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Eric and Janna Blakely, along with Eric’s brother Hadley and his wife Jane, are owners of the iconic red painted Shetland School in Cleveland Township about half-way between Glen Arbor and Leland on M-22. Eric and Janna contacted us in the summer of 2018 and invited LCHPS to visit the school and see the work they and his parents had done on the schoolhouse when they converted it into a residence. His parents had owned it over 40 years and at one time had an antique store and residence in it. Quaint and attractive the interior has been nicely preserved, yet still shows evidence of the two cloak rooms on either side of the entrance. While doing some excavation work under the school, they found some pictures, papers, and memorabilia they have posted on a bulletin board next to the entrance. They showed us the artesian well delivering fresh water for the children to drink and wash outside to the left of the entrance near the creek and the outhouse in the back. An addition in the back houses the kitchen, powder room and an open loft bedroom.
The visit was made by Steven Stier, Barbara Siepker and Paul Dechow whose family members had attended the school. Recently retired, the Blakely’s are interested in finding out more about the stories, the schoolhouse, its teachers and students. Paul was able to provide a few along with a photograph from around 1920. We located a couple other articles after the visit. Norbert Bufka who attended kindergarten at the school contributed to some of the history as well. He has since published a book including Leelanau County Schools. Andy White was consulted by LCHPS, due to his knowledge of school records held in the Cleveland Township office such as the annual reports submitted by the township school inspectors to the state. “These would seem to establish that the Shetland School was built in the 1885-1886 school year, contrary to the 1871 year above the schoolhouse door. Some, but not all, of the annual reports include maps that show where the different schools in each township were located. From these we know that previously the District 4 school had been in at least two other locations.”