GUELPH/ERAMOSA – A young couple restoring a historic schoolhouse near Guelph Lake are looking for one last piece of history to make it complete: the original schoolhouse bell.
That’s going to require some cooperation from the township as it’s currently a part of a memorial in a cairn located at Marden Park.
Alex Ciccone and Brittany MacIntyre recently purchased the former Watson Road Schoolhouse, located north of Guelph Lake, first built in 1891 and used as a school until 1964.
The property also used by the Grand River Conservation Authority as an office for many decades before eventually being sold.
“We’ve been looking at a heritage property for years and this one in particular was a beautiful, beautiful building,” Ciccone said in an interview. “I think everyone loves the idea of buying a property to restore it to its old glory.”
They say mounting the original bell into the belfry would complete the heritage facade of the building in their view.
The original bell is still in the area too.
According to a document provided by Guelph/Eramosa heritage committee chair Coun. Corey Woods, in 1967 the former Guelph Township created a park which included a cairn incorporating the Watson Road Schoolhouse bell which had been removed from the property years prior.
This park later became flooded as part of the Guelph Lake project and the bell monument, serving as a commemoration of local one-room schoolhouses, was moved to Marden Park in the 70s where it remains today.
Ciccone and MacIntyre wrote to the township requesting the schoolhouse bell be moved back to its original location.
“Selfishly, of course, we want it for the heritage perspective but from the community’s perspective it’s always better from a heritage standpoint if you can restore things back to where they were,” Ciccone said.
They see it being better protected at the current location — Ciccone noted the bell seems to be damaged and in poor condition at the park — and better appreciated by those who come by to see the historic property.
“It’s been vacant for a couple of years and so people seeing us here they’re very interested in what our plans are and we have people say ‘my grandfather went to school here,’ so it’s part of the community,” MacIntyre said.
The pair were before Guelph/Eramosa’s committee of the whole on Wednesday afternoon to discuss their request.
The township’s heritage committee at a February meeting recommended the bell remain at Marden Park.
Councillors had to take this into consideration.
Woods said at the meeting this schoolhouse bell has essentially had two lives, one as a functioning school bell and the other as part of a commemorative piece at local parks, which couldn’t be discounted either.
“If I owned your home I’d be doing the exact same thing, you know I got the school, I want the bell,” Woods said. “My personal potential feelings aside, I would have to back up the heritage committee being the chair.”
Ciccone said at the meeting getting the original bell is ideal but the original foundry still exists in Missouri and they would look at getting something made if this isn’t successful.
Mayor Chris White appreciated hearing about this old building being restored and understood the desire for the original materials.
White said staff and council will consider their proposal at a later date and there are options beyond outright purchasing the bell that could be explored.