SHEFFIELD — The wooden ceiling of the auditorium of the historic Village School looks brand new, but it's not.
It's the same heart pine that was placed there when the structure was built in 1918.
Greg Harrison, a resident of the Village I neighborhood adjacent to the school, points to small hole where water had leaked through the tile roof. He's glad there weren't more leaks over the auditorium, but leaks in other places have damaged the interior over the years.
Thanks to a project funded by the city, the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area and MG Roofing of Muscle Shoals, that should no longer be a problem.
About a dozen people gathered at the school Thursday to learn about the now completed roofing project and future plans for the building.
Carrie Barske Crawford, director of the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area, said they provided a $10,000 grant for the roof repairs. Sheffield City Councilman Steve Stanley said the city provided a $10,000 match.
Crawford said she was "blown away" by the school when former MSNHA Director Judy Sizemore took her on a tour of the Shoals about eight years ago.
In October 2017, she invited several people involved in restoring the school to attend an asset mapping workshop to help find a new purpose for the building. In addition to the auditorium, the school has several offices and classrooms.
Stanley pointed out the building was ahead of its time, with underground utilities and "self flushing" toilets.
Martin Gaisser, the project coordinator for MG Roofing, said they've worked on tile roofs before and used some new techniques to repair flashing around the building's chimney. Voids around the flashing had allowed water to enter the building periodically for years. While they are beautiful, Gaisser said tile roofs are a challenge to work on.
Greg Harrison, a Village I resident who has worked on the building, praised the company for performing more work after they reached the limit of their $20,000 budget.
"They deserve special thanks," he said. "They went above and beyond."
Harrison presented Gaisser with a black and white photo of the school building in a frame he made from a piece of heart pine he found in a scrap pile during the project.
Gaisser said MG Roofing has an appreciation for historic structures and wants to do what it can to preserve them.
"We like to give back whenever we can," he said. "We'd like to see as much of that stay as possible."
Harrison said a small group of Village I residents have formed the Village School Foundation, a nonprofit organization created to restore the historic structure for use as a muli-purpose community facility.
The group wants to begin raising funds to concentrate renovations to the auditorium and the hallway outside. That would involve refinishing the floors, repairing the plaster walls, ceilings and a new coat of paint. A future grant opportunity could be used to paint the exterior, Harrison said.
Barske said they're considering offering workshops on restoring period structures such as horsehair plaster repair or other techniques.
"It gets people engaged with the community," Barske said.
Harrison said despite water entering the building, there is no mold damage to the walls because the horsehair plaster contains lime.
Harrison said the auditorium, which has a stage and projection room, could be used by theater groups, film groups, musicians or other groups for various events.
Stanley said he's been on the council for 10 years and securing and restoring the building has been "a challenge and frustration of mine the whole time."
"It's an important structure and a unique structure," Stanley said.