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Study in Renewal Relocated to Fort Worth’s Log Cabin Village, old schoolhouse again instructs kids B y A r t h u r W e i n m a n , AIA


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and placed in holes made in the vertical siding. Double plank doors kept out the cold, or let in the breeze during warm days. (Tuberculosis and cholera were major urban threats, and a healthy environment was thought to consist of adequate ventilation under, through, and around all buildings.) The exterior face below probably had a lattice of branches to keep stray animals out. The entry steps were a simple series of treads and risers leading directly up to the entry doors. In 1994, local historian Bill Pokluda found the structure sagging and bending, and feared the building would collapse. Recognizing its historic value, he built a minimal interior frame of double 2x4s. (The structural engineer for the restoration master plan proclaimed this solution “perfect for the situation” and allowed it to remain.) Given by the owner to the newly organized “Friends of the Marine Schoolhouse” the building was offered to the City of Fort Worth for use in the Log Cabin Village, a living history museum devoted to the preservation of Texas heritage. The building, badly in need of conservation, was relocated in one piece to the Log Cabin Village and restored to complete its return to its original purpose. The building had been on a variety of foundations. The city selected a site-cast reinforced concrete grade beam foundation as the most permanent solution and requiring the least maintenance. Lath was placed over the concrete

as a reminder of the original configuration. Although the original roof may have been shiplap planks, the current cedar shakes satisfy the visitors’ image of what the roof should be. New cedar entry steps and ramp – designed to satisfy Texas accessibility regulations – are attached according to Fort Worth Parks Department requirements for compatible construction and historical separability. Owing to its transient background, the Texas Historical Commission and the National Parks Department will never consider the building for a historical marker or other designation. The Marine Schoolhouse is a field-trip destination for local school children, who often dress in period clothes such as worn by their predecessors more than a century ago. The kids spend time in the classroom learning about life and education during those days long before. They are warmed by a wood fire from the castiron stove or cooled by breezes through the open doors and windows. They experience the same environment in which their great-great-great grandparents learned to write their ABCs on the painted chalkboards that remain on the walls. More than 130 years later, the Marine School house is still doing what M.G. Ellis intended— providing shelter for educating children generation after generation. The writer, working pro bono, prepared the master plan and documentation for restoring the Marine Schoolhouse.

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photo courtesy Art Weinman, AIA

Built as early as 1872, the one-room Marine Schoolhouse, 20 feet wide by 30 feet long, was donated to the community by local businessman M.G. Ellis to benefit the children of families who farmed in the northern sector of Fort Worth. Originally located near Marine Creek not far from the Fort Worth Stockyards, the building has been moved five times over its long history. The first move took place in 1879 when it was adapted for use as a residence before being re-adapted again for education after the new high school burned in 1904. Then it was moved another time and returned to residential use until the 1980s. Structurally simple, the 600-sq. ft. building’s compactness and rigidity has allowed it to endure a peripatetic existence. Its floor frame of 2x6-inch joists originally sat on bois d’arc posts, with a single layer of floorboards tying the platform together. Vertical siding of unsanded 1x11-inch boards were nailed to the outside ribbon to form the exterior face – sheathing, wall framing, and insulation all being one – and battens covered the joints. Inside walls are 3/8-inch-thick by 5-inch-wide milled tongueand-groove siding running horizontally over the vertical siding. Interior paint helped ward off drafts. Overhead, tongue-and-groove car siding was nailed to the bottom of 2x6-inch ceiling joists, which also served as roof framing ties to keep the outside walls from spreading with the 2x6-inch rafters. The windows were simple double-hung wood with a wood prop

Texas Architect Jan/ Feb 2009: Campus Communities