A plea to save oldest Carbon County school

There is a little schoolhouse in Red Lodge sitting quietly near the Red Lodge Senior Center that holds a lot of history and many people in the county want to preserve it.

“It was the first schoolhouse in Red Lodge,” said Donna Madson, Carbon County Historical Society Executive Director (CCHS). “It dates from 1897.”

It is not only the first school in Red Lodge it is the first school in Carbon County. In 1895, Carbon County was formed. Earlier, it was part of Park and Gallatin County, explained Debbi Brown, CCHS Historic Preservation Officer. Parts of the county still belonged to the Crow Reservation.

“Imagine being back there,” said Brown, a Red Lodge graduate with generations of family rooted here. “Here come all these kids to school, the older kids often helping. There would be a classroom, probably with a primary ‘reader’, such as an older student, helping others read as part of his own learning process. Another student might help those learning math…” She reflected on the process, “It is so important for kids today to understand. It was like growing up in a big family.”

The school will be sited on the property of Red Lodge High School. It will be a convenient learning tool for nearby students to drop by and investigate to learn about their town’s past. A sidewalk will likely be constructed to encourage access to the cabin.

The schoolhouse is currently owned by Tore Host- Hansen and was profiled in Richard Thayer’s Schoolhouses of Luther.

“All these people are involved,” marveled Madsen. It has been the subject of serious study for the last year and a half with various suggestions.

At this point, they know what they want to do with it. “We want to move it,” said Madson.

Madson said in order to preserve it, they need someone to take it apart, gently move it and reassemble it in a new showplace.

Parts of the structure are deteriorating in its current state. The roof needs to be replaced.

"We wi l l apply for grants and try to raise a portion of the money but more is needed,” said Madson.

The project is by the Carbon County Historical Preservation Office in conjunction with the CCHS and Museum. They are reaching out to builders.

“Of course, we’d welcome volunteers to do all or part-donate money, donate labor or supplies. But if not, submit us a bid to take it down, number it, and put it back up on a cement base,” said Brown.

Someone is also needed to act as a project manager or general contractorwhether a volunteer or paid- someone with knowledge of the process.

Time is the worst enemy. “The longer we wait, the worse shape it is in,” said Brown. “If we do nothing, it’s lost!”

Madson stressed, “We really do need some cash donations.”

She noted they must pay to move it as well as take it apart and reassemble it.

“This building is going to go away if we don’t act to save it now,” said Madson. Funds can be restricted to this project. Donations to this nonprofit are taxdeductible.

Host-Hansen has been more than patient they said, but he wants to build a garage at the school’s present site.

“There is a tenant there,” Brown noted. She warned people not to walk on the property to check it out; it would be trespassing. It is also important to respect the privacy of the owner. She added, “He’s grac iously al lowed us time.” If they want to see the property, she advised that they contact the CCHS.

They wanted to be clear that different stages could be performed by different people. The person doing the dismantling doesn’t have to be the same person that will move it or does the reconstruction. They are open to suggestions.

“The first thing is to c ontac t us , ” s t r e s s e d Brown, aware that time is running out.

Contact Debbi Brown or Dana Wahlquist (Asst. Historic Preservation Officer) at 446-3667.