DeeAnn Britton is on a mission.
She wants to save an old schoolhouse. The building, known as the Pink Schoolhouse, sits on a bend on 80th Street in Wilton Township nearly 10 miles southwest of Waseca. Britton and her family had long been neighbors of the previous owners Lois and Lawrence Yess.
Before Lois Yess died a few years ago, Britton promised to preserve the schoolhouse. Britton bought the property in January, as Yess’s remaining family couldn’t take it on.
“I made a promise,” Britton said. “I just think it’s worth saving.”
The property has the schoolhouse and a two-story home on it. The schoolhouse is not on the National Register of Historic Places and it’s not clear exactly how old it is.
In a 1879 plat map, the schoolhouse, marked as Schoolhouse No. 20, is at the northwest corner of the intersection of what is now County Road 29 and 310th Avenue.
Lois Yess’s father, Henry Bauman, had bought the property at 29089 80th Street. The school was moved there, and later a house from County Road 12 was. But for a while, the schoolhouse was used as a house.
Despite the walls installed in the former one-room schoolhouse, chalkboards and the cloak room remain. There are a few artifacts from the schoolhouse’s origin, along with many antiques that once served the family that lived there.
Britton will use those antiques in an estate sale Nov. 3-5 at the former Dave’s Grocery, 110 Main St. S., Waldorf, to raise money to restore the building. The building needs a little more roofing, rebuilt front and back porches, chimney replacement, windows and siding.
“I like organizing and de-cluttering,” Britton said. “I’m washing things and putting them at the Waldorf grocery store.”
The estate sale will be run by Aunt Pearl’s Attic, which has a Facebook event page for the sale. The sale will include advertising items from local towns, antique toys including Rin Tin Tin dog, ephemera such as calendars, records, clocks, vintage clothing and hats, holiday decorations and all sorts of housewares.
Britton said she got to know Lois Yess in recent years and helped her and son Larry as their health failed.
Lois Yess used to sit in the schoolhouse, telling Britton stories about living there with her husband Lawrence and Larry and going to the school in her youth.
Britton said her mother-in-law also attended that school, as had many neighbors.
In a Waseca County News article Britton provided, Yess said that the schoolhouse had once been pale yellow, but was later painted its signature bright pink. Britton said pink is the color it will remain.
Yess told the News that grades 1 through 8 attended, about 20 to 30 children, attended school there. The schoolhouse was generally cold, heated by a single stove, and water was a half-mile away in a pasture well. They worked hard with little curriculum, shared one set of encyclopedias, and students still passed a difficult eighth-grade test.
Britton said she’d like to eventually have a little schoolhouse museum, but she would be happy now just to make the building structurally sound again. Family members helped by replacing most of the roof and taking down a listing chimney. The chimney will be rebuilt, she said.
Wilton Township has offered some support, but Britton knows she’s got a lot of work to do.
“I just believe it will happen the way it’s supposed to happen,” she said.