The 1887 Schoolhouse in Windermere has become a labor of love for the Matteson family. Three of the four Matteson children are completing their Scouts BSA Eagle projects through Troop 320 at the site, which is on West Seventh Avenue and owned by the town of Windermere.
Janine, 16, spent the weekend working on her project, which entailed replacing 165 battens — thin strips of 12-foot-long rough-hewn wood — to make the schoolhouse more historically accurate. Those were painted in her family garage several weeks ago. Over the weekend, she and her team of volunteers also cleaned off chipped paint and then primed and painted the exterior of the 15-foot-by-22-foot building.
“I selected it because I really like the historic aspect of it and my brothers’ Eagle projects were sort of close to it and my Gold Award was close to it and it’s something to help out the community,” Janine said. “And I just really liked working for the community.”
Eric Cooper is serving as Janine’s mentor during the Eagle project process.
“He coaches me through the process,” she said. “We have to do a lot of paperwork to present to the board before and after you do your Eagle, so he’s mainly helping me with the (work) steps, he helped me with the paperwork and prepared me with what I’ll be asked, and he showed me leadership in what I’m supposed to do.
Part of the requirements involve making a plan for her volunteers — who will work on which side of the building, who will pour the paint and who will paint the steps and the bell post.
Another adult close to the project is George Poelker, the chair of the Windermere Historic Preservation Board.
“He’s the one who sanctioned the project, and he’s helping me with it,” Janine said. “He told me which battens to get to restore to the proper time and more stuff about the building, like what we can take off and what we can’t.”
The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.
So far, Janine has raised $1,440 of the $2,500 needed to complete the project. To donate, go to GuFundMe’s website or visit bit.ly/3xjhj2N.
Janine started Girl Scouts in kindergarten and joined BSA after the family moved to Windermere. She has served as Troop 320 quartermaster since 2019 and will be among the second wave of girls nationwide earning their Eagle rank.
She also has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement, by digitizing old town of Windermere documents and posting on the town website for public access.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
When all projects are completed, the Matteson family will have four Eagle Scouts.
Next up is Peter, 12, who will begin his project once Janine finishes hers. He is building a 10-foot-by-10-foot patio entrance to the schoolhouse with engraved bricks and is putting the original well pump on display out in front.
For the first part of his project, bricks will be placed in a basketweave pattern on the east side of the schoolhouse, and donors will have their names engraved on the bricks.
The second half pertains to the well in front of the building. The original hand pump was discovered when the Windermere Police Department was moving its belongings from its old building.
The work will be done probably in September. Peter said he will be setting up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the project. Poelker is expected to help Peter too.
“It was either this or going house to house collecting data, so I like this one more,” Peter said. “I just feel, building a patio is neat, I’d rather do building than repairs.”
Alexander, 14, completed his Eagle project in May, which was clearing a massive thicket of invasive plants behind the schoolhouse and creating a 70-foot stone walkway to the 1923 privy. A stone bench was added along the path.
Alexander raised about $1,000, and Dr. Phillips Charities donated three-fourths of that amount.
“I asked George Poelker what he needed done around the town of Windermere, and he gave me a few options,” Alexander said. “He needed that one the most, and it was cool to me.”
Poelker and Aaron Drone, Alexander’s scoutmaster and project mentor, were instrumental in the Eagle project. He also met with the Leu Gardens horticulturist for advice on removing the plants, and a staff member at the Golden Bear Club let him borrow tools.
“I was just grateful that there were a lot of people there for my project workday,” he said. “I had 25 people or so, and that’s why it was done so quickly. It was great.”
Older brother Charles earned his Eagle rank in 2019 by working on another piece of Windermere history —restoring the exterior of the 110-year-old Cal Palmer Building in downtown Windermere and adding a historical marker. The 20-foot-by-26-foot building was the town’s original post office and has served as a town meeting place, as an antiques shop and for town storage.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.