January 7, 1997

Raising the roof for Eagle Scout

Will Taylor plans project to refurbish roof of historic one-room schoolhouse

By Nanci G. Hutson


(The News-Times/Carol Kaliff) After growing up across the street from Danbury's one-room Great Plain Schoolhouse and helping his father maintain the property, 17-year-old Will Taylor now plans to repair the building's roof as his Eagle Scout project.

Danbury High School senior Will Taylor has a true affection for the historic, one-room Great Plain Schoolhouse that stands across the street from his own home.

His grandfather, Donald Taylor Sr., once occupied a desk inside the schoolhouse, and his father, Donald Jr., attended Boy Scout meetings in the 1856 building, one of only two such schoolhouses in Danbury still standing on their original sites. Miry Brook School is the other. The 1996 Scott-Fanton Museum calendar highlights schools this year, featuring the Great Plain Schoolhouse for January.

``The old Great Plain Schoolhouse, which dates back to 1856, is no longer in use, but still stands in solitary splendor,'' reads the caption under the old photograph that shows the schoolhouse in January with a sled propped up against a tree in front of it.

Ever since he was a boy, Will Taylor and his father have helped maintain the property as volunteer caretakers, and they still keep the lawn mowed and grounds clean.

So it doesn't seem much of a stretch that the 17-year-old Boy Scout opted to refurbish the roof as his Eagle Scout project. Taylor is a member of Troop 9, based at St. Gregory's Church.

``It's been there forever,'' Taylor says of the schoolhouse. ``It's good to preserve this; it's one of the few remaining one-room schoolhouses. And it sort of has a family connection.''

He says he toyed with several ideas for an Eagle Scout project, and when his father suggested redoing the roof of the old schoolhouse, it seemed logical.

To attain the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Boy Scouting, a Scout must acquire 21 merit badges. Taylor still has to earn a couple of badges and complete a community service project that is done with donated labor and materials.

Taylor, who must coordinate the entire project, already has permission from the Danbury Common Council to do the roof work, and is seeking donations of materials and labor. He is awaiting confirmation from potential donors so he can then submit a formal proposal to his troop leader, Eric Larson, for approval.

Then the project must be endorsed by the local district. Larson says he is aware of Taylor's plans, but the project is not official until Taylor completes all the paperwork. From the time his official proposal is submitted, it takes about three weeks until final approval, Larson says.

The idea certainly is acceptable, Larson says, but Taylor is working with some tight time constraints. To earn his Eagle Scout ranking, the project must be finished before his 18th birthday, which is in March.

``He's got time to do it, but the clock's running,'' Larson says.

Taylor says the actual roof job probably should not take longer than four or five days, with several volunteers working between five and eight hours each day. He is confident he will be able to get it done despite his hectic work and school schedule. Taylor works part time at Chuck's Steakhouse.

``Any project like this is worthwhile. It helps the building, and it shows that young people are looking at what's around them and in their neighborhood,'' Scott-Fanton Executive Director Maryann Root says. ``And it's not a little project either. It takes some skill. ... Buildings aren't for people, people are for buildings.''

``I think it's great,'' says Taylor's mother, Karin, of her eldest son's endeavor. Taylor has two younger brothers, Than, 15, and Matt, 12. Matt also is in the Boy Scouts.

``The whole Eagle Scout project is set up as a service project so that the kids give back to the community, so I think this is a nice way of giving something back,'' Karin Taylor says.

``Unfortunately, too many buildings are lost over the years just due to lack of interest, sometimes lack of funds, or who knows why. And it's nice to see something that might be saved.''

She says she and her husband are proud of all of their sons' accomplishments, and this is just one more step on Will's road to maturity.

Besides being a strong student and working part time, Taylor is an avid outdoorsmen who enjoys such sports as snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking and rollerblading. He is applying to St. Michael's College in Vermont to study computers.

Karin Taylor says son Will has always enjoyed Scouting because it allows him to explore the outdoors, a favorite pastime.

``I'm an outdoors person. I like hiking, backpacking, and a lot of my friends have been in it,'' Taylor says of Scouting. ``My whole time in it has been a lot of fun.''

``We're real proud of him. He's a good kid. He's definitely got his feet on the ground,'' Karin Taylor says.


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