Friday, 19 July 2024

Schoolhouse museum's new bell tower finished

The Lower Lake Schoolhouse Museum's new bell tower, photographed after the construction scaffolding was taken down this week. Photo by Dwain Goforth.






LOWER LAKE – After missing its bell tower for more than a century, the Lower Lake Schoolhouse Museum's new bell tower is finally ready.

“It's complete, we're just waiting for the contractor to pull the scaffolding down,” said Kim Clymire, director of the county's Public Services Department, said Tuesday.


Since then, the scaffolding has come down to reveal the tower, restoring the building to its original look. 

The schoolhouse was built in 1877, and originally featured a bell tower which the new tower replicates.

Then, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake hit. The quake was so powerful that it rippled northward, knocking down buildings in Lakeport. The school's bell tower also was severely damaged by the quake, Clymire said.

In about 1908, the tower was taken down, said Clymire. “The structural integrity was so compromised it was dangerous.”

At one point, the schoolhouse was in danger of being torn down. But the efforts of John and Jane Weaver and the Lower Lake Schoolhouse Preservation Committee stepped in, along with the county, to keep the historic building, said Clymire.

And one of the goals was to restore the building's original look, which included the bell tower, said Clymire.

The $400,000 project was funded by a one-time allocation from the county's general fund, said Clymire. The contract went to Middletown contractor R&C Construction.

The contractor started building about six months ago, said Clymire, and had 90 days to complete the tower, with time out for inspections and concrete drying.

The tower measures 10 feet by 10 feet and is 70 feet tall, said Clymire. It consists of a steel frame with stucco siding and a metal roof.

Its base contains 80 yards of concrete, he added. A membrane was placed between the tower, which is earthquake proof, and the museum, which has yet to be retrofitted for earthquake safety.

The museum's earthquake retrofit is estimated to cost about $1.2 million, said Clymire. The county is working with Congressman Mike Thompson to find the funding for that project.

Over the years, the schoolhouse preservation committee has raised money for projects such as a new restroom facility, which was added three years ago, also by R&C Construction, said Clymire. The committee also held a fundraiser to add an elevator shaft several years ago.

The committee plans to replace the insulation in the ceiling's attic, but first they have to finish sealing up the building to keep bats out, said Clymire.

The bats are in the attics and in the second floor walls, with the occasional bat making appearances during theater productions that are held in the Weaver Auditorium, said Clymire. Bat houses have been installed behind the museum and the bats are starting to make their home there rather than the museum.

Clymire said an an official bell ringing ceremony is tentatively planned for September.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




A 1902 picture of the school from a historic plaque at the museum grounds. The schoolhouses' original bell tower was damaged in the 1906 earthquake and taken down two years later. Photo of plaque by Elizabeth Larson.

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