SKOWHEGAN — If you aren’t looking for the Dudley Corner Schoolhouse on U.S Route 2 in Skowhegan, you might drive right by it; but a local group is changing that.

The schoolhouse, which once hosted town meetings, school and church dances, and public suppers, served as a gathering place for the town, according to members of the Skowhegan Heritage Council, which is working to save the building.

The red building has one room and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Passing cars on a recent afternoon slowed and looked at the small crowd of people gathered on the lawn of the schoolhouse.

“This proves what we’re doing it for — a lot of people stop and look. They don’t realize how much we have to offer here. It isn’t just driving through town and having lunch,” council Chairwoman Katie Ouilette said.

Council members Carol Lam and Gail Kay agreed.

“We would hate to lose that heritage,” Kay said. “No one had been here in who knows how long. I think the last people here were the Boy Scouts. It has been a long process, but these people are all very dedicated.”

With the help of a $2,000 grant from Walmart, $1,000 from the town of Skowhegan and other local donations, the heritage council is working on restoring the schoolhouse to its original 1823 condition, in the most authentic way possible, Kay said.

One person helping is carpenter Craig Heavey, who restored his own 1798 home in Canaan as well as other buildings in the nearby town, including the Union Church.

“So far, two exterior walls have been replaced with radial-sawn spruce clapboards,” Heavey said. “Instead of running the wood through the blade, the blade is run through the wood so the grain runs perpendicular and very little water gets in, keeping it original.”

The process helps reduce shrinkage and warping, according to Heavey. It also gives the wood the most stability and least amount of waste, he said.

“Some people say they used to overlap boards this way to save on nails, but that’s not it. It was to keep out the weather,” he said.

Work on the building’s interior has yet to start, and the building remains structurally sound, council members said.

Skowhegan Town Manager John Doucette said the schoolhouse is among the town’s next projects after it completes work on the historic Opera House.

A donation box at the Town Office has generated $200 to $300 so far, Doucette said. The council also is looking to furnish the schoolhouse with items that may have been there or in the area in the 1800s.

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