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Learning on the go: Rock County Historical Society hopes to move Francis Willard Schoolhouse

By Catherine W. Idzerda
August 12, 2015

JANESVILLE—Francis Willard's schoolhouse started on the banks of the Rock River.

In 1969, it was donated to the Rock County Historical Society and after a brief stay on society grounds it was moved to the Rock County Fairgrounds. In 2016, it will make the move back to the grounds of the Lincoln-Tallman Restorations in central Janesville.

“It's currently a main destination for about 1,000 school kids every year,” said Michael Reuter, executive director of the Rock County Historical Society. “We think it will be used even more on our campus.”

The move, which has been in the planning stages for several months, isn't expected to happen until early 2016, Reuter said.

It's all part of a larger strategic plan that was rolled out earlier this year.

The society hired the Madison-based planning firm of Vandewalle & Associates to create a campus plan that will include new signs, walkways and evening lighting.

As part of those plans, the firm will consider the best location on the grounds for the schoolhouse. The historical society's campus is sandwiched between Franklin and Jackson streets.

The society's board did not want to make a choice about where the building would go until it had considered all of those factors.

Along with the Tallman home, the site includes a carriage house, the Helen Jeffris Wood Museum and the Charles Tallman Archives.

The site also has a large lawn used for events.

Getting more use out of the building isn't the only reason to move it.

“From a historical stewardship perspective, it makes sense to have it closer to us,” Reuter said. “We can keep a better eye on it here.”

Reuter said the society is “working on the cost estimates” involved in moving the historic building across town.

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.