August 16, 2001
Hauling History - Is that a schoolhouse on the road?
GLOCESTER - Creeping along the back roads at 5 to 10 mph on a flatbed truck, the historic Evans Schoolhouse dodged trees and wires on its way to its new home behind Town Hall yesterday.
"Hey, there it is," shouted Eric Beltram, 8. He squatted near the ground behind Town Hall, craning his neck to glimpse the school crawling down Douglas Hook Road. "Yep, that's it. That's it. You can see it."
The one-room schoolhouse, lugged onto a flatbed truck by George Heffernan, of Heffernan Brothers of RI Inc., in Warwick, rolled closer to the parking lot in the back of Town Hall.
"It's moving very slowly because it's very wide," explained Eric to his two brothers, Corey, 15, and Aaron, 13, and his grandmother, Glennis Beltram, 69.
From Evans Road to Long Entry Road, then to Cooper Road and finally Douglas Hook Road, the house, about 15 feet high and 18-by- 28-feet wide, hugged the small, narrow roads. Two police cars flanked the building with their lights flashing.
That morning, the house, owned by the Glocester Heritage Society, already rested on the back of the flatbed on property owned by Marcus and Barbara Thompson on Evans Road.
It has two entrances, one for the boys and one for the girls back then, with its windows now boarded up. The sunlight showed the white paint peeling from the wooden schoolhouse and the rust coating the nails in the boards.
Yesterday's move took about two hours. But planning to move the building, circa 1860, took a little more than three years. The Heritage Society had to find a place to put it; the group had to hammer out an agreement with the School Department and town; and then there was the money to pay to move it and the permits.
Louise Knight, who attended the school from 1927 to 1935, came with camera in hand to Evans Road before the slow journey began. The school closed in 1935.
"The doors would be open and kids would be running in and out," Knight recalled while standing in front of the house. I can see the teacher ringing the bell.
Although local carpenter Frank Anderson removed the roof on Monday to lessen the risk of swiping trees and wires, the house during the 3.7-mile trek hit three snags, said Jim Pelletier, George Heffernan's assistant.
Twice the movers had to lift wires with a pole and once they had to saw off a tree limb.
"Other than that, it was pretty smooth going," Pelletier said.
Anderson and William Fortin, also reinforced the ceiling with 2- by-6 boards. Anderson will build the new roof as soon as the house is on its foundation .
As the schoolhouse made its way to the Town Hall parking lot, Glennis Beltram, who graduated in 1946 from the Hopkins Mills Schoolhouse in Foster, told her grandsons all about the building.
"It has a boy's entrance and a girl's entrance," she pointed to the two doors on the building. "The girls usually went in on the right. The boys on the left. That's the way it was at Hopkins Mills [Schoolhouse]."
George Heffernan backed the house next to its new concrete foundation on the grass lawn. Then, the movers prepared the house to move from the truck to the foundation. George Heffernan plans to have the house on the foundation by late this morning.
Local laborers began the foundation project in May and finished a few weeks later.
Kevin LaVoie, owner of Purple Cat Restaurant, in Chepachet, coordinated the foundation project; Philip Laiho, of Laiho Excavating in Chepachet, donated his time excavating the site; Paul Detonnancourt and Ron Lussier, of P&R Construction in Harrisville, performed the form work; David and Bruce Barnes, of Barnes Concrete in East Putnam, Conn., donated the concrete; and Kenneth Johnson, of Chepachet, donated his time on the cement finishing.
"I haven't felt this way since my last child was born," said Harry Anderson, the society's grant writer.
"Now comes the hard part," he said, "the restoration and improvements to the surrounding area."
"It would be what the town lacks ... a community center," he said.
Gates Leighton & Associates, of East Providence, did a rendering of what the renovated building and landscaping will look like. And Roberta Randall and Richard Greenwood, of the Rhode Island Historical Heritage and Preservation Commission, will oversee the renovation work.
How long will the restoration take?
"There's no answer to that question," Anderson said.
The Gregson Foundation provided an initial grant of $30,000 for the project and promised additional money if the project costs more.
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