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Source: The Paper of Montgomery County 12 August 2013 by Karen Bazzani Zach
Hubby Jim and I had a grand time touring the old Breaks School house that now has a fresh new look. Okay, it's beyond a fresh new look, the place is absolutely amazing. Ed and Pat McDeavitt have just finished (although he warned me there is always some things to tighten up) refurbishing this beautiful building to a ravishingly gorgeous home. Some would think the 12,000 square feet is a bit much, but it all fits together with pizzazz. The main floor has a nifty entry way. On one side, there was the original stair but the other side was remade into a balcony that replicates an old school room (shown here). It was probably my favorite spot, but then again, it could be the school teacher in me. The large entry wall between the two original main-floor rooms has a school theme and wooden frames that will soon hold Breaks school pictures. One of the school rooms is now the McDeavitt's living room and is absolutely breath-taking. The other holds a beautiful dining-kitchen area on one side and a family room on the other. Two bedrooms are on the second floor and the first refinished area is on the top floor. This area essentially has everything anyone would need in any home, bedrooms, living room, dining room, exercise equipment, computer area, kitchen and bath. When they purchased the building one could see through the roof, beginning in the basement and looking up clear through the top. It is hard to imagine today as one stands in the original top-floor gymnasium, that it was anything but the unique room where the McDeavitt's lived for so many years while working on the rest of the home. Pat is from New Jersey but lived in Florida for some time. Ed, originally from Pennsylvania, worked for RR Donnelleys for 28 years and they met when Pat came up to RRD for an IBM conference. Mutual friends wanted them together and so when Pat returned home, Ed flew down to take her out to dinner at their friends’ suggestion. Pat said she was just going to stay home and grab a tv dinner so why not? Well, this started the romance and eventual marriage. Both fell in love with our county and call it home. Buying and refurbishing homes is what they both truly enjoy. A total up to around 50 buildings in the Crawfordsville area have been purchased and redone. The pair watched so many beautiful buildings go to waste, particularly the old hospital and the coke plant. So, their eyes were on the Breaks School House for several years and jumped at the chance to buy and fix 'er up! That they did. When they bought the property, there were 36 wild cats and six birds. The couple love animals, and still have some of the cats and descendants and four beautiful birds, plus a blind squirrel they saved! Although the birds were interesting with their multi-colors and songs, and the cats were chubby and cute, it was the squirrel that really caught my fancy as he ate only the inside of the peanut and peeled his grapes. I think I could watch him all day. Ed is still working on the basement and there are a few other wrap-up and spruce-up jobs but overall, after nine years, the building stands even better than when it was built in 1901. Seventy-six new windows were added, plus bat insulation, a perimeter drain, and lots of refining of what was already in the building. Although the couple had to hire some obvious things done, such as wiring and the like, overall, they did it themselves, with some help from family and friends. Son Dewayne (affectionately referred to by Pat and Ed as "De") was a big help, especially with Pat's get-away place, her fairy walk. The couple reused as much wood and materials from the school as possible, including the awesome tin-type ceiling and stairways, even the chalk railing. One of the most intriguing things I noticed, though, was that when they began pulling off tons of wall plaster, Pat discovered that it had the niftiest look just as it was. This can be seen in the school house balcony picture. Neatest look! Now, one of the reasons the school is so large is that it was the first experiment in consolidation. A group of educators had been working on the concept for a few years and North Union Township, in Montgomery County was chosen as the pilot site, thus Breaks was born. This land had been in the Breaks family since Richard Breaks came to the area as a very early settler, arriving in December 1824. Eight small, one-room schools were put together and instead of one teacher, there were four and wonders of wonders a full-time janitor. The janitor’s main purpose was to keep the large central heating system (coal-burner) going full speed ahead. The large windows let in an abundance of light which kept the students from squinting as there was no electricity for lights. Seven horse-drawn hacks bused the students; this too was a fairly new concept. Although there were just eight grades, the curriculum advanced beyond that. This was called a non-commissioned high school. Supposedly the school burned to the ground in the spring of 1906 but there is suspicion that it only partially did so as Pat & Ed saw charred boards in some areas – at any rate, the school was mainly or completely rebuilt identical to the original building and classes began again in late 1906. From 1916 on, however the building only taught elementary grades which went on until 1949. C.E. Kelly was the first principal with May Wood Talbot teaching Grades 1-2; Clara Hall, grades 3-5 and B.E. Connelly 6-8. High school teachers were Alfred Merrill in 1907 who, not only was principal, but English and History teacher, as well. Roy Harris taught Math and Latin. Perusing the listings of the county schools done by a man I greatly admire, Charlie Arvin, it didn’t seem that the teachers or principals stayed for long and you would see one at Breaks one year, then Whitesville or elsewhere in another year or two. The 1901 commissioners for Breaks school were Amazon Ward; S.D. Symmes and J.T. Quillen, with Walter Leonard Breaks as Trustee. This group was quite an interesting one. Breaks was a fairly young man, and yet to be married. Perhaps he wanted his name connected to the school or desired a grand place for his future children to attend. Amazon Ward, on the other hand, was in his late 60s. It was said of Ward that he had no acquaintances, only friends. His children were all long gone from his home, so would not be attending the new school. Samuel Dunn Symmes’ younger children were of the perfect age to attend. Quite an active Republican trustee, his grandfather, Nathaniel Dunn, was one of the most famous of our county’s early settlers. James Thomas Quillen had a grown son and daughter but grandchildren in Union Township that probably attended. These men had great vision for the first Indiana consolidated school. Thank the Lord that Ed and Pat McDeavitt also had a vision for the Breaks school, and I think that it equally matches the first. If I were the head of a restoration committee to choose an award, Ed and Pat would certainly get the top one. Currently, this beautiful place is for sale but it was also for sale a couple of years ago and Pat changed her mind. But, the McDeavitt’s would like to do some traveling, not having to worry about a big house, and for sure, it’s well deserved!
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