Restoration of old Lockbourne school coming together

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
Restoration expert Brian Nance holds up a tin ceiling tile found during renovation work on Lockbourne’s old schoolhouse project. The building was Hamilton Township’s first four-year high school and also served as a Masonic lodge.

Contractor Brian Nance is breathing new life into a historic former schoolhouse and Masonic temple in Lockbourne.

The village, which borders Rickenbacker International Airport, is in the midst of the project turning the brick three-story structure into a community and event center that reflects Lockbourne’s heritage and celebrates a history dating back to the 1800s.

“Lockbourne Village Administrator Jane McJunkin told me about the project in 2018, but I didn’t hear anything more about it until toward the end of 2019 when they said they’re ready to go,” said Nance, who said he does not take the easy path when it comes to restoring old properties.

Nance previously worked on the oldest structure in Pickaway County—a farmhouse mansion along U.S. Route 23, a historic restoration in Fairfield County, and the restoration of a vintage soda shop and pharmacy in his hometown.

However, the schoolhouse project was the first time he worked as his own general contractor.

“Initially, I was just going to redo the ceiling said Nance, “but then a can of worms opened up. I started working on the ceiling in February 2020 and it just evolved into a complete renovation. We (village officials and Nance) gained each other’s trust. I ended up being the full general contractor and had a hand in the design-build process, but this also is a labor of love. The people in this community have really stepped up to help, like Shelly and Sands who poured the steps, to save the history of this building.”

Windows walled up for years were uncovered, old pressed-tin ceiling tiles were discovered and when two of the windows on the first floor of the building constructed in the late 1800s lacked frames to match others on the walls, Nance put his woodworking skills to the test in reproducing the 100-plus year-old frames.

Ceilings were pulled down and risers from the time of the Masons—where the society held its ceremonies for decades—were ripped out and a wood floor exposed. Bricks and fireplaces were revealed, new doors installed, bathrooms upgraded, wainscotting put up where students once hung their coats at the start of the school day and a raw edge counter installed with a view of the kitchen.

“We reconfigured the big room and created new openings,” said Nance, who hopes to have the second floor done by Memorial Day. “These types of structures just aren’t being built anymore. We got to maintain history and this old architecture is beautiful. This schoolhouse was a landmark for its time and I credit the leaders of this community with having the foresight to preserve it.”

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