MANLEY – Hundreds of students have learned valuable life lessons in classrooms at the historic Manley Community Center since the 1930s.
The building provided area residents with another example Saturday of how hard work and perseverance can pay off.
Manley residents celebrated the village’s sole ownership of the community center with a banquet, car show, live band and school reunion. Village leaders made the final payment on the $40,000 lien to Weeping Water Public Schools in March. They voted to hold a large celebration to commemorate the event once all of the paperwork was completed.
Manley Village Board of Trustees Chairwoman Denise Swenson said community members are proud to own the historic building. She said it would ensure the survival of the structure for many years to come.
“Everybody’s happy to see this done, because this is something that has long-term value,” Swenson said. “There are always those procrastinators who wait to do things because they don’t look at the future and they think nothing needs to change. But we’re doing this now because we want this to be around in 30 or 40 years.
“We’re looking at this for the long run and not for the short term. We’re very glad to see this get done and have the community center for everyone to enjoy here in town.”
Manley’s first school district formed in 1888 and residents built the current brick schoolhouse in 1931. Students attended classes there until Manley’s district merged with Weeping Water Public Schools in 2006.
WWPS officials did not have plans to continue using Manley’s building for classes of any kind, and they asked village leaders if they would like to buy it to use as a community center. They agreed on a price of $40,000 and set up a monthly payment plan of $350.
“Weeping Water was kind enough to offer the building to us to buy back, and they did it at a reasonable and fair price,” Manley Village Board of Trustees member Tim Glas said. “There’s a lot of value with this building both in terms of its history and what it means for us for the future. It’s very exciting to have this paid off.”
Village Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Mickey Dalton said the building’s layout and solid foundation made it a good place for a community center. The structure features a brick exterior and 16-inch-thick basement walls. Wooden floors and thick doorways are part of the upstairs level.
“If there was a tornado coming this would be the place I’d want to go to,” Dalton said. “This is such a well-built structure. It’s great to walk through this place and know that this is going to be around for a long, long time.”
Manley residents began renovating the structure several years ago knowing that the final payoff date would come in 2019. They built a village clerk’s office in the basement in 2015, and they recently installed a kitchen near the office for people to use for reunions, graduation parties and other functions. They will soon be placing carpet and installing a new bank of lights in the basement.
Village leaders recently installed a vertical platform lift to allow handicapped and elderly residents to access all levels of the building. They also accepted a bid for $7,500 to replace shingles on the roof and a bid of $1,050 to paint ceilings and walls in two upstairs classrooms.
Both of the upstairs classrooms include original chalkboards and maps that were used by Manley teachers and students for many decades. Dalton said community leaders felt it was important to preserve as much of the schoolhouse’s history as possible.
“This is an important building for a lot of people, and we’re trying to keep as many of the historic items as we can,” Dalton said. “We want to ensure the historic feel to this building remains, and we want to make sure it is able to be used by the community for many years.”