Moving history

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Monday morning in the Old Illmo part of Scott City, people stood outside their homes watching a 20-by-30-foot former one-room schoolhouse turn the corner of Third and Hickory streets.

"This is the most excitement Scott City has had in a long time," one person remarked.

Monday was moving day for the historic schoolhouse known as the Head School, which was attended by first- through eighth-grade students in parts of Scott City from possibly as far back as 1858 until it closed in 1940. It will now become a museum at its new location in Hawthorne Senior Park, behind the Schock Community Arts Center.

For about the past 50 years, the school had been at George Albrecht's farm on Roth Drive, where it was used to hold grain.

Monday's move was actually the school's second. Albrecht's father, Louis Albrecht, purchased the school after it shut down and moved it about a quarter of a mile to the Albrecht farm.

Shortly after George Albrecht's death in May 2003 at the age of 78, his family donated the schoolhouse to the Scott City Historic Preservation Commission, which has spent the last year waiting for the perfect weather and the volunteers needed to carry out the move.

"We talked about turning it over to the historical society for a long time," said George Albrecht's widow, Jane Albrecht. "He always talked about giving it to them."

George Albrecht attended the school, as did his brothers and sisters.

Easy decision

After word got out that the school was going to be moved, Jane Albrecht heard from several former students who were happy to hear it would be preserved.

George and Jane Albrecht's daughter, Becky Tapley, said the family's decision to donate the school to the city was an easy one. Her family was not using it anymore, and at its new location everyone can enjoy it. Grandparents can take their grandchildren to show where they attended school.

"In my mind it would be neat to fix it up like it used to be and have kids from school come and see about what it used to be like to go to school," said the Albrechts' other daughter, Vicki Howell.

The Head School was closed by the time Orley Jackson was old enough to attend, but his five older sisters attended, which is why he volunteered his time and equipment from his business, Twin City Auto Sales, to move the school Monday.

"There's a lot of people who want to see it," Jackson said of the schoolhouse. "It'll be a nice little thing for the town."

Moving electrical lines

It took two hours to load the schoolhouse onto the rig and three and a half hours to transport it. Two tires had to be replaced on the rig along the way, but Jackson said electrical and cable wires along the route posed the biggest inconvenience.

Workers from AmerenUE, Charter Communications and the Missouri Rural Electric Association preceded the schoolhouse on its journey, moving wires along the way.

"The house was 22 feet and all of our lines are around 18 feet," said John Perez, customer service consultant at Cape Girardeau's AmerenUE office. "We had to either raise lines if we had enough slack or move them altogether."

To move the electrical lines safely, the AmerenUE workers had to cut fuses, causing some residents' electricity to go off temporarily.

"Knowing it's for the community, you try to do what you can, but it turned out to be a lot more work than we anticipated," Perez said.

Historical commission member Toni Senn said the society is appreciative of everyone who helped move the school. "The historical society was so excited to get this done," she said.

Historical commission chairwoman Carolyn Pendergrass has lost sleep over the move.

She was not sure the move would go forward until Sunday night, when she was finally able to get in touch with AmerenUE and Charter Cable about moving the electrical lines.

Even then, Pendergrass said she awoke at 3 a.m. to look out the window and check on the weather.

Once the school was safely in place at its new location in Hawthorne Senior Park, Pendergrass looked happy and greatly relieved.

"We are jubilant," she said.

Questions about future

Although the hardest part may be over, there is still work to be done.

"It's going to take us a little while to decide what we're going to do with it," Pendergrass said.

The school will be turned into a museum, but the question that remains is whether it will be a museum specifically about the school or if it will feature other artifacts from Old Illmo.

Jackson will be donating more of his time and labor to put in the school's foundation, and the historical society commission will attempt to raise money and recruit people to help restore the school.

Pendergrass said she will probably go before the Scott City Council to get permission to set up a fund drive to pay for the restoration work, which may take a year or two to complete.

335-6611, extension 182

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