Advocates of saving a schoolhouse that opened in 1874 are a step closer to their goal of rehabilitating and moving the historic building after receiving a large contribution from a Fairfax Station couple.
The group plans to move the one-room schoolhouse, which has fallen into disrepair, from its location near Union Mill and Compton roads in Clifton to a lot on school-owned property next to nearby Liberty Middle School.
Once there, the building will be restored and opened to visitors.
"This is one of the last schools from that era," said Pat Layden, a former Clifton Town Council member and advocate of the Save Crouch School effort.
Layden and a handful of advocates have been working with the school system for more than five years on the project, which would allow Fairfax County students to see firsthand how their 19th-century peers were educated and what the teaching resources of the time were like.
The key obstacle in achieving their goal, Layden said, was the cost. The 20-by-40 foot schoolhouse is estimated to cost $175,000 to $200,000 to move and restore.
The effort took a big step forward after Tom and Janey Nodeen of Fairfax Station made a large contribution to the effort. The couple owns the property on which the school sits, which was purchased during a foreclosure auction three years ago, Tom Nodeen said.
The Nodeens declined to say how much they gave.
"One of the neighbors down the street stopped by and said there was an effort to save and move the school," Nodeen said. "Obviously, it takes a lot of money to rebuild a building. . . . My wife's and my feeling is that it's a good idea, and it's a worthy cause to help people see what life was like."
The Nodeens' donation comes at a great time, said Peter Noonan, Fairfax County public schools assistant superintendent for instructional services. The plan is to move the school by summer, protecting it from future development on the Nodeens' property, he said.
"The property on which it sits is for sale, for residential development," he said. "We're on a timeline where we could get it moved by the summer."
About 20 children attended the Crouch School in 1918, said Margo Khosravi, who heads Clifton's Historic Preservation Committee. The history of the school, she said, is open to debate.
Although some members of the group said the Crouch School had students from 1874 into the 1930s, Khosravi believes the closure came earlier.
"I found an old Fairfax Herald [newspaper] from 1919. . . . It said a school had opened on the Ivakota grounds," a farm nearby, during that year, she said. Students, Khosravi said, would have been shifted to the new public school.
The Couch School "is still one of the oldest schools in the county," she said. "One thing that surprised me - it's a little bit hard to do a study on something like this. No one who went to school there still survives."
The public school system began operating in 1870, four years before the Crouch School opened.
The land was donated to the school system by William A. Crouch. After 1925, the county returned the land to the Crouch family, which had to buy the schoolhouse because it had been built with public funds, according to Save Crouch School. Since then, the property has changed hands several times and has remained undeveloped. It is zoned for residential housing.
"The two most important factors in this effort were - I would have to say - when Pat Layden got involved. . . . He helped us create a business plan," Khosravi said. "And the second has to be Mr. Nodeen's gift. Santa Claus does exist. People who fear that the project wasn't going anywhere can now feel comfortable donating."
The project drew her attention as a lover of history and because of what it would mean to the Crouch family, Khosravi said.
"Mr. Harry Crouch, whose grandfather gave the land to the school system, is a veteran of Normandy, and it really means so much to him that this school be saved. There aren't that many old buildings in the county anymore, and it'd be a shame to lose one more."