Historic Morris School Hits the Road

To avoid demolition, a nineteenth-century one-room schoolhouse will be moved to a new home, where it may be restored for use as a programming and events space.

Lynn Cason talks about the recent history of the old Morris School, District No. 5 Wabash Township at Cumberland Avenue and U.S. 231 in West Lafayette. After the one-room schoolhouse closed, Cason said farmers stored grain in the building. The school, built in 1879, sits on property Cason sold to Franciscan Health. Cason is working with the City of West Lafayette and others to move the schoolhouse about a quarter mile east to land he is donating for a new city park. (Photo: John Terhune/Journal & Courier)

On a Roll

For a while longer, you’ll find the Morris School at the northeast corner of U.S. 231 and Cumberland Avenue in West Lafayette. The brick one-room schoolhouse was built there in 1879 as part of the Cason family’s property. When the land sold in 2014, the future of the old schoolhouse seemed in doubt until a gift of nearby land from Mr. Lynn Cason.

Originally known as Wabash Township School No. 5, the schoolhouse operated until 1916, when school consolidation made it obsolete. The modest exterior—brick walls atop a rubble stone foundation, capped by a gabled roof—encloses a single rectangular room with plastered brick walls. The ceiling failed long ago, exposing a timber roof structure.


It may win the vacancy prize. The building has been empty since 1916, unless you count periods when farmers used it to store grain and lumber. For years, Lynn Cason maintained the place, keeping it dry to avoid further decay. Although he sold the land to Franciscan Health, a private health care organization, he joined with others on a plan to save the school, facing a deadline of April 1 to move it or see it demolished.

With the deadline looming, Mr. Cason saved the day by offering to donate 13.6 acres of land along Cumberland Avenue if the community can raise $80,000 to cover the move and new foundation. The donated land, approximately 900 feet away from the original site, give the schoolhouse a permanent home and the city a new park connected to the West Lafayette’s 27-mile trail system. The city and parks department are considering potential uses for the schoolhouse, including educational programs and events space.


Photo: West Lafayette Parks & Recreation Department

Relocation will cost $49,500. The move, scheduled for late winter, is billed as a “Field Trip,” with spectators encouraged to view the schoolhouse roll across a soybean field to its new location. The city pledged to match 50 cents for every dollar raised up to $30,000. Franciscan Health is covering the coast for project management during the move. The schoolhouse advocates are looking for grants and donations of money and services to complete the move and to restore the landmark to usable condition.

For more information about the move, the new park, and donating to the schoolhouse project, contact the nonprofit West Lafayette Parks & Recreation Foundation, P.O. Box 2391, West Lafayette, IN 47906, or read more online.

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