Despite its age, a schoolhouse along Wisconsin Highway 13 in Cloverland continues to attract visitors. They may be drawn by the distinctive merry-go-round out front, or the empty bell tower that straddles the building, which was formed by joining the King and Harvey schools in 1916.
“I don’t know if it’s just people intrigued by this building or what — it gets a lot of traffic,” said John Martin of Cloverland.
Neighbors understand the site’s draw.
“Whenever I see old buildings, I wonder what their story is,” said Liz Burhans, who grew up down the road from the school. “If they could only talk.”
The school shut its doors in 1948, but the building lived on as the Cloverland Community Club. It was the site of parties, suppers, bridal showers, dances and sales. When the town of Cloverland celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1972, the building hosted old-time dancing to live music.
“It was a community place where people gathered for meals and friendship and played softball,” Burhans said. “It was neighbors, friends, relatives.”
Four years ago, the remnants of the Cloverland Community Club said they were looking for options to preserve the building, which had fallen into disrepair and attracted vandals.
“It’s gotten worse,” Burhans said. “It’s sad to see it in this shape.”
A walk around the school Aug. 6 revealed empty window frames, sagging floors and brightly colored, often vulgar graffiti decorating the walls. A number of blackboards have been removed. Desks that lined one room are gone, as is the one of the stoves that once heated the building.
In their place, visitors have left broken pingpong tables, a twin mattress and rusty folding chairs. Empty spray paint and beer cans could be seen.
The building was previously secured, but the doors hung open Aug. 6.
“We bolted them shut, we nailed them shut, we locked them shut and they’d just break them open and get in,” Martin said. “Then they started breaking windows.”
His uncle, Jim, installed new glass in the windows about 25 years ago, not long after the original bell was stolen, but they’re gone now.
RELATED STORY: Aging school faces uncertain future
There are no plans to renovate the building. Martin said the amount of new construction needed, including ceilings and floor, would outweigh the historic parts that could be saved.
“You’re probably looking at a future practice burn,” said Martin, a member of the Cloverland Volunteer Fire Department.
The aging structure will keep attracting passersby, neighbors said. They can take pictures, peer in the windows, get a closeup view of the swing. But the footing inside is precarious; the walls are sagging.
“Please don’t go inside,” Burhans said. “There are a lot of good memories here.”