FARMINGTON – With moving date approaching, the Farmington and Wilton historical societies are asking for donations to pay to move the Little Red Schoolhouse from Route 4 to the Farmington Fairgrounds.
Farmington Historical Society President Bob Flick said that while the Franklin County Agricultural Society offered to pay the estimated $20,000 moving costs last year, the costs will probably be higher than expected, and “resources aren’t as good” as they were in the past.
The move cannot take place until the building is deeded over to the Farmington and Wilton historical societies by landowner Interstate Brands Corp., which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The historical societies have been promised the move will take place by July 31, Flick said.
The schoolhouse was built in the early to mid-1850s. Since then it’s served as a museum, a warehouse and an office for the Chamber of Commerce after being abandoned as an educational facility in the early 1900s.
Now it sits, rather forlorn and unappreciated, on a parcel of land owned by Interstate Brands Corp., a Kansas-based company that bought out the JJ Nissen Co., onetime owner of the land.
According to Wilton Historical Society President Warren Rollins, members of the Wilton and Farmington societies decided a few years ago that since the two groups were officially responsible for the building – though no one was sure who, exactly, owned it – they should do something to make it a bigger part of the community again.
After months of sifting through paperwork, society members figured out the building officially belongs to IBC, the owner of the land, while the Farmington Historical Society owns the school bell and other contents of the schoolhouse.
Months ago, Wilton society Secretary John Knight received word from IBC representatives the company was willing to sell the schoolhouse to the historical groups for nearly nothing and allow the building to be removed to the location of the societies’ choice.
When the Farmington Fair Committee expressed interest in housing the schoolhouse permanently on the Franklin County Fairgrounds, Knight said Friday, society members were elated. The Franklin County Agricultural Society, which operates the annual fair, offered to fund the move, but now, with the costs expected to be higher than the original estimate of $20,000, the two societies are hoping history buffs and residents will step up to help.
Rupert Pratt, the chairman of the agricultural society’s board, said in March that “we have allotted the money, but we’re hoping for some outside donations to help, because this (move) will dig into our funds pretty hard.”
Donations, marked Red School House, can be sent to either: The Farmington Historical Society, P.O Box 575, Farmington, ME 04938, or the Wilton Historical Society, P.O. Box 33, Canal St., Wilton, ME 04294.