Architecture Students Aid Restoration Of Historic Wheelock Schoolhouse

Ben Baaske prepares to scan the Wheelock Schoolhouse.

Ben Baaske prepares to scan the Wheelock Schoolhouse. (College of Architecture)

By Sarah Wilson, Texas A&M University College of Architecture

From tape measures to state-of-the-art laser scans, Texas A&M preservation students employed an array of tools while meticulously documenting an historic schoolhouse building in Wheelock, Texas in a successful effort to help garner funds for the 108-year-old structure’s renovation.

Working with the College of Architecture’s Center for Heritage Conservation, students surveyed the building’s architectural features, including 52 decorative window frames, and created a 3-D model and restoration plan that was submitted as part of a grant proposal to The Texas Preservation Trust. In response, TPT selected the Wheelock schoolhouse as one of the 13 conservation projects it funded this year.

A two-story traditional dogtrot structure, the landmark schoolhouse, built in 1908, was converted to the Wheelock Community Center in 1948. It has since hosted community gatherings such as an annual Fourth of July parade and barbeque.

Kathy Hedrick, director of Friends of the Wheelock Schoolhouse, said the community is grateful for the CHC and College of Architecture faculty and students who conducted the project.

(College of Architecture)

The Texas A&M team stands at the schoolhouse after surveying. (College of Architecture)

“The work was instrumental in our obtaining the grant,” said Hedrick. “It makes me proud of Texas A&M that they are so supportive of projects such as ours.”

The TPT grant for $15,000 will be matched by Friends of the Wheelock Schoolhouse and used to restore 12 of the building’s window frames.

Acting on a CHC referral, Priya Jain, an assistant professor of architecture at Texas A&M and certified preservation architect, made the Wheelock project part of her summer 2017 graduate preservation documentation course, teaching students how to perform assessment surveys and apply preservation skills in a real-world service project.

“The wooden, double-hung windows are original to the building and feature decorative molding, weights and pulleys that are a unique character defining feature,” said Jain, who has worked on historic windows in Boston, Brooklyn and Washington D.C. “It is fortunate they, having not been replaced by standard vinyl or metal windows over the years, retain their historic charm. Their restoration will preserve this key building element for decades.”

Andrew Billingsley, assistant architecture lecturer, led the laser-scanning portion of the building’s documentation, producing a virtual 3-D model.

The building’s restoration will continue to engage Texas A&M preservation students this fall as part of a graduate building preservation technology course taught by Jain. The class will include an on-site workshop where students can witness restoration techniques.

The Center for Heritage Conservation trains students, professionals and others in the use and application of imaging processes relative to historic and cultural resources. Students learn to develop new techniques for documentation, analysis, visualization and interpretation, and to apply imaging techniques to the study of historic resources.

CHC also oversees the College of Architecture’s Certificate in Historic Preservation, a program of courses integrated within a wide range of professional disciplines. The certificate, which has gained wide acclaim and serves as a model for other programs.

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This story by Sarah Wilson originally appeared in ArchOne.


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