Friends have plans for historic Martell School House near EllsworthThe “Friends of the Martell School House” was formed this spring to preserve one of the last remaining one-room schools in Pierce County still in original condition and location.
Friends have plans for historic schoolhouse
By Bill Kirk
TOWN OF MARTELL—For most of its 103-year history, the building was used as a school house.
After the school closed as part of a consolidation, the structure became a town hall. Now that the town hall has moved to a nearby former church, the premises stand empty.
But that isn’t stopping a group of its neighbors from seeing a future for the historic landmark. The “Friends of the Martell School House” was formed this spring to preserve one of the last remaining one-room schools in Pierce County still in original condition and location.
“It would be a shame not to have a building there,” Deanie Pass, co-chair of the organization, said Wednesday about a place in the heart of the community adjacent to a popular local park.
The group plans to attend the Tuesday, Dec. 9, Martell Town Board meeting with a proposal regarding the site’s fate, Pass said. Members will ask the town board to either lease it or sell it to the Pierce County Historical Association for a minimal amount. Under the association (which their group recently joined), insurance could be covered; they’d like to apply for grants to pay for some basic repairs.
“We only want to keep it open in the summer,” she said, explaining it could be rented out for reunions and weddings, be a location to teach classes, the home of a farmers market and more.
Pass said the preservation effort originated when rumors circulated the old school house was going to be torn down and residents also heard the town was going to sell it to a private party, presumably to be moved away. First meeting in May, the now nine-member body brought in an architectural historian from the Twin Cities to examine the structure and determine what would be necessary to make it suitable. It was recommended the roof drain system be expanded, the basement be closed and excavating done around the exterior.
Since then, an area contractor has quoted a price of $650 to re-grade two sides of the facility, fix the gutters and add down spouts, she said. Members believe this is a reasonable amount and the project should proceed, especially because the landmark is essentially sturdy and not really rundown. It was one of the last schools to be consolidated in the early-to-mid 1960s.
“It’s one of the only schoolhouses left on (Hwy.) 63,” she said, reminding they once were no farther than seven miles from each other due to student walking considerations.
Read more in the print version of the Herald Dec. 3.