CATO — In 1869, people probably couldn’t imagine what school would be like 150 years in the future, filled with electronics and long hallways.
The Cato Historical Preservation Association is working to keep the past in the present and future by preserving one of the oldest buildings in Crawford County — the Cato School.
This year, the building has turned 150 years old. It was built from stone and is “quite pretty” said Katharine Spigarelli, member of the Cato Historical Preservation Association.
However, the building hasn’t always stood as “beautiful” as it is today. After the last class was taught in the 1950s, the structure was used as a community center. Not too long after, the meetings stopped and over time the building was overcome with vines and needed many repairs.
Eager to preserve the school and the surrounding area, the Cato Historical Preservation Association was created, Spigarelli said. Many of the restoration efforts were funded by local donors and grants through the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas. In fact, one of the donor’s family were one of the first original settlers in the area, Spigarelli said.
Cato is also on the National Register of Historic Places which makes it eligible for grants from the government. Since the association began the school has been completely restored, new roof, interior walls, tuck pointing — all of which had to be done to historical standards as requested by the National Register of Historic Places.
According to Spigarelli, the Kansas Historical Society has helped with making sure everything is as accurate as can be.
It’s that time of year to tour Cato again. One tour is scheduled for the public on Oct. 12.
Visitors will be taken back to the mid-1800s through music, history and re-enactments.
Activities will begin at 9 a.m. with registration in the Cato Christian Church and will continue throughout the day. Ralph Carlson, a member of the Old Fuss and Feathers musical group and Cato member from Fort Scott, will perform at 9:30 a.m. in the Cato Church.
Presentations by Anna Portwood Swank and her sister, Elizabeth Portwood Thompson and husband, Jaime Thompson, will take place in the restored 1869 rock school.
Various souvenirs and homemade baked goods will be available at the “Cato Store,” headed up by Stelle. Proceeds from the tour will benefit the continued restoration and preservation of the Cato School and Cato Christian Church, as well as a newly constructed cabin donated by the Coonrod family.