South Newfane schoolhouse (Submitted photo)
South Newfane schoolhouse (Submitted photo)
Monday November 19, 2012

NEWFANE -- It may not sound like much -- a $1,900 grant for a new, efficient heater in an old, seldom-used schoolhouse.

But community advocates in South Newfane see the new heating system as one step toward revitalizing the 19th-century school so that it can host neighborhood gatherings on a regular basis.

"It's part of our history as a village," said Chris Triebert, South Newfane Community Association president. "If we don't maintain this building, it will disappear."

The community association was formed primarily to take possession of the village's schoolhouse after classes ended there in the 1950s, Triebert said. There was a time when more community events were held at the building, which is situated at Dover and Auger Hole roads.

But the structure has "really fallen into disuse," Triebert said. One reason is the relatively close proximity of Williamsville Hall, which has lessened the demand for such a space in South Newfane.

The hall "underwent a major renovation, and it's a bigger space, so that became more of a community center," Triebert said.

Also, Triebert said the association was forced to shut down the school's woodstove for insurance purposes. It was replaced by a noisy, inefficient propane heater.

A $1,900 grant from Vermont Community Foundation's "Small and Inspiring" program remedied the heating situation. The association used that cash for purchase and installation of a "highly efficient and quiet gas furnace" at the schoolhouse, Triebert said.

Association members believe the heating system "will allow public meetings and events to be held in comfort in the building throughout the winter."

Triebert said that won't be the last improvement at the schoolhouse. She also has applied for a more substantial grant to fix the school's aging, uneven floor.

"If we get that, we're going to rip the floor out and put a new floor in," she said.

Triebert foresees the school being used much more frequently for relatively small events such as discussion groups, music nights or art and book events.

"We're trying to get more events to happen in that building that are appropriate for that space," she said.

More information on South Newfane news and events -- including a photo of the school's new furnace being installed -- can be found at www.facebook.com/NewfaneBulletin.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.