BURRILLVILLE, R.I. (WPRI) — Andrew Grover is at it again.
This time, the Lego enthusiast and lifelong Rhode Islander is recreating a historic Burrillville schoolhouse.
“Usually, I’m recreating urban buildings,” Grover explained. “This one is a very different style.”
“It’s much harder to translate the beauty and intention of these early New England structures,” he continued. “They are harder to translate into models.”
But Grover is up for the challenge, which was presented to him by Burrillville Land Trust President Paul Roselli.
“I thought it was brilliant,” Roselli said, recalling the first time he learned of Grover’s work. “I didn’t even know it was a thing.”
The one-room schoolhouse, situated along Eagle Peek Road, was built in the early 1800s, according to Roselli. The building has an outhouse instead of a bathroom and is heated solely by a wood stove.
Roselli said the stonework for the time period is magnificent.
“I think it’s important to remember that Rhode Island was one of the original 13 colonies,” he said. “Stone was the most common type of structural ingredient in the 1800s … It’s not uncommon to see these stone structures [throughout New England].”
For Roselli, the schoolhouse represents a different and more simplistic way of life.
“It doesn’t take much to imagine the life that occurred around here,” he explained. “People thrived here. There was a sense of community that we don’t have today.”
The Burrillville Land Trust recently placed a conservation easement on the schoolhouse, which Roselli said bars developers from demolishing the historic building and repurposing the land.
The goal is to use Grover’s replica of the schoolhouse to showcase the importance of conservation easements and preserving historic buildings.
“In Rhode Island, there are 39 towns and cities,” he said. “Think of how many original 16th, 17th and 18th century buildings there are all throughout the state. There are plenty of land trusts that can help preserve these properties.”
Roberta Lacey, who owns the schoolhouse, described the building as being more than just historic. It’s also unique.
“I just consider it an honor to be the person who takes it into the next generation,” Lacey said. “I’ve always loved and admired this place.”
Lacey said the schoolhouse was eventually transformed into a living space, though the previous owner made sure the original wooden chalkboard and teacher’s desk remained intact.
“We’re lucky to have two pieces of history that belong in this schoolhouse,” she said.
Lacey said the schoolhouse, along with dozens of other historic properties scattered across the state, are extremely valuable and worth protecting.
“There’s a place for development, but there’s also a place for preservation,” Lacey explained. “When I look at this house, I think it’s such a different place in time. It shows just how much the world has changed.”
“Only 200 years ago, this was how people lived,” she added. “It gives me a much better perspective on just how fast things are lost.”
Lacey said she’s excited to see how Grover interprets the schoolhouse.
“My hope for this place is, of course preservation, but also to serve as a message,” she said. “How important it is to protect historic places.”