South Evergreen Schoolhouse

Saving an important piece of history

South Evergreen Schoolhouse  -  Belfry Reconstruction

In 2015, a worn and damaged belfry was removed from the South Evergreen one-room schoolhouse so that its aging roof could be repaired. Its school bell lost long ago, the belfry was itself in need of significant renovation. With a lift from John’s Towing, the belfry of this 150-year-old schoolhouse was carefully removed.


Over the past year, local craftsman Jim Fitzpatrick has been dismantling the belfry piece by piece, repairing or replacing rotted or broken boards and putting it back together. His aim is to retain as much of the original construction as possible and what he has found has been very interesting. “Whoever originally built the belfry was an expert wood worker. It is perfectly square and plumb, even today”, says Fitzpatrick.

The belfry’s roof is not a straight pitch. Each board required cuts that are on the bevel or at odd angles. Its peak was made of eight rafters that were cut to be curved and fastened at multiple angles. The ceiling of the belfry was constructed with tongue and groove lumber.

Two 3’x4’ boards serve as a cross beam that reinforces the entire roof, making the belfry very sturdy. To this cross beam Fitzpatrick installed a steel lifting hanger that extends up through the center of the peak with a metal loop. Serving as an aide in repositioning the belfry onto the roof, it will then be removed. Hinges have been added to the bottom of the belfry to act like adjusting feet handling irregularities of the roof.

Fitzpatrick removed two layers of shingles and as he examined the belfry he found that “The belfry’s roof boards are very old and there were hundreds of nails left each time it was shingled. There were a few old square nails in the lower structure. There were also lots of hickory nuts, walnuts and acorns in the belfry and mice had found a very nice place for a home for many years.”


The belfry’s roof boards were constructed with gaps between them since the original shake shingles did not require a continuous surface. Over time, these gaps allowed in moisture resulting in damage to the lower skirting, fascia and soffit. Fitzpatrick has replaced these with new boards. He will re-shingle the belfry with composition shingles matching the new roof that was installed on the school in 2015.

The finishing touch will be creating new decorative corner trim pieces to match the design shown on the earliest photos of the school.


Upon final completion of the belfry’s renovation, Fitzpatrick will place a school bell donated by Howard and Anna Sarber in the belfry, and a bell will ring once more in the South Evergreen School.

When the belfry was removed, it was fashioned with only one remaining corner trim piece that is seen in later photos. Apparently, the original trim had been replaced with a different style at some point.

Click here to view a two minute video of the belfry installation.


Click here to listen to the schoolhouse bell.

A time capsule has been placed inside the roof of the belfry


Perhaps in another 150 years, maintenance activities of the schoolhouse structure will reveal this time capsule.


The time capsule includes, among other things, the following items.

The following note is also included in the time capsule.


When South Evergreen closed its doors to a place of learning in 1959, it was sold for the sum of one dollar to Minnie Rankins, who owned the farm surrounding South Evergreen to the south and east.  It remained vacant during her ownership; she died in 1967 and passed it on to her daughter Frances Fitzpatrick.  About 1975 Fran's son Joe updated it, well, septic, roof, wood shed, and minor changes inside; and he lived there for about a year before renting it to a young couple, Jeannie Tierney and Tim Dunlap. They lived there for a few years and painted the building green during their stay.  At some point during the rental period Joe purchased the property from his mom Fran; he in turn sold it to Mary Pearce whose son Kim moved in and lived there until he died in about 1987.  On February 26, 1988 Mary sold South Evergreen to Allen L. Lemieux for 20,000 dollars; he and his wife and family lived directly across from the school on the north side of Leonard Road.  Then in 2014 along came Jim Key who lives with his wife Pam on 90th Avenue to the west and not far from South Evergreen.  He suggested to his friend Jim Fitzpatrick, that the idea of saving South Evergreen should be looked into and possibly save it as an historical site.  Jim Fitzpatrick’s grandmother, Elizabeth Golden Fitzpatrick had been the teacher at South Evergreen School for two years from the Fall of 1892 through the Spring of 1894.  And so they formed a committee of five; Jim Key, Kathy Walt, Jan Kimble, Rochelle Reagan, Jim Fitzpatrick.  Allen Lemieux agreed to sell the schoolhouse to them, hang on to it until they could come up with the 20,000 dollar purchase price.  The idea moved forward, money was accumulated through personal donations and grants, the property was purchased in 2015 and turned over to Polkton Township as part of the township's parks system.  The belfry was removed just after the purchase, restored by Jim Fitzpatrick and returned to its original place on the rooftop of South Evergreen in August of 2017.