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.
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.
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.
From the outside, the building looked sturdy and solid, but the inside told a different story.
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.
An organ resting on its back greeted me as I ventured deeper inside.
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.
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.
I wandered through the old classrooms. All but a few of the chalkboards had fallen from their rotting wood frames.
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.
The gymnasium was dark and damp and cluttered with shelving, rusted equipment and a lot of unrecognizable decaying junk.
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.
There was also a neat old soda cooler with the Dr Pepper logo on it and a few other logos I didn't recognize.
It was an old type of vending machine. The underside of the lid had instructions for how to buy a bottle.
Most of the other artifacts were damaged and half-buried beneath a layer of fallen ceiling material.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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