Abandoned Schoolhouse. Irwin, Ohio

I was driving through what felt like Nowhere, Ohio. A vast, empty space. Farms with a few, low buildings scattered here and there.

I came up to the one crossroads in the unincorporated town of Irwin and saw this: a gigantic, abandoned building. Far bigger than anything else around. I grabbed my camera and took a snap. I drove off, not sure what to make of it.

I had to find out what that building was. How could it have ever made sense for such a tiny community to have such a big building? When had it been abandoned and why?

Discovering what the building was pretty easy: it was a schoolhouse, built in 1906 and abandoned in 1939. But that just made it odder: a hundred years ago, Irwin was probably even smaller than it is now! There were no signs that it had been a bigger town. There can’t have been that many schoolchildren in town. Where did they come from?

I remembered my recent research into the neon Wonder Bread sign in Columbus and how it had been placed there to overlook a railroad. Perhaps this was the same: perhaps there had once been a railroad connecting Irwin to bigger towns. So I pulled up some old maps, including this one of Union County in 1898 (source):

Irwin was on a direct train line to county seat, Marysville. The railroad continued south west and connected with Mechanicsburg, another sizeable town. Although Wikipedia describes it as a village, over a hundred years ago it was a sizeable town, as this postcard from 1906 shows (source):

From the mid-nineteenth century, Marysville was a burgeoning industrial centre. In 1868, Civil War veteran Orlando Scott founded an agriculture company there which would eventually become Scott’s Miracle-Gro.

So, we have a lot of pieces of the puzzle. But how do they fit together? If we make a few educated guesses, maybe by 1906 there was enough of a population commuting to Marysville and Mechanicsburg who had enough money to build the grand schoolhouse in Irwin. Maybe by 1939 a combination of the decline of the railroads with the growth of Marysville and Mechanicsburg meant the population shifted, making the schoolhouse in Irwin redundant.

Even though it’s long gone, if you look at a satellite map of the area, you can still see where the railroad used to run. I point it out with white arrows in this map (source):


For now, this will remain one of life’s half-solved mysteries. If any readers know any more about the abandoned schoolhouse in Irwin, I’d love to hear from you!

Abandoned Schoolhouse from 1906
Address: Intersection of the 161, 4 and Post Road, Irwin OH
Hours: Visible 24/7

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About Richard

I am a writer who travels endlessly. Fascinated by how our lives are propelled forward by what's left behind, I thirst to know everything. I read, collect, gather, organise, list. Here are some of the things I read, see and experience. Please make yourself at home: drinks and pretzels will be served shortly. If you'd like to get in touch, I'd love to hear from you!


on “Abandoned Schoolhouse. Irwin, Ohio
15 Comments on “Abandoned Schoolhouse. Irwin, Ohio
  1. I stumbled upon your website while trying to research about the original owner of my home. I know a few more pieces of the puzzle. 2 ladies at my church grew up in Irwin. They have told me it was a school then at some point became an apartment complex. There also used to be a filling station and restaurant there beside the school/apartment at one time. If you are interested in dates i can try and find out from them.

  2. My father claimed that he was born in that building. I was having serious doubts about that, but if there were apartments there perhaps it is possible. He was born in Oct. of 1921 and his father was working on one of the local farms.

  3. Phyllis, that’s really interesting. I believe the building was still in use as a school in 1921, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have been born there. Or maybe it became apartments earlier than I thought. What a fascinating history this building has! I hope to be able to delve deeper into the history of this building and the area.

  4. I too was curious about the building as I drove past it while traveling from Columbus to Urbana last week. Please look for the book A Brief History of Irwin, Ohio by Donna C. McLeod and Jean Holt. I found a copy on line and was able to see all of the pages. The first page is a map of Irwin from 1876. You can see the Post Rd(St Rte161)- Milford & Irvin gravel road (St Rte 4) intersection and the RR. Page 6 discusses the schools in Irwin and page 35 lists residents and buildings of Irwin in 1976. I believe the old school would be #27 on the list, Truckstop apartments.

  5. Do you know who owns the property now? My husband and i are in love with the it and would like to see if we can get ahold of the owner to see if they will sell.

  6. Wow! Thank you Rebekah and Brandy! This is great stuff: so interesting. Thank you for your insight!

    Rebekah, the photo you have of the building at http://thehumblehistorian.blogspot.com/2011/11/where-is-irwin-ohio.html is so fascinating. It’s amazing how little the building has changed! Also, the removal of the bell tower explains that odd rectangular patch on the roof at the front of the building!

    Thank you both so much! I really appreciate it!!!!

  7. Someone wanted to know who owns the old schoolhouse… According to the Union County Auditor’s website, the tax bill goes to: Ralph E. Coffey, 519 Garden Heights, Columbus, OH 43228-5306. It appears that Mr. Coffey has owned the property since 1991 and paid $12,060 for it then. The building sits on a 2.5 acre parcel.

  8. I stopped there about 10 years ago and the guys at the auto repair shop right there said the owner would give tours of the school, but could not give me much more info. Now it has a huge fence around it when I checked about 2015.

  9. School house in Irwin used to be a truck stop with restaurant in early 50. I worked there for 3 yrs. was owned by man named shag Bennett from Irwin. He passed away and I believe it was sold and later shut down. Used to have square dances every sat night. Sure miss those days. This may give some answers on old school house in Irwin,Ohio.

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