School’s in session: Schoolhouse 7 to open up as café, place for students to work

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When Curt Tappendorf purchased the old building at 12125 Cyntheanne Rd., he didn’t know its history. He and his wife Sarah planned to rent the building out to families. That is, until they learned that it was built in 1901 as Schoolhouse 7.

Now, the Tappendorfs plan to turn the building into a coffeehouse,  Schoolhouse 7 Café, that pays homage to its past by keeping the schoolhouse feel and offering community learning opportunities.

The Tappendorfs met with Tim Mankin, principal of HSE Intermediate and Junior High School, which sits across the street from Schoolhouse 7. Mankin informed them about the schoolhouse’s past and provided them with a binder of information he received from Dr. George Underwood, who was a student at the schoolhouse from 1933 to 1940. The binder contains items like report cards and schoolhouse photos.

Underwood, 92, is one of three surviving former Schoolhouse 7 students. He lives in Florida.

Dr. George Underwood, who attended Schoolhouse 7 from 1933 to 1940, looks down on Tyler Tappendorf, who is sitting in the same place Underwood sat while at school. (Submitted photo)

The Tappendorfs decided to bring Underwood in on their plans for the café.

“We did get in touch with Dr. George Underwood,” Curt said. “He came down to us and met with us on-site at the end of last year. He walked us every square inch of that property and told us where he sat, where the horse and buggy dropped (the students) off every morning, where the girls and boys outhouses were.”

The Tappendorfs plan to open the café July 7 in recognition of the number seven in the schoolhouse’s name. It was the seventh one-room schoolhouse built in Fall Creek Township.

“We are trying to keep seven as a prominent, recognizable feature of the business,” Curt said. “We have a lot of work to do between now and then. We’ve got a pretty good plan in place and are in the process now of restoring and renovating it.”

The café will be two stories. Orders will be placed on the first floor, where there will be seating and an outdoor patio. Drive-thru service also will be offered. On the second floor, there will be a large community-style table constructed out of the schoolhouse’s original floor joists. The Tappendorfs are incorporating the original wooden floor planks as the face of the coffee bar.

For Sarah, a fourth-grade teacher at Geist Elementary, the education aspect brings the project full circle. She plans for the café to provide Hamilton Southeastern Schools students with an outlet to display their creative works.

“It’s an opportunity to have real students work in here to keep that school theme,” Sarah said. “There will be a designated spot to have kids’ artwork. If they put together writing pieces or books with a bookshelf display, it feels more like a real audience and authentic spot to show their work.”

The Tappendorfs have four children, ages 7, 8, 12 and 13. They plan to make the business a family operation.

“It’s a school, and we are keeping that in attracting students to come in and do their work,” Sarah said. “There will be study-type tables, which keeps some of that setting true to a learning environment.”

Curt said the family has received plenty of encouragement from Underwood.

“He tells me, ‘Keep going,’” Curt said. “It was very meaningful for him to come to that meeting and explain to me his recollection of the property, and the schoolhouse was unbelievable.”

Underwood was delighted to share his knowledge.

“I think it’s a great idea to preserve something, and it’s personal to me,” Underwood said. “To preserve it that way and get it going, I think will be a great idea.”

Underwood said he’s visited the schoolhouse a few times recently to help the Tappendorfs form an idea of what the inside of what it looked like when he was a student.

“I’m trying to help out to give an idea of what that would be like as far as the inside, such as where we put our coats and where we put our boots and that type of thing,” Underwood said. “I think it’s a good idea. Personally, I just hope it works.”

For more, visit schoolhouse7cafe.com.

Schoolhouse 7 opened in 1901. This summer, it will open as the Schoolhouse 7 Café. (Photo by Anna Skinner)

 Coffee operations and food options

The Tappendorf family is partnering with the Stayton family, which owns Brickhouse Coffee in Greenwood.

“We are partnering with them to have local roasted beans every week,” Curt Tappendorf said. “They are going to work mostly on the operation side. They’re the ones who understand the coffee business.”

Curt said Schoolhouse 7 will offer a simple menu in addition to coffee beverages. The menu will include items such as soufle, chocolate cake, made-to-order omelets and locally made pastries and donuts. Some items will be made from Tappendorf family recipes.

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