MOVING EDUCATION: Moving the Little White Schoolhouse

(KS BROOKS/Chewelah Independent)

Valley’s Little White Schoolhouse was moved from its original location to its new resting place in the Valley Fairgrounds to become a cultural center for the town. (KS Brooks photo)

PRESERVING HISTORY: Little White Schoolhouse moves to new location in Valley Fairgrounds…

July 15, over the course of history, doesn’t seem to be known for much. But in 2020, something major happened in the town of Valley, Washington that will be remembered for years to come. The Little White Schoolhouse, a building designated a Most Endangered Historic Place by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, was relocated from its perch atop a hill amongst the Valley School District facilities offices and the Valley Early Learning Center to its new home at the Valley Fairgrounds.

The effort to save the Little White Schoolhouse began in 2009 when Jackie Franks formed the Valley Historical Society (VHS) in hopes of transforming the historic building into a museum and headquarters for the Society. That was complicated by the fact that the building would have to be moved, and many fundraising efforts occurred over the years.

The Little White Schoolhouse in Valley makes a downhill trek during its move to the Valley Fairgrounds. (KS Brooks photo)

In 2016, Melissa Silvio, who is now the Historical Society’s vice president and was the project coordinator for the schoolhouse move, got involved with fundraising efforts, grants and more. Silvio worked tirelessly with movers, utilities and all involved to get the building relocated. While it took close to a year to arrange everything, the move itself lasted about three hours on a hot summer afternoon. That, of course, isn’t including the site prep work done by historical society members and their friends and families. Jesse Klemish, a VHS as well as a Valley Community Fair board member, had an instrumental role in preparing the new building pad at the fairgrounds as well as working on the schoolhouse itself to get it ready for its move.

“It’s going to be a nice place to have a cultural center: a place where the younger generation can learn about local history. If kids learn more about their history, they’ll have more pride in their community and maybe want to stay in this area,” Klemish said. Another reason he worked so hard on the project was “to see the smile on my grandma’s [Jackie Frank] face since she was the one who originally pushed to have it moved.”

When Jeff Monroe, a fourth-generation structural mover from Sequim, and Don Shaw, a third-generation mover from Kennewick, rolled into town on July 10, despite being a crew of two, things started happening quickly. Onlookers stood by in awe as the two jacked the building up, pulled it off its foundation using a Bobcat and a winch and then rotated it in order to squeeze it out from between the buildings it was nestled amongst.

Then it would have to be moved down the hill, onto 231, around the corner onto Waitts Lake Road and into the fairgrounds. Scheduled for 2 p.m. on the 15th, the building was already halfway down the driveway by 1:45, just waiting for the start time so Avista could splice the lines and drop them in order for the schoolhouse to pass through.
People were lined up on Waitts Lake Road, especially at Valley Station Square, waiting for the historical building to come by. They filmed with their cell phones and tablets and, despite the fact that 739 Avista customers were without power due to the move, everyone was in good spirits.

A small crowd followed the building to the fairgrounds to see it placed in its new home, and it arrived there without issue.

“They are the A Team of structural movers,” Silvio said. “We were really fortunate they took the job on and were willing to help us.”

“It went really well. It’s a well-built building, it handled the move really well. And I can’t wait to see it finished,” Monroe said.

Plans now are for the Valley Historical Society (VHS) to restore the building to its original condition, include an office and possibly a gallery for local artwork.

Sadly, there are only three or four historic photos of the building in VHS possession, and is hoping that now that the schoolhouse has been moved, folks will come forward with more. “A lot of people have said they are so glad that it was saved and it’s a piece of our local history,” Silvio mentioned.

On the evening of the 15th, one local resident stopped by the schoolhouse and stated he’d purchased the original blackboard at auction and wanted to donate it back to the cause. “I think people feel a connection to it as part of the community and even more so if they or their family members attended school there,” Silvio said. Many people commented on Facebook that their relatives had gone to the school, so hopefully, there are more photos and artifacts out there.

The following companies and organizations made contributions, donations or assisted with the move: Avista, CenturyLink, Track Utilities LLC, Atlas Aerial Solutions, Northwest Pilot Car Association, DOT Colville Region, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Stevens County Fire District #4, Stevens County Road Dept., Valley Community Fair, Valley School District, Lane Mountain, Dean’s Excavation and Valley Fuel.

“It’s [the move] a relief definitely, but now the work’s going to begin. I’m seeing a lot more community support, so I’m looking forward to getting the project done,” Klemish said.