the public on its 100th anniversary in November 2014, are a library, computer lab, conference room, classroom and auditorium.

"We would love to have exhibitions, meeting space and community theater," Coker said. "The school will look more like it looked in 1914 than in 1993. We didn't get electricity in the village until 1948."

Many who have signed on to save the school house have an emotional attachment to the building.

Coker attended school there from third through eighth grade, before moving on to the closest high school, Manatee, graduating in 1955.

Marcia Cannon, secretary for the Myakka City Historical Commission, worked as a librarian in the 1914 schoolhouse and then transferred to the new Myakka City Elementary when it opened. Her children attended school at the old schoolhouse, starting in 1980.

Her husband's grandmother, Irene Carlton McDonald, was among the children who walked from Myakka's original one-room schoolhouse, behind what is now the post office, down the street to the new school when it opened in November 1914.

To help reach their fundraising goal, the historical society is seeking donations from former students and faculty, community members and from corporations and charitable organizations.

"The community has really come together to provide this day of entertainment. We really appreciate all of their efforts," Coker said.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1

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