Midway resident Barbara Martin can recall many memories of the time she spent in class at the old Dorchester Consolidated School in Midway. She remembers the modest kitchen, the fireplace in the corner and exactly how students sat in two classrooms arranged in neat rows according to grade.
She and her friend Julie Martin also remember the building, which now sits in a state of disrepair. The two say it was once alive with action and served as a meeting place for community dances and dinners after the school shut down in 1950.
Determined to honor these memories and the Dorchester Consolidated School’s place in history, the women started a nonprofit organization and selected a board to spearhead a restoration project, which recently has picked up some speed.
“It’s a part of my background,” Barbara Martin said. “It breaks my heart to see it in its current condition.”
“Even though I never went there, it means a great deal to me,” said Julie Martin, whose father and grandfather were active in the school’s administration.
The six-member board recently acquired the property and building through an anonymous donation and are now working on cleaning and rebuilding the facility so it can be used for a variety of events.
“Our goal is to eventually house a community center,” Barbara Martin said. “We need something to bring people together on this side of the county.”
Other ideas for the building, which they say needs about $200,000 worth of work, include transforming it into welcome center or a meeting place for area seniors. The nonprofit board also has visions of incorporating walking trails or a theater-type venue into the building to once again house dances and dinners.
Right now, they’ve hired a contractor to stabilize the building, which has sustained a lot of weather damage, and replace the roof.
The school was built in 1927, and after surviving a fire in 1938, continued to house grades kindergarten through sixth grade until 1950 when it closed. According to Barbara Martin, the building has two classrooms, a small auditorium, a kitchen and some bathrooms, all of which she hopes will be preserved.
“We’ll get it as close to the original as we can,” Barbara Martin said.
The women are asking the community to show its support by looking for pictures of the old school or submitting other other mementos, volunteering or making a donation. With construction ready to begin, the women hope to have the project completed in the next two years.
“Things are looking good,” Julie Martin said.