VOLIN — The former Volin school has been around for a century, and after some recent work, the building could be around for maybe another hundred years.
Since Doug Sharples purchased the building in 2000, a couple years after the new school in Gayville was built, a number of improvements have been made to the building, which includes a new roof two years ago.
This past month, the former school received some tuckpointing and masonry work to improve the quality of the building.
"It should be good for another 50, 60, 70 to 80 years at least," said Mike Polreis of Mid-Continental Restoration Company, which completed the masonry work. "This is a nice building. There's hardly any movement in the building, and it should stand strong for 100 years."
Polreis and his crew spent the last three weeks working on the school's exterior. The crew removed deteriorating mortar from between the bricks, and then replaced broken bricks with others they took from the interior of the building's chimney.
The reason bricks from the chimney were used instead of replacing them with random bricks from elsewhere is because of the uniqueness of the brick, which were made in a kiln in Sioux City when the building was constructed in 1910.
However, the kiln closed before the addition to the school was built in the 1920s.
The unique bricks are part of the reason why the building is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
"The bricks were put in the kiln in such a way that there are patterns on the brick. In addition, the bricks are not placed in the same pattern, creating interesting lines in the building," Sharples said. "The bricks really give the school a distinctive look, and they are one of the reasons we wanted to save the school."
The building was put up for an auction in 2000, but Sharples and his wife Judi didn't have the highest bid.
However, they got a second shot on the building when the first bid didn't go through. Once again the building and the four acres surrounding it, which included the old gym, went up for auction and this time, the Sharples came away as the highest bidders.
"It's an unusual, beautiful building, and we just wanted to save it," Sharples said. "The gym is a bit unusual, too, and it's not on the national register, but it could be. There are laminated beams, and there is knotty pine, as well, to go along with a great interior."
For the Sharples, the next project in the restoration process is to replace the building's old steam heating system.
"The original system is a boiler, so we are going to try and find a more modern heating system," Sharples said. "We are looking to modernize it, so we are looking into geo-thermal heat or some other green options."
With the restoration process almost complete, Sharples must determine how to use the building.
"It needs to be something useful, and I am thinking a mixed-use facility," he said. "It's going back to an earlier concept which would be a residential facility on the second floor and a work place on the bottom floor.
"The main thing is to get it the building to the point that it will last. We want it to be around no matter what the use will be."