HELENA – On Wednesday morning, a historic Helena-area schoolhouse rested for the first time at a new temporary location.
The Baxendale Schoolhouse, a distinctive white building constructed around 1890, was moved about three miles overnight. Tamietti and Son Housemoving and Heavy Hauling of Whitehall hauled the schoolhouse from its former home off U.S. Highway 12, next to the Wassweiler Dining House, to an open space along Country Club Avenue, near the intersection with Head Lane.
“It went incredibly smooth,” said Dustin Kalanick, restoration director for the Montana Preservation Alliance.
The move is part of MPA’s plan to restore the historic building. The goal is to convert it into the “Montana Preservation Training Center,” where the group will host classes on techniques for restoring historic buildings.
Movers drilled holes in the building’s existing foundation, then inserted beams to lift it up and onto a trailer. They drove it to the new location along Highway 12, Joslyn Street and Country Club Avenue. People were on hand to lift wires out of the way and identify any other obstacles. Organizers said they were lucky, as they wrapped up the move before a snowstorm moved in.
“It took about an hour and 45 minutes from when it left the lot until it arrived here on site,” Kalanick said. “It minimized disruption to everybody and kept about 20 people safe along the way.”
The move required special permits from the state because of its impact on traffic.
Kalanick said he was impressed by how efficiently Tamietti and Son worked.
“They didn’t even take the windows out,” he said. “That’s how smooth of a ride that it had – that it didn’t even flex enough to crack glass in the windows.”
MPA took possession of the building last month. Marci and Bob Andersen, the owners of the Wassweiler, decided to donate the schoolhouse because they needed more parking spaces for their business, but they wanted to ensure it was preserved.
The Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts provided the spot to place the schoolhouse for the winter. MPA will work with groups like Archie Bray and the Prickly Pear Land Trust to find a permanent home.
Kalanick said the move cost between $20,000 and $25,000. The Montana History Foundation provided $7,500 of that through an emergency grant. Other costs were covered through private donations and a grant from the George and Betty Harbaugh Charitable Foundation.
In the coming weeks, a temporary foundation will be built for the schoolhouse. Kalanick said the building is relatively sound, though there will need to be plaster work, electrical improvements and other small repairs. In the long term, he said they will eventually plan to rebuild the roof and replace the current modern windows with more appropriate, traditional window construction.
“It’s a unique event to be involved in, and such a beautiful thing to see this moving down the road,” said Kalanick. “It’s just very hopeful that this schoolhouse will continue to teach people for generations to come.”
MPA leaders say this was at least the third time the Baxendale Schoolhouse has been moved. It was first transported from its original location to the current site of the Baxendale Volunteer Fire Department, where it served as a school and a community center. In 1997, it was moved to the Wassweiler property, where it was used as an antique shop and a yarn shop.
Story by Jonathon Ambarian, MTN News