TRAVERSE CITY -- A little red one-room school house known as the Black School is for sale and East Bay Township will try to purchase it as potential parkland.
The school house has historical value in the community, but the 1.67 acres of commercially zoned land it occupies at the busy Hammond and Three Mile roads intersection created a sales price of $980,000. Marcia Imlay, who inherited the property from her mother, Maxine Knorfske, offered the property to the township for $711,600.
"Personally I think the history alone makes it almost worth it," said East Bay Township Clerk Sue Courtade. "Realistically, it's an opportunity to obtain property contiguous to the township hall and make it a destination (park) area."
The township board assigned a committee to pursue grants and other means to fund the purchase and determine possible uses of the property.
Rosie Flickinger, a librarian at the adjacent township library, said it would make an ideal children's wing for the library. She said the school house is a well-known community landmark and there are still a lot of local residents who attended school there.
"Some of the Courtade family went there before Cherry Knoll (elementary school) was built 50 years ago," Courtade said. "It was one of the last operating one-room school houses in the area."
The school is named for the farmer who built it, Flickinger said. According to local lore, farmer Edwin Black had no children at the time but didn't want his future heirs to have to make the long trek to a school house at Potter and Three Mile roads. Around 1898 he built the school house and hired a school teacher. He married her a year later, and the couple had six children.
The Black School and four other school houses became part of the Cherry Knoll Independent School District in 1956 when Cherry Knoll School opened. Cherry Knoll merged into the Traverse City Area Public Schools system in 1968.
Knorfske, a retired teacher from Wayne County, bought the property with her husband in the 1980s. She ran a teacher's supply store named the County School House there until she sold it in the 1990s.
The building has been empty for at least 10 years, but Flickinger was in it shortly after Knorfske died in 2006.
"It's beautiful and pristine, just like it was as a school house," Flickinger said. "It's a cool building. I'd like to see somebody do something cool with it. I'd hate to see it become a Burger King."
If the township can't find funding to purchase the land, Imlay has offered to donate the school building to the township.