Working to preserve a one-room schoolhouse in East Bethel

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • October 23, 2012 - 4:28 PM

Isanti resident Linda Mundle, a history buff, has filled up a couple of notebooks and folders with anecdotes and photos from people who once attended a one-room schoolhouse in East Bethel.

She's also helped collect vintage desks and supplies to recreate the schoolhouse's period look.

The project, something Mundle is doing in her spare time, is part of a larger city effort to preserve the 1870s schoolhouse.

The schoolhouse -- which was once known as the Brown School and alternately District No. 37 -- was operational until the early 1950s, according to Mundle. It also served as a church on Sundays. Since then, it's been used as a private home and storage space.

The schoolhouse's most recent owner, Bruce Plochocki, donated the building to the city in the spring of 2010, according to City Administrator Jack Davis.

In the fall of that year, the city moved the schoolhouse from Plochocki's private property to Booster East Park, its fourth location, with the intention of turning it into a history center, he explained.

That's still the plan, but exactly how remains to be seen. The city is relying on volunteers and donations to rehab the building.

Nate Ayshford, the city's public works manager, said it's complicated further by the fact that the project's total cost is still unknown. "Getting hard numbers [from contractors] has been difficult," he said. "It needs quite a bit of work."

As such, the city's park commission, which is overseeing the project, is starting small.

Commissioners "felt a good starting point would be to get new windows and a door to make the building usable," he said.

So far, the city has raised $3,500, which covers the cost of the windows and door, but skilled volunteers are still needed to install them. Also, it's unclear whether a new foundation should be laid first.

Beyond that, replacing the roof and repairing an exterior wall are the main priorities, he said. The building could also use electrical upgrades, front steps and a paint job, among other improvements.

Although the project has a ways to go, Ken Langmade, who leads the commission, envisions the schoolhouse as a community center for meetings and events.

Eventually, the schoolhouse could also be a landmark that links with other area trails, he said.

"From what I've been told, it's one of the oldest schoolhouses around," he said, adding that for those who went to school there, "We feel it's something that would be a memory to those people."

Anna Pratt is a Twin Cities freelance writer.

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