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One-Room School House (Emmons School)

The following information was reprinted with permission of Dan Thalmann,
publisher of the Washington County News.  It was written by Dan Thalmann
and published in November, 2006.

    A significant piece of Washington County's history will be on the move soon.  The Emmons schoolhouse, an original country one-room schoolhouse located northeast of Washington, will be moved to Washington soon to become part of the society's downtown museum complex.

    The schoolhouse is especially important to Washington County's educational history.  The Emmons schoolhouse was the first organized one-room school district in the county and Washington County once had more one-room schoolhouses than any county in Kansas.

    The moving is being done by a crew from Valley Moving, LLC, based out of Wamego, as well as with local labor and volunteers from the Washington County Historical Society.

    To get the structure ready for a move, the crew had to dig an access area at the front and back of the schoolhouse.  Two steel beams were then placed lengthwise under the schoolhouse and four hydraulic jacks were used to lift the building.  There were also two more steel beams placed crosswise inside the schoolhouse to reinforce the base of the structure.

    The process can be a slow one.  The schoolhouse measures 24.5 x 48 feet and took 30 tons of hydraulic pressure to lift the building, according to Clifford Tessendorf, Valley Moving.  However, Tessendorf said that weight included the beams and a lot of foundation rock that was laying up in the frame of the building.  He said most buildings of this kind weighed around 20 tons.

    The limestone foundation was then pulled away and the front base of the building was reinforced since it was sagging.  The moving process will actually take the sag away.  One Tuesday, the crew planned to lift and move the building off the foundation.  (It takes a 13-horsepower engine 1 minute 45 seconds to lift the building 12 inches.)  The actual move will be performed later.  When the building is moved, it will travel to Washington on a flatbed trailer at around 10 m.p.h..  It will also have to slow down or stop so overhead wires can be moved.  No decision has been made as to when the move will take place, but it will be soon.  The schoolhouse will be put on a concrete block foundation on an empty lot at the east side of the southeast corner of the Washington County Courthouse square.

    Tessendorf complimented Washington County locals for the amount of help they provided the moving crew with the project.  He said there are often promises of help with these kinds of projects, but the help doesn't always come through.  Here, they've had plentiful help.

    Valley Moving tries to move one historical building per year as a sort of community service, according to Tessendorf, but this year they've already done three or four.  All of the labor and equipment usage is offered for free.  The Washington County historical Society members are picking up the cost of means for the crew as well as hotel stays when they spend the night.

    The effort to move the schoolhouse is going to be an expensive one, according to historical society board member Robert Ross.  They are accepting donations from anyone who would like to financially assist with the project.  Extra funds would allow them to put a brick chimney back into place in the schoolhouse.  They are also going to paint the entire schoolhouse.  Ross said the bell tower has been preserved and painted and will be put back on the building after the move.  The school bell will be re-installed and will work.

    Desks and other artifacts from the school were removed some time ago and will be re-installed to match what the interior of the schoolhouse would have been like when it was still in use.  Ross said there are all kinds of ideas for the structure once the project is completed.

Follow-up story by Dan Thalmann, Dec. 7, 2006

    The Emmons schoolhouse completed its move into Washington last Wednesday.  Valley Moving, Wamego, donated their time and equipment for the project.  The schoolhouse will be put on a block foundation next.  The Washington County Historical Society has many plans for the building which is adjacent to the society's museum on the east side of the downtown square.