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Gerald L. Poor Schoolhouse


Opened: 1973
Cost of Renovation: $68,500

The building that now houses the Gerald L. Poor School Museum was originally built as the Bohannon Schoolhouse in 1901 to replace an existing log cabin serving as a schoolhouse in Jasper Township, eight miles east of Mt. Pleasant. The school was closed in 1950 due to declining enrollment and rising operating costs and was converted into housing for migrant workers in the area. Seven years later, the building and the property on which it sat were annexed to the St. Louis Public School System. It was sold to Carl Ross in 1959 and later to James Lensher in the 1960s.

The process of relocation to Central Michigan University represented a cooperative effort between the University and the local community. In 1970, CMU's Center for Cultural and Natural History began looking for an old schoolhouse to convert into a museum on Central's campus. The Mt. Pleasant Realty Company located and purchased the Bohannon Schoolhouse and then donated it to the Center. Fred Grewe donated his services for moving the schoolhouse to its new location, a site on Preston just west of the railroad tracks and campus in May 1972. New wiring and heating systems were installed, and volunteers used donated furnishings to restore the interior to its original condition. Restoration work was done by workers at the Center for Cultural and Natural History, the Isabella County Historical Society, and volunteer citizens and students. In addition, the Mount Pleasant Federated Garden Club helped create an authentic surrounding landscape that included roses, shrubs, and forsythias.

In 1973, the Board of Trustees announced that the facility would be renamed the Gerald L. Poor School Museum, after a retiring member of the education faculty, who taught at CMU for 30 years. Unfortunately, Poor passed away before the museum was officially opened and dedicated in October 1976, although his wife was present at the ceremony. When it opened, the schoolhouse museum featured several artifacts from the turn of the twentieth century, including a pot-bellied stove, a slate chalkboard, period-style desks, and a 45-star American flag. By the end of October, second graders from Sacred Heart Elementary School were the first students to enjoy the authentic classroom experience.

In November 2004, John and Margaret Ann Riecker donated $108,500 to establish a literature series, which would be held in the Gerald L. Poor School Museum beginning summer 2005. $68,500 was used for renovation of the structure itself. Restroom facilities were added to the building, and air conditioning, ventilation, and heating systems were installed. New landscaping features were also added. Finally, the structure was improved to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act at this time. The schoolhouse remains open to the public and guided tours can be scheduled by appointment.