Scrap Metal & Electrical System

When we acquired the schoolhouse there were 4 electrical entry panels – 3 obsolete and inactive, one active. Wires, both standard size and heavy duty, looped over and under the windows, draped along the walls, were buried within the walls and ceilings through unattractive holes, ran up and down through holes in the floor to a cellar panel, and snaked back and forth along the floor joists. The active meter box was unattractively visible on the front of the building with its line cable running down the front trim board and its cable to the entry panel looping under the window and drilled into the clapboards next to the front porch. We guessed that the school was probably first electrified in the 1920’s. Then Masters Machine later needed much electricity to run its machinery, though it’s unclear why there were so many systems.

Scrap Metal & Electrical System

We were fortunate to have Dana Burnham as our scrapper. For the privilege of buying all our wiring for its copper he agreed to work with us in its removal, and additionally would truck off the tons of scrap metal, metal trash, galvanized panels, oil furnace and heating ducts, broken machinery etc left in the schoolhouse, and the truck loads of rusted cans, wires, oil drums, car parts etc discarded in the yard and tossed down the hill. Hours and days went into this joint effort. Everything was carefully gone over as to whether it might be part of the schoolhouse, or of museum interest, or could be sold in our rummage sales.

Other stuff was dismantled or sledge hammered to get it out the door and into the truck.There was so much wiring pulled out that we earned $700 from him for its copper content, plus some brass and a bit of saleable aluminum and lead. Additionally, he traded some wiring for the trucking away of 50 large truck tires which had been carried up and thrown into the upper classroom for some reason – a $750 value in dumping fees.

Scrap Metal & Electrical System

Willem Jansen and Bill Morton designed and executed an elegantly simple new electric system. The original ceilings of both floors had long ago crumbled and been covered with beaver board panels, by this time falling down, water rotted, and disintegrating in spots. Pulling these down gave us easy access for ceiling wiring, to be later covered by strapping and sheet-rock. The building is balloon construction with essentially open space in the walls in which to pull wires. The only block was at the chair rail level. The lighting and the outlet wiring are now on separate circuits, one for each floor, for a total of four circuits (and breakers). The master wires to the upper floor were pulled up behind the wall above the entry panel, through the floor plates and chair rail blocks and into the attic. From there they pass through holes drilled in the floor joists and drop down as needed for the classroom and cloakroom ceiling lights, the wall outlets.

Scrap Metal & Electrical System

spaced along the wainscoting, and the switch plates inside the cloakroom doors. Pulling down these outlet wires necessitated drilling hand-sized holes in the plaster walls above the chair rail obstruction. This was done in most cases behind the blackboards. [When these were taken down for the process, shipping instructions were found written on the back side – ‘By schooner Cinderella from Portland, from J.L.Hammett Co, Boston to J.E.Nichols [King Ro Market], Round Pond, Maine. KEEP DRY’.

Another blackboard had a time capsule behind it tacked to the wall which included Victorian cards and lithographs, mimeographed drawings to color, and several Palmer Method handwriting posters.]

The wiring for the lower floor was brought up through the wall and onto the ceiling where it passed through drilled holes in the strapping and similarly dropped into junction boxes for the ceiling lights, and down into wall outlets and switches. Metal plates protect the ceiling wiring from inadvertent nails. A separate circuit was added to provide electricity to an exterior receptacle outside the front of the building. Also, another circuit was prepared and the wiring left coiled up in the back wall of the lower classroom in preparation for electrifying the planned outhouse addition. This would automatically be active whenever the building was in use and the panel switch thrown – to light the back exit and warm the composting toilet whenever the schoolhouse was occupied.

Our system was later checked by electrician Richard Forstrom, also by Jon McKane, and also by CMP when they came out to upgrade and reroute the meter box to the side of the building [where it is practically unnoticeable now]. The entry panel, next to the front door, was set back into the wall instead of being nailed to it. This was later enclosed within an appropriate bead board cabinet when the center stairs were reconstructed by Mike Alderson.

Of the 14 original hanging school lights needed for the classrooms, cloakrooms and front halls, we were able to find 7 in the building, hanging limply from their wires and in sorry shape. Only one glass globe survived. The fixtures are cheap quality iron with thin antique brass or fake copper plating. They were badly rusted, grimy and greasy, and splotched with paint. These were painstakingly cleaned, waxed, missing parts found, rewired, and hung. Glass globes [14 inch in the classrooms, smaller for the other locations] were, one by one, found for them. We also found a few fixtures in salvage shops, then filled in with reproductions from Rejuvenation Lighting.