Where Past Meets Present

Frances Willard Schoolhouse

Frances Willard Schoolhouse is moving from 4-H Fairgrounds to RCHS

163 year old school will be moved to site near Lincoln-Tallman House

Janesville, WI— On the morning of Saturday, June 4th, the Rock County Historical Society (RCHS) will move one of its historic sites, the Frances Willard Schoolhouse, from the 4-H Fairgrounds across Janesville to the RCHS campus. This project is a collaborative effort working in conjunction with local donors and contractors to provide the school with a permanent home as part of the RCHS new history campus concept.

Once secure in its new location, the schoolhouse will compliment the Lincoln-Tallman House and enhance the Society’s educational programming. With their new proximity to each other, the Society’s educational staff will be able to offer more versatile and diverse programming options for teachers to make their visit to the campus more complete and memorable. A brief dedication of the school’s relocation will take place on Monday, June 6th at 6:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. at 430 N. Jackson Street. Remarks will be made at that time. The general public is encouraged to be on hand to celebrate this special achievement.

The Schoolhouse will become a campus destination in its own right, offering various programs and events that focus on the theme of education and play. “Accomplishing the school’s relocation during the Society’s year of PLAY in 2016 was critical as it demonstrates our seriousness in engaging younger visitors and families to the campus,” said Michael Reuter, RCHS Executive Director. “Once the schoolhouse is on site, we will be able to provide a unique menu of activities and programs that make history fun to this younger generation.”

A local businessman, Bob Kimball and an anonymous donor are providing support to the Society in funding the school’s relocation costs as well as the landscape changes planned as part of the RCHS Campus Master Plan. In the months to follow, additional grading, landscape plantings, a historic flagpole and even a replica outhouse (inoperable), will be created. The Society is partnering with Drywater Productions to capture this once-in-a-generation event with video and photography.

The schoolhouse was built in 1853 by Josiah Willard, father of the famed suffragist and educator Frances Willard, who briefly attended classes in the schoolhouse at the age of 14 and taught there for a summer in 1858. The building was affectionately mentioned by her in her autobiographies and even named after her during its remodeling in 1904. The school was obtained by RCHS in 1969 and moved from its original location to the Rock County fairgrounds in 1972. Since then, more than 30,000 4th grade students have experienced 19th century classes and exhibits, transforming the school, like the Lincoln-Tallman House, into an educational rite of passage where student learn about and appreciate local history.

Rendering of Frances Willard Schoolhouse on Campus

Rendering of Frances Willard Schoolhouse on Campus