Our History

The original Hessel School House, as it appeared in 1907.

1937 - 1958

The Hessel School House was built in 1937 through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and welcomed its first students in September of 1938. Of handsome brick and stone Georgian architecture and completely symmetrical in design, it housed grades kindergarten through fifth in two classrooms, with the central part of the building featuring a large, multi-purpose room to serve as an auditorium (with a stage and its side entry), lunchroom, and gymnasium. The building was steam heated and beautifully located near the former wooden framed school (see photo on left).

The school closed in 1958 when a new facility was built in Cedarville to accommodate elementary and secondary school students from both Hessel and Cedarville.

1938 - 1969

The school sat empty from 1958 until the early 1960s. In 1964, Clark Township sold the schoolhouse to Northern Michigan Publishing Company, turning the classroom that housed kindergarten through 2nd grade on the west end of the building into a print shop, and adding a garage, which eliminated the common room’s west wall of windows. The building was used as a printing facility until it closed in 1969. 

1970s - 2013

Azor Sheffield, a retired captain of the Toledo (Ohio) Fire Department, bought the property in 1975 to convert it into a private residence for himself and his wife.

The Sheffields tried to restore as much of the interior as possible to its original state but added a loft over the common area for guest bedroom space and converted the boys’ lavatory entry into a den. The print shop space became a workshop for Azor, a woodworker, while a fireplace was built in the same section to serve the common area. The rest of the common area was left intact to become their “great room” for living space. The east classroom (3rd through 5th grades) served as the Sheffields’ bedroom.

Upon Azor Sheffield’s death in July of 2013, his two daughters inherited the property, listing it for sale in July 2014.

2016 to Present Day

In 2016, Hessel School House Corporation, an organization primarily of former students and their relatives, purchased the schoolhouse through the generosity of two major benefactors, and the Sewell Avery Family’s generosity made possible the complete restoration of the building the following five months. Appropriately, The Avery Arts & Nature Learning Center was established to perpetuate the intrinsic values of Les Cheneaux. 

Today the legacy of education, for all ages, continues through the generous support of caring donors, grants, fundraisers, and rental income. 


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