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Campbelltown School gets new life as community center

The second classroom in the Campbelltown School was converted into a sitting room/Christmas room during the renovation project spearheaded by Campbelltown Church parishioner Nicki Felton. The congregation and community members spent five years restoring the schoolhouse and transforming it into a community center. S. Stewart photo
The second classroom in the Campbelltown School was converted into a sitting room/Christmas room during the renovation project spearheaded by Campbelltown Church parishioner Nicki Felton. The congregation and community members spent five years restoring the schoolhouse and transforming it into a community center. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

When the Campbelltown Church purchased the former Campbelltown School, it was an acquisition for access to a parking lot. After the purchase, it became much more as Sam and Nicki Felton, with support from church parishioners, remodeled the school, turning it into a community center.

In 1905, Campbell Lumber Company built a mill, church and school in the town named Campbelltown. While the company is now gone, the homes, church and school remain.

The school closed in 1966 and was briefly reopened in 1969 after Marlinton Elementary School was condemned.

After closing its doors for good when the new MES was built, the building was purchased by and used by the VFW as a meeting hall.

“That’s who we bought it off of, the VFW,” Nicki said. “They wanted to sell it. We didn’t really need it, but this parking lot belonged to the schoolhouse and we needed the parking lot.”

Once the Campbelltown Church had ownership of the school and parking lot, a decision had to be made concerning the building.

The building was in disrepair and while Sam, at first, thought it would be easier to demolish the building and build a pavilion, Nicki saw potential in the old school.

“When Sam came in here he said, ‘oh, Nicki, we need to tear this place down,’ and I jumped up and down on the floors and I said, ‘feel how solid this is,’” Nicki said. “I said, ‘we are not tearing it down. We’ll do a little bit at a time to redo it.’ We’ve been working on it for five years.”

Sam said his mind was changed the moment he walked into the building.

“After we walked in, I saw the potential,” he said.

The project began with a much needed paint job and new ceiling, followed by new wiring, plumbing and a handicapped accessible restroom and porch. The Feltons hired contractors as funds allowed and slowly, but surely, the building breathed new life.

“Aaron Carpenter and Frosty McNabb, they’ve done the electric and, of course, Rusty, our son, did the plumbing,” Nicki said. “Matt Buzzard built the porch and redid the floors for us. Then Todd Kahler did the painting. Danny Beverage just finished our driveway.”

The main classroom has been transformed into a dining/meeting area and the adjacent room – the lunch room – opens up for more seating. The kitchen is fully furnished with a stove, microwave, sink and refrigerator.

Next to the kitchen is the real gem – the sitting room – also known as the Christmas room. Filled with natural light pouring in through large windows, the room has a classy feeling with eclectic furnishings, a piano and permanent Christmas tree.

“We turned this into a sitting area, and we put up a Christmas tree,” Sam said.

“We didn’t want to take it down,” Nicki added. “It was so much trouble putting up.”

A decorative sign on the mantel by the tree explains it all – “We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ every day.”

“That way, we could leave the tree up and people wouldn’t think we were crazy,” Nicki said laughing.

The room is complete with a small restroom with a small addition – a child’s toilet.

“Since this was a place for kids, I had something special for the kids put in,” Nicki said. “I had a kid’s commode put in. The kids love it. I had Terry Richardson order that for me.”

While the original desks and school supplies are long gone, the building still has clues that it was a schoolhouse. In restoring the original hardwood floors, the desk arrangements were revealed.

“You can see places on the floor where the desks were screwed down,” Nicki said.

The restoration didn’t stop with the schoolhouse. In its heyday, the school did not have indoor plumbing. Children and teachers had to go outdoors to the outhouses. One outhouse was too far gone, but the other was restored to serve as a reminder of the past.

“We saved this one,” Sam said. “We’ve kind of redone it, and Johnny Fitzgerald is supposed to make us a sign that says ‘Precious Memories’ that we’re going to put on the side of the outhouse.”

The school is filled with memories, so much so, that one individual’s memories were framed and hung on the wall for visitors to enjoy.

In 2011, the late Dr. Layton “Tony” Beverage wrote a letter to Cookie Doss in which he recalled many memories of Campbelltown School. The letter and a photo of Beverage are on display on the wall of the main room.

The main classroom of Campbelltown School was remodeled to be used as a dining hall or meeting hall. Natural light spills in through the multiple windows lining two walls of the building. Although it is not air conditioned, the windows and ceiling fans cool the former school. S. Stewart photo
The main classroom of Campbelltown School was remodeled to be used as a dining hall or meeting hall. Natural light spills in through the multiple windows lining two walls of the building. Although it is not air conditioned, the windows and ceiling fans cool the former school. S. Stewart photo

Nicki’s love for old things and familial connection to Campbelltown made the project even more special for her.

“I like old things,” she said. “Our house is one hundred and twelve years old and I go shopping at dumps. I haven’t done that for a while, but I used to. I just like old things. I don’t care that much for new stuff. [The church] needed a place because if we had a death, we had no place to feed the family. I just thought this would work good for something like that and have a community center.”

Now that the project is finished, the building is available for events and has already served as a meeting place for class reunions and wedding receptions as well as a place to serve families before or after a funeral.

“We told other churches in our charge – there’s five churches in our charge – Central Union is the only one that has a building,” Nicki said. “So we told Swago, Edray, White’s Chapel and Campbelltown if they have a death in the family and they need to feed the family, feel free to use this because we wouldn’t charge them a nickel.”

The Feltons said it was easier to allow people to give a donation for use of the building instead of charging a rental fee.
Campbelltown Church has as rich a history as the school. As a kid living in downtown Marlinton, Nicki walked to the Marlinton Presbyterian Church until she began driving her grandma to the Campbelltown Church.

“When I was a kid, we lived on First Avenue where the Greenbrier Grille is,” Nicki said. “We just walked to the Presbyterian Church. Then when I got older, my grandmother went to the Campbelltown Church, and I didn’t know why she went there. She never really said anything until I started coming with her.

“There’s an old organ in the church and she said, ‘you know my mommy helped raise the money to buy that organ,’” she continued. “I said, ‘oh, is that right?’ And she said, ‘yes, she sold eggs to help raise the money to buy that organ. The organ is still there. [The Campbelltown Church] is where we’ve stayed.”

While Nicki was the one who started the project, she and Sam both said if it wasn’t for the parishioners, the school would not look as good as it does.

“Without the cooperation and the resources of the Campbelltown congregation, this wouldn’t have happened,” Sam said.
The building is available for use, but to Nicki, it is still a work in progress. As she looks around, she notices that there will always be something to do to make the building better.

“We need to replace the front porch – the deck on it,” she said. “The steps need replaced. There’s several things. It needs painted again. It’s still a work in progress.”

Those interested in using the building may contact a member of the Campbelltown Church.

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