Schoolhouse makes smooth move in Exeter — July 19 2011

There sat a 141-year-old one-room schoolhouse, raised up on beams and tires, ready for its long-awaited move on the grounds of Jacksonwald Elementary School.

The 120-foot trip took about 40 minutes, the culmination of a six-month process in which the location and cost of the Exeter School District-owned building were contested by residents and the Exeter School Board.

“I’ve been trying to document every move,” Fliegel said, taking video of the move on her camera. “When I woke up today I took a picture of it from my house.”

After about three weeks of preparing the schoolhouse for the move and building a new foundation, workers from Wolfe House & Building Movers, Upper Tulpehocken Township, placed hydraulic beams and tires underneath the building.

“It went as smooth as it could have,” said Jamin Buckingham, project foreman.

Buckingham guided the schoolhouse, with desks and bookshelves still inside, to its new foundation using a remote control, like he was steering a model airplane.

He rotated it so the door now faces the intersection, and rolled it carefully down a steep incline to its new home.

About 20 Exeter residents who live nearby turned out to watch. They came with cameras slung around their necks, though it was hard to capture the slow crawl with a still photo.

“Although it’s moving at a snail’s pace, this is the exciting part,” said Ken Pitts, school district facilities director.

Ronald McCoy, 73, attended Jacksonwald Elementary and took wood shop classes in the schoolhouse. He now lives just a few blocks away.

“It used to have all the materials in there for the wood-making projects,” McCoy said. “Its use has changed a lot over the years.”

Dr. Beverly Martin, Exeter superintendent, watched the move from the Jacksonwald playground. She said the schoolhouse would still be used for educational purposes and history lessons as it has in the past.

The $143,000 relocation was necessary to make way for road work at the intersection. The school district had a $100,00 state grant to help finance the move.

The school board debated the move since January and initially chose to relocate the schoolhouse near the new Owatin Creek Elementary School.

That plan was later deemed too expensive because of fire code problems. The Owatin location was not close enough to a road or a fire hydrant, and rectifying those issues would have cost an additional $75,000 to $100,000.

A horn sounded when the schoolhouse was in place over its new location, and Buckingham put down his remote.

His crew worked throughout the afternoon to build a temporary foundation until Landis C. Deck & Sons, Bernville, constructs the permanent one. Pitts said he expected it would take at least 10 more days to get the building set on the permanent foundation.

“It’s amazing they finally did it,” said Fliegel, her camera still trained on the now-still schoolhouse.

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