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School Daze

by Venice

By Larry Schwingel

Davie is home to the oldest-standing school building in Broward County. After 100 years, the property remains thanks to a community that wouldn’t allow it to be torn down and used as a parking lot for buses. The Davie School Foundation was formed in 1984 to save the building, and after a period of lobbying politicians and school board members, the town of Davie purchased the building from the Broward County School Board for $1.

The original Davie School opened its doors in 1918 to about 90 students. There, teachers and high school graduates taught classes (when there was a shortage of professors); students and teachers swam together in the nearby canal; boys drove buses of students to high school in Fort Lauderdale; and the Davie Home Guard trained for local defense while other locals served overseas in World War I.

In this space, lessons were learned and friendships were formed. It was a place to meet, socialize and even seek shelter during a hurricane. At one time, it served as office space for the Broward County School Board.

A landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the school—now known as the Old Davie School Historical Museum—recently celebrated its centennial with a gala that raised $60,000.

“It’s been in use for virtually all 100 years, even though the school closed in 1980,” says Kim Weismantle, the education director of the foundation. “The artifacts in our beautifully restored 1920s classroom include the original slate blackboard, dip pens, antique desks, maps and photos of students from the 1920s to the 1970s. It’s a wonderful educational experience that really puts that era in a time capsule.”

The museum is unique for its range of displays, not the least of which is an original Sinclair Oil gas pump. Visitors who tour the 7-plus-acre campus are also treated to the 1909 Pioneer Home, 1912 Viele House and 1914 Walsh-Osterhoudt House, which showcase memorabilia such as period furniture, a vintage icebox, a 1920s Hoosier cabinet, handcrafted dollhouses, antique roll-top desks and early telephones.

The grounds are also used for community meetings, social events and weddings. “The school has been the center of the community forever,” says Leslie Schroeder, the foundation’s executive director. “My grandmother went to school there, as did every one of my brothers and sisters, so for me, it’s personal.”

Today programs such as Step Back in Time and Old Davie Days offer groups interactive tours, exhibits and discussions on pioneer life. The campus is also available for public tours. After all this time, the Old Davie School is a symbol of longevity—and of collective spirit.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 Issue.

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