Creepy Abandoned Schools of Rural Iowa

A school sits abandoned in a small town in rural Iowa, as it has for more than fifty years. Untouched by graffiti, the grand old structure has been eaten away by the ravages of Mother Nature.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

The sun touched the horizon behind a cottony layer of clouds as I drove into the small rural town of Clutier, Iowa. After a day of exploring an incredible abandoned brick yard, the ruins of an old boarding school, and a beautiful decimated grade school, I wasn't quite ready to call it a night.

Despite my exhaustion, I couldn't resist the urge to check out a couple more abandoned schools before I ran out of daylight.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Clutier, Iowa is a neat little town of around 200 people, covering three-quarters of a square mile in the Salt Creek Valley region of Tama County. Founded in 1900 by William E. Brice, the town was largely settled by Czech immigrants. Clutier is still known for its Czech cuisine and summertime polka concerts as well as its annual Bohemian Plum Festival.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Clutier Public School was built in 1925 and in 1961, merged with Traer School to become Traer-Clutier. The consolidation of local school districts continued, and in 1965 Dinsdale Community School joined, forming North Tama County Community School District.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

It was remarkably difficult to find much information on the history of the school, probably because of the large number of small-town schools in Iowa that closed due to consolidation.

After a lot of digging, I managed to find out that Clutier Public School had a very talented young women's basketball team called The Chargin' Czechs. From 1939 to 1948, they achieved a 201-18-1 record and took part in the state tournament six times.

1942 was an exceptional year for the Chargin' Czechs. They were undefeated, winning 31 games and the Iowa Title. Clutier's Betty Mundt was the state tournament’s top scorer that year, with 75 points in four games.

Photo from the Cedar Rapids Gazette in 1942 of the Clutier girls’ basketball state championship team
(courtesy of 
http://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/girls-state-basketball-memories-from-newhall-to-clutier-20160214)

The team's memory still lives on. In 2007, the mayor of Clutier proclaimed September 15 as Chargin’ Czech Day and a monument was built in their honor at the town entrance. The Iowa Hall of Pride in Des Moines has dedicated part of its "Six-Girl Basketball in Iowa" display to the 1942 team, including a team photo, the championship trophy, a team uniform, and the white basketball that was used during their time.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

The classrooms of the old school are now water-damaged, but surprisingly still intact, a stark contrast to Searsboro Consolidated School, which is in far worse shape.

Despite the lack of graffiti, smashed windows are a sign that Clutier Public School has not been entirely spared from vandalism.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Attempts were made to cover some of the broken windows, but the effort was apparently abandoned some time ago.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

A bed of moss now covers the carpeted floors of the old classrooms.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Small plants grow up from the mushy layer of decaying carpet.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Rotting doors hang loosely from decaying frames. The drywall has fallen off in chunks, revealing sturdy brick walls.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Light fixtures still hang in a few rooms where ceiling tiles have not yet come loose.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

A staircase stained from decades of flooding leads down to a spooky cafeteria.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

The tiles have peeled up from the floor, forming a layer of brittle, curled rectangles.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

The kitchen is bare, except for a stainless steel sink leaning against the wall.

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa

By the time I finished admiring the old school the sky had grown pitch dark, but there was still one more school I wanted to check out before embarking on the long drive into Illinois.

A few miles from Clutier lies the town of Dysart, home of the abandoned Dysart-Geneseo Consolidated School. I knew the property was off limits, but I wanted to capture a few shots of the school from afar, if possible.

I parked along the side of the road and could barely make out the old structure in the near-total darkness. I got out my tripod to experiment with some long-exposure photography. I managed to get a decent shot of the school and one of the abandoned administration buildings. The pictures turned out a little blurry, but were shockingly bright as if I'd taken them in the middle of the day.

Abandoned Dysart-Geneseo Consolidated School in Iowa

While I stood there with my tripod, a truck drove by, slowing slightly as it passed me, and then pulled into the driveway of the only nearby house. Just as I was getting ready to leave, two cop cars showed up, blinding me with their lights. The police told me someone had reported suspicious activity. It was obvious who had made the call, since only one vehicle had passed during the short time I was there.

I showed the cops the pictures I had taken, to prove that I hadn't trespassed onto the property. They were as amazed as I was at how the photos had turned out. Realizing I'd done nothing illegal, the officers were pretty friendly. I was disappointed that the neighbors had called the police instead of simply stopping to ask what I was up to. I guess that's the sort of mistrustful world we live in, even in small-town America.

Abandoned Dysart-Geneseo Consolidated School in Iowa

I got back on the road and drove for several hours, crossing into Illinois before I stopped to rest for the night. The Rust Belt was just over the horizon and I could hardly wait for the dawn of a new day filled with new places to explore...

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Abandoned Clutier Public School in Iowa


Twice Abandoned: The Incredible Ruins of Searsboro Consolidated School

The ruins of Searsboro Consolidated School languish on a hill at the edge of a small town in rural Iowa. Largely obscured by trees and overgrown weeds, the grand structure sits abandoned and heavily damaged by the elements.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

After checking out the ruins of Oak Park Academy and taking a quick look at the old Titan Tire factory in Des Moines, I followed roads less traveled into the rural town of Searsboro, Iowa.

I drove through the peaceful neighborhood, admiring the sprawling yards and abundant wide open space. A deep sense of peace permeated the air. The stress and noise of city life felt a thousand miles away.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

I parked near the old school and cautiously approached. There weren't any signs warning away trespassers and the place looked deserted, so I was pretty sure it wouldn't hurt to have a look around. Still, I didn't want to be mistaken for a trouble-maker, so I peered out at the few homes within eyeshot to see if anyone had noticed my presence. A young woman in her early 20's wandered into view across the road. I gave a friendly wave.

She called out to me, saying that her dog ran off and asked if I'd seen it. I told her I hadn't, but I'd keep an eye out. I asked if anyone would mind if I had a look inside the school and she said she didn't think anyone would care.

I walked past the front door, which lay bent and rusting in front of the doorway, and stepped inside.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

It was immediately apparent that the school was in bad shape. Just beyond the threshold another door leaned against the wall, warped and stained from water damage.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

From the outside, the building looked sturdy and solid, but the inside told a different story.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

The paint was peeling from the walls near the entryway. In most places the paint was entirely gone and the concrete had begun to fall away from the masonry beneath it. A layer of damp, disintegrated concrete covered the floor.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

An organ resting on its back greeted me as I ventured deeper inside.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

The old school had experienced severe water damage. The ceiling had fallen in most of the rooms on the upper floor, leaving a network of exposed beams.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

I gazed up at a beautiful angled skylight. This old building must have been gorgeous in its heyday. It's sad to see a place like this in such an advanced state of decay.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

I wandered through the old classrooms. All but a few of the chalkboards had fallen from their rotting wood frames.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

One door marked "7th & 8th GRADE" was still wedged in place, slanting and ready to give way. I was careful not to disturb it. As far as I could tell its faded lettering was the only signage that remained to indicate what any of the rooms had been used for. I wondered if the former students knew what had become of their school.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

The gymnasium was dark and damp and cluttered with shelving, rusted equipment and a lot of unrecognizable decaying junk.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

I was glad to find a couple of neat artifacts among the mess. One was an old arcade game that didn't seem like the sort of thing you'd find in a school. It might have been dumped there with other trash after the school's abandonment.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

There was also a neat old soda cooler with the Dr Pepper logo on it and a few other logos I didn't recognize.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

It was an old type of vending machine. The underside of the lid had instructions for how to buy a bottle.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

Most of the other artifacts were damaged and half-buried beneath a layer of fallen ceiling material.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

I was able to find very little information about the history of Searsboro Consolidated School. It is unclear when it was built, but its name indicates that it was the result of the consolidation of several smaller school districts into one. When the school closed, probably sometime in the 1980s, Searsboro became a part of Lynnville-Sully Community School District.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

I've heard, but cannot verify, that the school was later sold for $50 to private owners who lived there for several years before moving out of state. I wonder if they left because of the deterioration of the building.

Several bed frames from the former residents remained in one of the classrooms.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

A closet-sized room inside the school had a dorm-room style setup with a TV, couch and two large speakers situated beneath a lofted bed.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

Another room was filled with old furniture. It might have been a teachers lounge, or maybe the furniture was brought in after the school closed.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

When I'd finished exploring the school, I took a few minutes to scan the surrounding area, hoping to spot the lost dog of the gal I'd met earlier, but there was no sign of it. Hopefully she'd already found it.

I got back on the road and set my sights toward another of Iowa's abandoned schools. I'll tell you all about it next week.

Searsboro Consolidated School abandoned and decaying in Iowa

I would love to hear from former students of Searsboro Consolidated School, or anyone who has firsthand knowledge of this neat old place. Please leave a comment below if you have any information you'd like to share.

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The Ruins of Oak Park Academy Boarding School in Nevada, Iowa

Near the outskirts of Nevada, Iowa lie the ruins of Oak Park Academy, a boarding school built by the Seventh Day Adventist Church in 1911.

Abandoned ruins of Oak Park Academy in Nevada Iowa

Invigorated from a morning spent in Lehigh, Iowa, home of the beautiful ruins of an abandoned brick yard, I got back on the road and continued eastward.

An hour-long drive through Iowa's beautiful countryside brought me to the city of Nevada, Iowa. Along its southern edge lay the remains of Oak Park Academy, a high school-level coed boarding school operated by the Seventh Day Adventists of Iowa.

Abandoned ruins of Oak Park Academy in Nevada Iowa

T. H. Jeys founded the school in 1902 under the name Iowa Industrial Academy. For the first year, classes were held for its inaugural class of 35 students in the rented Baldum Hotel in Stuart, Iowa. The following year, it moved to a piece of farmland on the eastern edge of the town. The name later changed to Stuart Academy. 

In 1911 the school was renamed Oak Park Academy and moved to Nevada, Iowa, where it remained until its closure in the spring of 1980.

Abandoned ruins of Oak Park Academy in Nevada Iowa

The campus lawn is surprisingly well-maintained, probably due to the fact that the property is not entirely abandoned. The Seventh Day Adventist Church near the entrance to the former campus is still operational. Across the parking lot stands the Oak Park Estates apartment complex, which occupies the renovated structure of one of the old dormitories.
The other four buildings at the far end of the well-kept grounds continue to stand vacant, as they have for more than 35 years.

Intensely curious, but not wanting to disrespect the owners of the land, I crossed the lawn and approached the ivy-covered structures. The abandoned dormitory is in very rough shape. Nearly all the windows are gone, giving it a haunting empty appearance. The entrance is marked with graffiti. The spray painted image of a hand with its middle finger raised clashes with the bible verse etched above the doorway urging people to love one another.

Abandoned ruins of Oak Park Academy in Nevada Iowa

A rusty yellow station wagon with a For Sale sign is parked just outside the overgrown side entrance.

Abandoned ruins of Oak Park Academy in Nevada Iowa

Judging by the fact that it's parked behind an abandoned building, I'm pretty sure the owner has given up on finding a buyer.

Abandoned ruins of Oak Park Academy in Nevada Iowa

A few other old vehicles are parked between the old dorm and another building, which might have contained the gymnasium. Unlike the dorm, it was fairly well sealed up and the windows were mostly intact. Some were covered with blue tarps on the inside. Figuring it might be occupied by squatters or used for storage of groundskeeping equipment, I decided to take a few pictures of the outside and call it a day.

Abandoned ruins of Oak Park Academy in Nevada Iowa

From Nevada, Iowa, I drove down to Des Moines to check out the abandoned Titan Tire factory. On the highway, I passed a teenager who had smashed his shiny sports car into a telephone pole. The front end was completely smashed, and the car was obviously totaled. Fortunately the driver appeared uninjured as he stood talking to a police officer. I shook my head in silent judgment, figuring the kid was probably driving recklessly and lost control.

I arrived at Titan tire, eager to explore the vast abandoned industrial space and its rusty machinery and artifacts. The place was so huge that it would easily keep me occupied for the rest of the afternoon.

Abandoned Titan Tire factory in Des Moines Iowa

My excitement came to an abrupt end when I spotted a utility truck and a group of men in orange vests outside performing some sort of maintenance work. For an instant I wondered if I could sneak past them undetected.

Then I thought of the teenager with the smashed car whom I had silently judged for his assumed recklessness and I couldn't justify taking such a risk. I reminded myself that I'd soon be in Detroit, where there would be plenty more abandoned factories to explore.

Abandoned ruins of Oak Park Academy in Nevada Iowa

I got back in my car and continued east toward the town of Searsboro, where the abandoned ruins of Searsboro Consolidated School awaited me. Come back next week to hear all about it!

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Abandoned Titan Tire factory in Des Moines Iowa